The universe is throwing big clunking messages at me again this week. The first is that whatever happens, there will always be children and young people in my life. The second is that, even though I love babies and toddlers, you can still have a great relationship with a child even if you've missed the first couple of years of his or her life.
On Tuesday, I was babysitting for my sister when I got a call from a friend - the father of one of my godsons. He and his wife were having problems with their eldest son, and asked me if I could help. I agreed to go over and see them yesterday.
So yesterday I spent the late afternoon and evening with them, just interacting with the three boys as normal and chatting with the mother. The father didn't get home from work until 10 pm, at which time the younger boys went to bed, the eldest boy went to watch the telly and I spent about an hour closeted with the parents as we talked through their concerns. I then went through to the other room and spent the next hour or so talking to the boy, then called the parents in and mediated while they talked together.
I've known this boy since he was two or three, and I always enjoy seeing him. He's now just short of his 17th birthday, and is the same sweet boy he always was, but with a veneer of stroppy teenager on top. The problem is largely cultural, I think - he seems a very normal teenager to me, but his parents are immigrants and expect him to behave in the same way as teenagers in their own culture. He himself was born in the UK and has lived all his life in South London, where teenagers behave very differently from the way his parents are used to.
I think everyone went to bed a bit happier, and I hope that even if I haven't helped, at least I haven't done any further harm, and I've certainly given all three of them a different perspective on the issues. The parents have often said that in the absence of the support network they would have back home from their extended family, I am their surrogate extended family, and I take that role very seriously, knowing how much it means to them.
I got home at about 3 this morning, and would probably still be slumbering peacefully if I hadn't had to get up to move my car - the only available parking space when I arrived home was a space down on the main road which is restricted after 8 am, so I struggled down there to move it at 7:30.
On the way home, I was thinking about parenting and adoption, and I realised that although I missed the first couple of years of this boy's life and have known his brothers from birth, I'm as fond of him and have as close a relationship with him as with his brothers. I know you can't compare a relationship with a friend's children to a parenting relationship, but it made me realise that the fear I have that I wouldn't be able to bond with an older child is probably ungrounded.
And now I must respond to a text that has just come in from my sister, asking me to babysit again next week. You see - always children in my life...