I have two dear friends in particular that really are exceptional. They're both funny, and brilliant, devoted and caring, but they have one major difference. One loves kids. The other doesn't. Actually one adores babies to a slightly unhealthy extreme, and the other makes comments like, "Babies are so dumb. Why can't they just use their words? I hate it when babies cry and the mom is like, oh she's hungry! How can you even know that? She's screaming the same way she's been screaming for the last twelve hours." It's a really spectacular contrast.
I can't say I've ever felt a strong attraction to children, mostly due to a variety of unsavory babysitting jobs and feeling like small people are always in some way taunting me. However the flashbacks from the babysitting job where the power went out for four hours have been becoming less frequent, and I guess those maternal instincts are finally kicking in (although trust me, wee ones are in no way in the plans, they are the worst investment you can ever make and there are so many pairs of shoes I have yet to buy). Also, once a friend described kids as "puppies you can teach to play tennis" which made them infinitely more appealing. This spawned the term "human pups" for all baby and toddler aged beings, which I now pepper frequently through my vernacular and encourage everyone to do the same. It's endearing, not demeaning, I promise.
Though I am far from being a biological mother, last week I took on a new role--a blend of friend, role model, and in some ways, Mom. In my sorority, we have big and little sisters, and my little is the best. I'm like an embarrassing Grandparent, telling people in the grocery store line*about how smart and pretty and talented she is. I've showered her with gifts and love and promised her that I'll always be around for whatever she needs, from someone to go out with to a shoulder to cry on, from a caretaker to the person she'll call in an emergency.
Mostly this is frightening--even though I have a biological little brother and sister, I leave most of the older sister responsibility to Rachelle (I'm nothing if not good at shirking). As a family we're all close, but I tend to foster the friend role more than the strict older sister thing. I'm the one that buys them pudding cups and marshmallow jell-o for dinner when Mom and Dad go out of town, and answer their questions with things like, "Do what you feel," and "Well sure, just don't get caught."** Assuming the role of mature and capable "Big" seemed like a daunting task.
It was an easier transition than I expected, in part because the aforementioned friend with a love for babies helped me along whenever I was stuck, and also because my Mom jumped in here and there too. Our relationship though, and her reliance towards her new Big is all me. It's only been a week but so far I've been doing well! We went out to Mardi Gras parades together and I didn't even lose her once! Her birthday is coming and I already have the card all picked out! In all seriousness, it turns I'm quite good at this game. I hesitate to say I'm "winning" if only because Charlie Sheen has sort of sucked the success out of that word, but I guess I'm doing it without the tiger blood so it's a little more legit.
Knowing that I've been able to rise to the occasion of being a Big, even if the test period hasn't been that long, is a relief. In the back of my mind there's always been this nagging worry that I'm just not cut out out to be more than the self-absorbed but always fun friend. What if, when the times get tough, I'm the person that heads out the door first? What if I'm the fair-weather friend? Am I easy come, easy go?
I think in the end, the answer is no. Because for as self-deprecating as I can be, and for as much as all those negative qualities are true, I know I'm a good friend. For one thing, I don't make friends quickly. I make great acquaintances but few close friends. And those I have gotten close to over the years I hold onto tightly, if a little irrationally. I am good at having friends. I take care of them. I forgive and I forget, I send letters and packages, I soothe hurt feelings and lift spirits, I pick them up when they fall down, I celebrate their success and come up with biting criticisms towards those that have done them wrong. Whenever we go out I make sure everyone has a good time by having the best time myself, I take beautiful pictures of all of them, I post on their facebooks and call them often. I look out for their general well-beings, I practice tough love. And now that I think about it, I do it all without thinking.
It appears now that there is a reason I have so many friends. For all the challenges my personality and lack of ability to function in the morning can present, I think I make up for it with some other, really great qualities. Maybe my Little lucked out with yours truly as her Big. Maybe the Lauren Turns 20 Program will be a success in the "accept more responsibility for your actions and start reconciling with every child you've ever felt has wronged you" department. Not easy, but necessary. Anyway I've never been great acting. I can't hide how I feel very well, although that's been a part of the Lauren Turns 20 program too. Because no matter how disgusted I am with a place, it isn't appropriate to cry and kick cats under the table. Read: Costa Rica 2008.
*I actually never talk to people I don't know or cashiers if I can help it. It can be very stressful for me. I've gotten much better though, as a part of the Program, but also because of the dear Sorority, grooming me to be a perfect lady of society, ready with charm and wit wherever I go.