Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Auxiliary Kids

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I've known for many years that a mother's heart is designed to expand for as many children as she has, and that it should naturally expand to include in-laws and grandchildren as they are added to the family. What I've discovered over the past several years is that my mom instinct can also accommodate a large number of my kids' friends.  A lot of these young people are part of what we've decided to call our Auxiliary Family. 

It's been a running joke around here for a number of years that once someone's name appears on the IOU list that I occasionally post on the fridge - no matter how small the debt or how short a time it's outstanding - that person is a member of the family. It may be something we laugh about, but it's pretty close to the truth. The IOU list was originally a way to remind us which of our teenagers had borrowed money for a t-shirt, or owed us gas money. Then we started taking our sons' buddies with us to hockey games and the like, and since it was easier to buy a block of tickets all at once I'd jot on the IOU list which friends needed to pay for their tickets. Eventually my boys graduated and started paying "rent" and the IOU list became a permanent fixture - and still every now and again other kids' names would briefly appear on the list when we'd buy group tickets to hockey games or concerts. And it's not because they've owed me money that I think of those young people as belonging to the family. It's because we love them like family and have included them in a family activity.

Auxiliary Family and Friends 

A couple of years ago, I decided that the criteria for becoming an Auxiliary Child is at least one of the following: going with us on a family outing (usually a sporting event or concert); spending the night at our house; or having a standing invitation to dinner or something else with us on a pretty regular basis. Most of our Auxiliary Kids have done all three. (And have owed me money too!)

TSO concert 2019

twenty one pilots concert 2018

twenty one pilots concert 2019

hockey game 2019

More recently, with young adults in our house, it has become perfectly normal for their friends to show up for dinner or to spend an evening here. They are pretty good about letting me know that Auxiliary Kids will be joining us for dinner, but I still try to have some kind of backup plan if the number of people I expect at dinner goes from three to nine without warning. One of my boys' friends pretty much lives with us on the weekends, and we're all okay with that. Several of these young people call me Mum or Momma Thorpe, and I'm definitely okay with that. A couple of them are more likely to say, "Bye, Mom! Love you!" on the way out the door than my own kids are! And although I'm not a hugger, in general, I'm perfectly comfortable hugging the Auxiliary Kids, and often ask my kids if a particular friend is okay, just because I thought they looked like they "needed a hug". When they win achievements, I'm proud of them as if I had something to do with it. I've been delighted to receive "Happy Mother's Day" wishes from quite a few of the Auxiliary Kids!

Auxiliary Kids have been included when we go out for Mother's Day and Father's Day, and for the birthday dinners for me and for my husband! Auxiliary Kids join us for family dinners on holidays too. We had Auxiliary Kids here for Canadian (and American) Thanksgiving dinners and for Christmas dinner just recently. Honestly, the Auxiliary Kids occasionally put my kids to shame by their willingness to set the table, clear up after meals, and do dishes. Sometimes they've even helped out with other chores around the house too! (Boy, I hope my kids offer to help out when they are the guests!) It's fantastic to see evidence that they've been raised right, that they are responsible, and most of all that they feel "at home" enough to pitch in.

Dad's birthday dinner

My birthday dinner

Mother's Day dinner

A few of "my" kids have gone away to college or have joined the military, and I miss them, pray for them, and sometimes worry a little. I stay in touch when I can, even if it's just the occasional Messenger or Instagram comment interaction. I'm honored when they respond or reach out to me.  I always hope they will stop by or we'll run into each other when they are home on break, but I don't expect it since I know their time at home is usually very short and their own families are priority. When I do see them on their visits home - especially if they've made a point of coming to talk to me - it completely makes my day!

We took another bold step in parenting Auxiliary Kids recently when we agreed to have our son's girlfriend (and our daughter's best friend) move in with us. There were a lot of reasons it made sense, but the bottom line was that it was actually an easy decision. She is part of our family and we love her dearly. We added her to our phone bundle, started moving furniture, and have been making the changes needed to our home and schedules so that she has her own room and space and hopefully feels completely at home.

Why? I decided a long time ago to do my best to establish a comfortable relationship with my kids' friends as individuals. Yeah, of course I wanted to know who my kids were spending time with and about those other families because my kids were spending time there too. But also I began to realize that someday those kids were going to be adults and the ones in my church were hopefully still going to be in my church. They will be my peers in church and in the world, my co-workers in the marketplace, and probably be in authority or leadership over me at some point. After all, I'm old enough now that my pastors, leaders, supervisors, and co-workers are likely to be younger than me!

Teens and young adults need adults who care about them, and many truly need an adult who isn't obligated to care for them. Someone who isn't related, and isn't paid to check up on them. And sadly, many young people don't have parents or family members that care, or that do a good job of caring. There are times when even kids that do have a good relationship with their mom need a "mom" other than their own.

I remembered the profound impact of the adults that treated me like a social equal and genuinely cared about me when I was a teen, and I hoped in some small way to pass that blessing to others. So I tried to say "yes" to my kids requests to spend time with friends whenever I could, and especially when it involved having friends at our house or along with us on outings. I tried to get to know their friends and keep track of what was going on in their lives. Occasionally I'd ask about school or sports or music or hobbies or whatever they were into. I try to remember to follow up on things like final exams, the big game or concert, or vacation plans. Often I can do that through my own kid or by asking the auxiliary kid's mom, but I do try to check. If they were at our place for meals, I tried to pay attention to foods they liked or how they took their coffee. I enjoy talking with them about their interests, their plans for the future, and just life in general.

paint day with an auxiliary daughter

Trunk or Treat shopping with an auxiliary daughter

My house is sometimes overfull, and usually feels just a bit chaotic and messy, but it's not like I'm a fussy housekeeper anyway. I'm okay with extra noise, a bit of chaos, and additional people at the dinner table because it's worth some minor inconvenience to be more like the home I want to be. The one where everyone is loved and included, where everyone is valued and feels safe. Where we show the love of Jesus to the best of our ability.

Visit the blog "Love+Marriage and a Baby Carriage" to read an excellent and inspiring description of this kind of home: I Want To Be That House

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