There were about three different families that were always present when I was growing up. They were at every birthday party, most holidays, and hundreds of play-dates. They were always just there. I never questioned their existence because of this. I didn’t think there was some great origin story for them. They were just family friends. With children roughly the same age as my brothers and I, it made sense. And yet, now that I have children of my own, I wonder if I have found those families that my kids won’t question.
As I sit on a plane headed to my first vacation with my wife away from my children, I know that at least one family has made the cut. As for their origin story, it goes something like this:
We found them on Craig’s List.
They rented our house.
They bought our house.
They are some of the most engaging and original people we have ever known. Their honesty and commitment to their own three children is incredible. That is why they are watching our Isabelle and Tobias right now, staying in our new house and keeping it and them safe, as they would their own. And that is the crux of the family friend. They are the ones that you feel safe leaving your children and home with. They are the ones that you would consider family.
Others have tried out for the part. They have babysat for our children and done an adequate job. They haven’t seriously maimed them. They haven’t shown themselves to be criminals or radically deficient, but when it comes to seeing them as life-long friends, the kind that will attend my kids’ weddings, they just don’t work. I don’t want these “others” out of my life, but I am starting to realize that losing them will not leave me devastated. Their friendship does not cause an existential crisis. They do not cause me to question wether or not there really is a force driving certain people together.
I reiterate, we met them on Craig’s List.
This single fact isn’t what makes their relationship to use special. However, it proves to me that the power of knowing the same things in an intimate way extends into what we want in life. They wanted the first house that we ever owned. And it, in turn, it became the first house that they ever owned. We have both loved and been loved in the same space. The truth of that is hard for me to accept sometimes. Those rooms join us together even if they weren’t meant to watch our children while we are out of town.
They have reframed and reinterpreted that house, though. They use all of the space, whereas we did not. They saw something in the house, and in us, that we couldn’t see ourselves. Where we saw a simple Craig’s List ad and a 1 bathroom house, they saw a much richer future. Where we saw tenants, they saw a relationship worth pursuing. And as they saw it, we saw it too. We started to notice that they were the ones that we were calling and texting to talk through the minutiae. We went from our old space to their new space to just shared space. We go back often to hang out with the place where our children were conceived and the people who we conceive will be a part of our lives for a very long time.
Family friends are the ones that add something to your whole family. They are the ones to build relationships with every combination of adults and children. They are the ones we keep.