Part 5: Loving Others’ Children

My friend Doug, who has a blog called Valley Road Rambler, wrote very recently about love, specifically about the nature of being and growing in love.  I thought it was an excellent meditation, but one which pointed out something I have believed for a long time: we don’t have enough words to express the sentiment “love”.

We use the same word when we describe our romantic feelings of being in love with another person, or loving our family members, or our friends, or a beautiful day or a favourite food.  The same word but not the same feeling… not really.  At least, I hope the love I feel for a good sweet melon in August is quite different from the love I feel watching my nieces and nephews play, which in turn is different from the two different sorts of love I feel when watching Jeffrey fix my grandfather’s lamp and then watching him walk across the house naked, on his way to the bath.

I have written elsewhere about another kind of love I learned about a couple of years ago – the love of a child when you’re responsible for her.  Like the love that rather overwhelmed me when Durita came into our lives as an exchange student.  She live with us for a little more than five months, and filled our house with laughter and chaos and delight and shoes, and I really haven’t been the same since.  She’s her mother’s child, but sometimes I think she’s also just a little bit mine, and I love that feeling.

We don’t have children by birth, but we have always been surrounded by children, in our families and in our work.  So many of them have pieces of our hearts, but I love them all separately and differently.  Durita, of course, is top of mind, but so are our other two children – another exchange student, Julie, who would tell her family in Norway that I was more than the older sister she had always wished she had.  And Bryan, a hockey goalie who lived with us for pretty much two seasons – so different having a boy than girls!  but a wonderful difference that I love and cherish, as I do him.

As for other family ties… there are 13 nieces and nephews on my side (plus a step-niece I think is pretty terrific) and 5 nieces and nephews on Jeff’s side, plus six great-nieces & nephews.  They range in age now from 6 to 27, certainly not all children any more.  It is, I’m afraid, a huge age gap, one which might keep them all from getting to know each other.  And certainly I don’t know all 24 of them as well as I wish I did – time, geography, family circumstances being what they are – but the love I feel for them is very strong, based not just on family ties but on who they are for themselves.

So many of the kids with whom I have worked stand out in my mind now too.  They enriched my life with their humour, their quick wit, their work ethic, their inability to tidy up a bedroom if their lives depended on it.  Of all the things that changed for me when SFT changed their mind about me, the one I miss the most is the chance to work with kids who love theatre as much as I do.  It’s something I hope I can find again soon – that opportunity to engage and enlarge the imagination of a child.

It’s a huge responsibility, that one of teaching.  You hope you’re hitting a nerve with the kids, giving them new ideas, offering new directions, but you can’t be sure, not right away, maybe not for months or years.  What you do know is that as a teacher, as an aunt, as a host parent you have given away some parts of your heart you’re never getting back.  You’ve love and have loved, and that has enriched your world in ways which you might not have suspected, but for which you can be forever grateful.