You know, Cara's husband Scott once told me that he believed everyone in the world had the capacity to be best friends with anyone else. I think his theory was, essentially, that any two individuals- if freed from geographical distance and busy schedules, or say, stuck on the proverbial desert island together with no one else- could reach across cultural differences, gender expectations, political opinions and religious beliefs and learn to really, really like each other. (I should say that Scott is pretty much a treasure trove of deep thoughts, insightful questions and pertinent song lyrics for any occasion.)
I'm finding the same holds true for kids. Everyone thinks their own kids are the cutest, greatest, sweetest, funniest little humans ever yadda yadda yadda. People chalk that up to the sentimental nature of parenthood, and it's the sort of thing that makes childfree folks like me shrug when new parents say, "It's different when they're yours." But really- I think anyone could feel that way about any child they've really taken the time to get to know.
Joel and I have this community of kids- our friends' offspring- that we just love to bits and pieces. We love them without the lens of parenthood. They aren't perfect, but we've reached across time and distance and really gotten to KNOW them, despite not being on that metaphorical desert island, nor having the parent-child bond. It's amazing to me how much I genuinely like these little people.
I like that Gaby doesn't find it at all odd when she wakes up in her own bed, feeling sick and calling out for her mommy not long after I've arrived, to find me in the doorway, tiptoeing in behind Shannon to smooth her hair and say hello and I'm sorry she's feeling yucky.
I love that Melanie feels at ease enough to lay her head in my lap while watching a movie, and that Baelin is comfortable enough to ask for a sip of my apple juice when we go out for breakfast (he's 1.5 and a little shy around adults), and that the first thing Zak wants to do when he sees a really cool bug shedding its exoskeleton in the driveway is run into the house shouting "Angie, we need your camera!"
I stopped by Kristen and Adam's house on my way back to New York to drop off their CDs of photos and DVDs of the "Introducing Kayla" video (see below). Aiden was stalling on his nap by requesting to use the potty, and I was really, authentically proud to hear he had used it successfully just a few minutes before. We high-fived (he's 2), and I was sort of surprised to find how genuinely excited I felt about this accomplishment on his behalf. I cared about this (bear in mind, this is a non-relative's ability to poop in an appropriate receptacle) like, a lot, because I care about Aiden. He took me by the hand to go upstairs and see the baby napping in her crib, whispering "Tip Toe, Tip Toe, Baby Sister Tip Toe" with every step.
I shot the video below when I was staying with them during my furlough week. Aiden is just... so great with his little sister, trying to cheer her up when she cries by sharing his toys and entertain her with peekaboo. He accidentally hits the edge of the baby swing with the bucket he had over his head and when I remind him to be careful, he says, "Sorry baby!"
Introducing Kayla from Angela Gaul on Vimeo.
It's really a head trip, watching this tiny baby grow into a nurturing, compassionate boy. I'm not saying he's perfect! The cutest! The greatest! human! ever! He's not perfect. He threw a nuclear tantrum when Kristen was dealing with something important, and he bumped his knee. My kisses did not have the magical healing power that his mom's do, unfortunately. For the three minutes it took Kristen to manage a minor emergency in another part of the house before she could give him her attention, he let me hold and rock him as we sat on the kitchen floor, throwing his arms around my neck and sobbing," I! Want! My! Mommy!"
"It's okay," I told him. "We'll just be sad for a few minutes. We'll just sit here, and we'll be sad together." And I felt it. I felt the sadness for him, and pride at his potty accomplishments, and touched by his tenderness for his sister. And I do think he's the cutest, most awesome little human ever. But not because he's my son, because he's not. Because he's him.