She was small and spunky; spirited is an understatement. The air around her dripped with laughter, life, and billows of love. Her “Long Island” accent and New York brashness made her all the more endearing. She was a New York City Big Band singer in the “30’s” but her quest for life, and love for people forced her to abandon her promising career to be a wife and mother; her greater love. She never forgot anything in all of her 94 years; quick witted and sharp as a tack. Oh, could she weave a story! She exuded “interesting,” enthralling you with her life and tales. A song never sounded prettier than when she sang it, whether a hymn or a nursery rhythm. Granted the accent made everything sound more eloquent and unique, especially to a bunch of Virginians. She was our family friend for the last 23 years of her life; a kindred spirit.
In the earlier years of our friendship, she was a babysitter to our youngest daughter. She was a favorite and always came to babysit with props. Her sagas were sort of acted out as much as told as she sat on the floor at child level entering the world of imagination with the best of them. She knew how to give undivided attention and how to love with her actions. It was not long before “Miss Dot” and our daughter had a lifetime connection. She told stories, played, laughed and sang. Oh yes, she sang…with her “Long Island” twist. Years later, our daughter realized that her accent was the reason “it always sounded prettier when Miss Dot sang it.” “…Liwkka diawmund in the skwye…” To our preschool child, she was every bit a “star.” She was the one who entered her unsuspecting infant years with a great splash and waltzed through the first twenty years of her life with gaiety, grace, and majesty.
The Benefits of a Kindred Friendship
Dr. Michele Borba, speaking on Kids and Friendships on MedicineNet.com, emphasizes, “Friends play an enormous part in a child's development, much more so than we ever realized. It is probably the highest correlation to our kids' happiness and mental health and is going to help them in every arena of their life. Think about it -- not just now, but with their employer, their colleagues, their adult friends, their spouse and their own children. That's why we have to prioritize it more.” (http://www.medicinenet.com, accessed August 2011.)
"Among Life's precious jewels, Genuine and rare, The one that we call friendship, Has worth beyond compare." ~ Author unknown
Friends are not a given in life. Many find it difficult to make and keep friends but having thriving friendships throughout life greatly contributes to our joy. Children need to learn to have and be good friends. It is a social skill that is developed and honed. Adult friends present a distinct advantage to young children. Multigenerational friends have a different perspective, have wisdom gained through life experience, have weeded out what is not important, have established life’s priority, and understand friendships. They also tend to be very fond of children. What could be better for your child than someone who thinks they are adorable, uniquely special, and gifted? Adult friends can teach about life outside of a child’s personal sphere and bring a wealth of knowledge and insight to a relationship.
What the Experts Say
Jacquelyn Mize, PhD and Ellen Abell, PhD, professors in the Department of Family and Child Development at Auburn University, encourage parents to enhance their children’s social skills suggest playing with children in a “peer-like” way, just for the sake of having fun. They state, “Children learn crucial skills through play with other children, but children also learn a great deal through play with their parents and other adults. Children whose parents frequently play with them have more advanced social skills and get along better with peers. This is especially true, however, when parents play with their children in an effectively positive and peer-like way.” (http://humsci.auburn.edu/parent.html, accessed August 2011)
"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born." ~ Anais Nin
Adult friends can serve the same purpose. Special older friends will play, laugh, joke and interact, and serve to strengthen friendship skills in non-threatening ways. An older, kindred friend will not get mad and stomp off for they know how to share, how to engage, and are experienced at fun. They help teach children how to be good friends and playmates.
Lucy Maud Montgomery, in her Anne of Green Gables series, illustrates some shining examples of “Kindred Spirits.” It is perhaps the place my daughter was first introduced to the concept, in words, but they were already apparent in her life. It was not long after “Anne-girl” became part of her world that she started labeling her “kindred spirits.” Miss Dot was one of those very few.
What is A Kindred Spirit?
A “Kindred Spirit” is one whose spirit resonates with your own; and even though years may separate your age, there is an unmistakable bond. What a joy and gift to find someone with whom to laugh, play, share, sing, and dance. It is an art to look past age to the heart but when done, it opens the world and life to unending possibilities. Friends and cherished loved ones should not all come from within the confines of blood family or personal age group. Some of the greatest influences in life come from the most unexpected pairings; the ones no one can predict, prearrange, or mandate. They come when two hearts meet and recognize a spirit similar to their own…one where you just know, if you have been born next door to each other in the same decade, you would have been instant friends and bosom buddies. Yet, at any stage, it can happen without a moment’s notice even. It is one of life’s amazing mysteries that may not completely make sense but feels completely perfect.