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The 8 People I Hope My Kid Meets in His Life

"You can't be the supporter and the enforcer at the same time."

My therapist said this to me one day, and it's been lodged in my brain ever since. He was actually talking about my husband's addiction and my enabler tendencies, but my goodness, I've applied that sentence to so much in my life. Especially parenting.

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It's so obvious, and yet I hadn't thought about it that way: We can't be everything to the people we love, not all at once. We can't be the soft spot for unconditional love and acceptance, no matter the behavior, as well as the strict disciplinarian who enforces hard limits and pushes our kids to be better. Not at the same time, at least.

Which got me to thinking: THIS is where that proverbial "village" comes in to raise our kids. If I can't be everything to my son all at once (which I know I can't), then who are the people who can pick up the missing pieces in his life?

A mama's love only goes so far. He needs to find his people. He needs to have a village.

Here are the people I hope my son meets:

1. The person who pushes him, challenges him and tests his limits in a way a mother simply can't bring herself to do.

Whether it's a soccer coach, a karate instructor or a tuned-in teacher, I hope he meets someone who stands in as the Tiger Mom I'll never be.

2. The surrogate sibling(s)

Because he's an only child, I'll forever be grateful for the friends (and cousins) who take on that surrogate sibling role, the friends who serve as a safe space for my boy to be himself, the friends who can empathize and support him as only a peer can.

As much as it breaks my heart, I'll never be this person for my son. And that's OK.

3. The friend who pushes him outside of his comfort zone

I hope he meets an adventurous spirit known to say, "Let's go!" My homebody boy needs someone like that in his life, to prod him outside of his safe space and expose him to experiences he wouldn't take on his own. We could all use a friend like this.

4. The person who shows him what NOT to do

This will be a very valuable person in my son's life—the one who serves as a cautionary tale. (Gosh I hope this person isn't me, for my own sake!)

5. A deep, great romantic love

A role that a mother could never fill. I hope he finds at least one in his life.

6. A warrior spirit

I don't mean an aggressive spirit, always out for a fight, always looking to defend someone's honor. No, no—I mean a warrior spirit. A living, breathing example of grit and perseverance. Someone who has been through unthinkable hard times and has risen from the ashes, stronger than ever. Someone who my son can look to as an example—showing if this person can survive and thrive then I can, too.

7. The person so different, so foreign, that his perspective blossoms

Someone who challenges what he thinks he knows about the world and helps him to be a more compassionate person in the process. There's value in having your worldview shattered before your eyes, and I'll forever love the person who gives this to my son.

8. The mentor

There are certain things my son just won't learn from me. It's a fact.

Right now, at 6 years old, he has one special friend who fits into this category. He's 12, our next-door neighbor, and he's a preacher's son. And despite what might seem like an alarming age gap, this boy is so patient, so loving, that I watch them in amazement. Whether he's teaching him math or manners or about Jesus' message, my boy absorbs it all, in a way he simply wouldn't with me.

Throughout his life, I hope he meets older, wiser people willing to extend a hand and teach a lesson.

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Hopefully he'll meet these people over and over again, in different incarnations, in different seasons of life. Hopefully I'll fill one or two roles from time to time.

Truth be told, a mama's love only goes so far. He needs to find his people. He needs to have a village. We all do.

Photograph by Nikki Addimando

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