There’s a new little person who’s going to be joining us in January. I can’t tell you why, but I think it’s going to be a “he.” It might be because the little button-downs and sweater vests keep turning me mushy and the frilly pink dresses just make me think, “That’s a whole lot of pink!” Regardless, I’m already sure that he’s my favorite person on the planet, hands down. And if he turns out to be a “she,” that will still be true and I will still be absolutely crazy for this little person, pink dresses and all, because this little person is my best friend’s baby.
I wish I could say that I’ve been the model of friendship to Jesse as she’s gone through her pregnancy, but it’s just not true. I wish I could say that I’ve made it clear to her how crazy I already am about her kid, but that’s not true either. Sure, I’ve cleaned her kitchen, and I dog sat for her while she was on vacation, and I’ve been physically in the same space with her multiple times a week since she found out she was having a baby. But, I’ve also been awkward, and withdrawn, and quiet, and when we got together to chat last week over pumpkin spice lattes, she said, “I didn’t plan for this to be a conversation about how you’re sucking, but I’m only going to have this for the first time once and you’re my very best friend and you’re missing it.” And she’s right; I’ve been missing the most important part: The being emotionally-supportive-of-my-best-friend-as-she-makes-a-scary-life-transition piece.
I can tell you right now that the awkward, withdrawn, quiet piece comes out of pure, unquestionable discomfort…and subsequent neuroticism. I’ve never fashioned myself much of a “kid person.” I didn’t like being in the church nursery when I was a kid, and I certainly don’t volunteer to spend my time there on Sunday mornings now. And while my friends give up a week of their evenings in mid-July to be with the kids at Vacation Bible School, I spend those evenings reading novels and drinking coffee and, truthfully, feeling pretty grateful that I’m not obligated to be anywhere. That is not to say that I don’t see the benefits of such ministries or that I don’t see the huge blessings that people are reaping by being plugged into them; what I am saying is that it’s just not for me. (You will, however, find me at nearly every event our youth are involved in, and the highlight of my summer now is the week I give up at the end of June to sleep in a dorm room and serve alongside those teenagers in Center City Philadelphia. Somewhere over the last 4 years, my heart began to beat for youth ministry. But, that’s another post.)
I’m so much not-a-kid person that people in my church have begun to identify me as such. I recognize that this is in part because of my own doing: because I’ve made it known to the powers that be that they shouldn’t ask me to cover in the nursery, because I’ve actively looked for ways to avoid holding babies, and because I’m usually the first one to crack a joke about how awkward I am around kids. It shouldn’t have surprised me, then, when people in my church started questioning my best friend about whether or not she’s worried about how I’ll be with her kid. For those people, it’s probably fair to ask that kind of a question because they aren’t in my friendship with Jesse and they don’t know our dynamics, and they don’t know that somewhere over the last year we stopped being friends and started commonly referring to each other as “sister.” In actuality, they don’t know “us.” The thing is, though, that I’ve done such a good job of helping people paint me as a not-kid-person that I had started to convince Jesse of it, too. And my awkward, quiet, withdrawn behaviors over the summer had only fueled the fire. What those pumpkin spice lattes did for us, though, was begin to quench the flame.
One of the things that I value most about my best friend and the relationship that we’ve built together is that we can be honest and ask for exactly what we need, without fear of judgment. I heard Jesse when she told me that I had been sucking as a friend because in every awkward silence this summer I knew that I had been. So, I asked her, “What could I do that would make me suck less?,” which at the time was another way of saying, “In this life change, what do you need from me as your best friend?” And she told me, and I heard her, and I think I’ve been working hard over the last couple of weeks to suck less. Because she’s my best friend and she’s only doing this first pregnancy once…and I don’t want to miss it.
Sometimes I get stuck seeing myself as the same person I was in high school and college, the one who doesn’t do VBS and avoids even being in the same wing of the church that the children’s department is in. Sometimes I get stuck seeing myself as a certain kind of friend, who knows her role and doesn’t allow always for life changes to be an opportunity to make me a better friend. Sometimes I don’t take into account that I’m already different than the person I was 6 months ago when my best friend found out she was pregnant, because 6 months ago little button-downs and sweater vests wouldn’t have made me mushy. I guess what I’m saying is that I still have to give myself grace to keep growing-up.
And dear little one, my favorite person on the planet: I’m pretty excited to be growing-up with you.