I have always loved kids. I find them uniquely interesting and much more entertaining than a lot of adults. Not all adults, just some of them. I’m not sure where I got this idea, or when I started doing it, but my guess would be sometime towards the end of college or just after graduating. A very good friend of mine, Kate, had her first child, and then had a few more. I absolutely loved hanging out with her and the kids. I was visiting her one day and we were sitting on the floor as one of the kids, maybe 2 years old, went to stick their finger in an electric socket. I gently took their hand and said something like, “That’s dangerous, keep your fingers out of there or your hair will stand up on end.” My friend looks at me and says, “You would make a great parent.” I asked why and she said, “Because you talk to kids like they’re real people.” But alas, that is exactly the point – they are real people.
Whenever I have an opportunity to hang out with kids, I try and give them the best day ever and make them feel special, even if it’s a neighbor’s grandkid in the pool, that I may never see again. My one goal in doing this, is to try and give them a happy memory of their childhood, whether they remember me in it or not. And if they do have that happy memory of our time together, I’ve succeeded.
I have been lucky enough to receive some feedback over the years, that helps me know my efforts are working. I was at Kate’s house years later, to celebrate her birthday, and her firstborn was now 21. Kate was telling her daughter about the times we had been together when she was growing up and the daughter said, “I think I remember you, you had the underwater camera in the pool with us, right?” Of course I did! Very cool moment for me.
Another friend of mine, Ruth, had two girls that I loved, and I would take them to movies, carnivals, whatever sounded fun. For several years I spent most Sundays at their house, watching football, eating, and just hanging out with the neighborhood. I spent a lot of time with the girls as they were growing up, but then I moved away, and rarely saw them. Several years later, I moved back to town, and I reached out to Ruth to catch up. She told me her oldest daughter was currently enrolled at my alma mater – Florida State University. To tell you the truth, I was pleased as punch, thinking she might have followed, just a teeny, tiny bit, in my footsteps. I ended up meeting her for dinner and we caught up. She had done a lot of hard work to get into FSU and I was amazed at her accomplishments. She is now happily married with two adorable boys and a baby girl on the way. I couldn’t be happier for her, and I love seeing her all grown up.
A new generation of children are in my life now, and Gina, my wife, and I have had so much fun watching them grow up so far. These two adorable boys, ages 6 and 8, and their parents, are our chosen family, and we have great times together. During Covid their parents were working at home and having two rambunctious boys with them was tough. We would have the boys over to our house a couple times a week. Most days were spent by the pool and swimming, they became fish in the water. (As a side note, we learned to have lunch outside at the pool, it was so much easier to clean up – just hose it down!) Just recently they learned to snorkel while we were out on the boat. Seeing it ‘click’ for them was a wonderful experience. Gina and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Be a light, be a friend, be a memory.