"When will Aunt Kaylie and Uncle Fred be here?"
My kids are waiting/dancing less and less patiently by the front door, their faces alternately pressed against the window, peering outside, looking for two of their favorite grown-ups to show up for the party we're throwing for our little one's birthday. Kaylie and Fred aren't really our relatives, but they may as well be, since they've been in our lives for more than 20 years. Kaylie and I went to college together, but she, Fred, and my husband go back all the way to high school. We have a long history, complete with enough inside jokes to annoy anyone on the "outside." We drank extremely cheap beer together when we were 18, moved to New York City together when we graduated, were in one another's weddings, and even give each other credit for the other couple getting together in the first place. Then, my husband and I had kids.
I can say without a doubt that my friends love my kids and want to be in their lives.
Now we have four, and Kaylie and Fred are still in our lives as much as they ever were, even though they haven't started a family yet. I invite them to all of our children's parties, and no, I don't think they secretly hate it. Yes, they go to the toy store to buy a gift and hang out with a bunch of screaming kindergartners, but they love our family, and we love including them, even if our lives are completely different.
As if to prove that point, on this particular day, Aunt Kaylie and Uncle Fred show up looking a little, well, um, hungover. I shake my head when I open the door, remembering when, like, a million years ago, I had the stamina to stay up past midnight (OK, 9 p.m.) and drink more than two glasses of wine without passing out on the sofa in between a plastic firetruck and a mermaid Barbie. When I ask what they're doing after the kiddie party, they share that they're going out to a nice dinner in the city at a place that's so new and cool, I haven't even heard of it. I know I'll be munching on leftover pizza and birthday cake after bath and bedtime, but guess what? It's all good! Right now, my amazing, much-freer friends are here and already getting down on the floor to make bead necklaces with my daughters. Uncle Fred is the first one in the pool soon after that and starts a cannonball contest. Kaylie reveals she just had to get each of the kids something while she was shopping and pulls four gift bags out of a much bigger bag, to the massive delight of my brood.
Clearly, my friends love being around my little ones. They are also genuinely happy for me and my husband that we have a great family we enjoy celebrating. I can say without a doubt that my friends love my kids and want to be in their lives. It's clear from how excited the kids get to see Kaylie and Fred that they've developed their own relationships. So how could their honorary aunt and uncle not be invited to a party for one of their "nieces" or "nephews"?
Sure, some people may find it strange that nonparents would be included in a child's party, but for us, it doesn't matter. We all just fit together, even if they got time to shower in the past 48 hours and I didn't. When it comes to the important stuff in life, we're on the same page. We've been there for one another through loss, job changes, promotions, moves, health scares, and countless other life-changing events. No matter where life takes us from here, whether it's Chuck E. Cheese's or, fingers crossed, an adults-only vacation one day, I hope our comparatively well-rested, non-spit-up-stained friends are right by our sides.