It's hard to think of something that brings people together more than a child.
Not only can a child add another dimension to a happy and stable relationship, it brings together extended families and friends. Our daughter has certainly done this. It's a happy coincidence that one of the versions of her name means "to bind".
Watching her play with other children is something we treasure. The insights you glean from watching your children play, even at a very young age, are really insightful. At the age of four, our daughter has personalities she gravitates to and those she does not.
In her first year of preschool, her teachers told us she enjoys engaging in imaginative play, not so much play with children who use their bodies. Read: give her a role to play or some treasures to dig for in the sandbox and she is happy, but don't body slam her.
Watching her play with her friends is one thing. Watching her connect with my longtime friend's children is a whole other level. Spending this extended time in New Zealand has allowed us to reconnect with friends, many of whom we don't get a chance to see during our fleeting annual visits.
Last week I reached out to a male friend, the first I made at the high school where I spent my final years. I last saw him at a wedding 10 years ago and spending an afternoon with him and his family was the highlight of my weekend. Even better than the adult conversation was watching our kids play together.
You see it's tricky, friends and their kids. It doesn't always work out. Sometimes the kids don't like each other. You can be friends with someone and not like their kids. OMG, did I really just put that on paper? Or you can be friends with people and not like the way they parent their kids.
This makes for a much worse circumstance because it essentially rules out vacations with your friends. Trust me, if you are not on the same parenting page then you are destined for a week of ruefully supervising twice the amount of kids in the pool while one parent orders yet another beer and the other swans off to the resort spa for hours.
Years before kids came into our equation I spoke to two women on holiday together with their families. I was amazed when they said they only knew each other a little, but their kids were close at school. One looked me dead in the eye and told me she has made a pact with her husband to never holiday with her best friend because it's too difficult to, as their parenting styles are not in sync. A child refusing to go to bed or running amok can be overlooked, provided the parenting method is in line with yours; be it a loose method or one just ineffective in that particular moment.
With all the technology we have these days, opportunities to keep in touch are so plentiful. The fact is that between life, work, families and all the rest of it, sometimes messages and emails go unattended.
My few hours with an old friend and his family were priceless, made even more special by the fact that our kids have met and shared an afternoon of childish laughter and friendship.
Maybe in years to come they will meet again, at school, university, a party or the workplace, and a friendship that was so special to me and that I still hold dear will continue on in another circle.