We just had a most amazing week with Ray’s friend, “Jack” and his family. There is something so upliftingabout watching your child be accepted and loved just for who he is- and vice-versa.
Jack and Ray are two peas in a pod. Ray tends to follow Jack’s passions, and they get on each other’s nerves after a while, but they both “get” each other. They both can follow each other in energy bursts and imagination. They both defy easy labels. And they both give each other space when the other one needs it. They finish each other’s sentences. They start a story using Legos and end it with marbles. They run and run and run and then turn around and snuggle with their mamas, unashamedly. They both love creatures. And they both grapple with “stuff”- albeit different stuff. Both want to have friends, and aren’t sure how to go about making them. Jack has an abundance of energy and is deeply passionate about a number of topics that many seven-year-olds just don’t “get”- from sharks to the Beatles. Ray loves to read and is emotionally sensitive. Together, they find kindred spirits in each other and it’s just so easy.
I was particularly impressed watching the boys at how quickly and easily they recognized each other. They went to school together for two years, but we haven’t seen Jack since we moved last July- a very long time for children. That’s a long time to get judgmental; to forget how the other one plays; what to say to each other.
I realized two things this week- 1) how much I love anyone who loves my child and 2) what real treasures our sons are. I saw Ray through “other” eyes- his sensitivity, his moods, and the acceptance of those, rather than the rejection that so often comes in other’s eyes. I’m sure his family saw the same things in mine- the love and appreciation of those very things that so many others condemn, but make Jack such an interesting and wonderful kid.
I was amused at how similarly we parent- trying to provide structure around our children, but freedom to move. We both got yelled at today at the GA Botanical Gardens when the boys were climbing on large ledges that overlooked a path. The ledges were about 3 feet off of the ground and Ray rarely falls. We were right there and talking and monitoring them- but allowing them to enjoy the day and test their skills. It really was a perfect day for climbing and scrambling and running down expanses of grass that others were walking on. But when the Green-Jacketed Lady fussed at us “Young men, you need to get down from there RIGHT NOW. You could FALL!”, we pretended to take her seriously, as we exchanged amused glances. “Yes, get down, guys…” And around the bend in the walk, we then pretended not to see them as they balanced up on the sidewalk edge.
Elizabeth is in the mix as well, but she does play a more minor role. She is definitely “sister” and to be chased, not included in the game. She was often the “monkey” for the game “monkey in the middle”. Ray enjoyed being the “connection” between his friend and his sister, and relished the power that the intersection gave him. Because so often it is Elizabeth who is playing with Emily and Ray who is trailing along, it was a nice exchange of power. And Jack, an only child, enjoyed having someone else to run with and to act at the third point of the games.
Perhaps best of all, Elizabeth acts as a counterpoint when Ray’s issues overwhelm him. When the stress of saying “goodbye” caught up to him and he was growling and glowering, Jack could turn to Elizabeth and not feel excluded. Having Elizabeth allows Ray some space to gather himself back together and re-engage with his bestest buddy.
His bestest buddy who lives 12 hours away. There is grief in our household tonight as we try to adjust back to day-to-day life without Jack. As Ray tries, once again, to make friends when it’s not so easy and automatic as it is with Jack. Grief as he finds his strength again while struggling with loneliness.
A kindred spirit is a recognition of someone’s being. I am grateful that we have such friends.