Let’s make one thing clear: Another baby is not ever going to be in the cards for our single-child family, our little triangle we have come to embrace.

But sometimes for an afternoon or evening, such as when my son’s friend from the house with the driveway that touches ours is with us, I do get to experience the full, fun feeling of looking after two instead of one. And the comfort she seems to feel in our presence has a family-like vibe.

Last year, after a household emergency, this friend of many years even slept over on a school night. (Luckily for us, always disorganized and frantic in the mornings–thanks at least in part to the fact that my son requires 32 reminders to get dressed, or finish his banana, or brush his teeth…and that he is going through an I DON’T CARE!!! response to everything phase–we were able to just send her home for breakfast that day. The weekend pancakes were simply NOT happening, even though this open-minded child probably would have loved my adding blueberries, unlike my fruit-hating boy.)

Throughout all seasons, this friend can be found hanging out in our backyard for hours, building snowmen in the winter, and in the summer convincing my bug-anxious boy to work through his fears and not run inside at the first sign of a misidentified flying object (or when an actual bee is observed “pointing his stinger right at me!!”). Today, upon arriving home from work, I popped outside to greet them.

“How was your day?”

One response: “Why do you ask? Can’t you just let us play? You’re disturbing me.”

Other response: “Mine was just great!  Let me tell you about what we did in school.”

Guess which one came from my child?

We three (because husband opts to sit out on such excursions) take bike rides to the nearby park, chatting and laughing along the way. And when we arrive, I continue the calorie burn as the kids ditch their helmets in favor of running up the slide or playing a game of zombie-style tag.

Recently this friend accompanied us all to the nearest Bob’s Store. Oh how the car conversation strayed from the usual, with the kids engaged in YouTube and Minecraft talk (and probably Minecraft-related YouTube talk) in the backseat, while the adults in the front seat deconstructed Facebook comments about the Board of Ed’s requested budget increase.

And inside the store, the very best part: I browsed the shoe department as this young fashionista agreed with me on the trendiness factor of a pair of $15 Converse knockoffs. Never have I gone to a store with my husband and child and gotten an engaged opinion about shoes, or even a pretend-sincere compliment about any clothing item. Had she asked, we may well have ditched the boys and embarked on a mani/pedi excursion.

The other day, after a bike ride, she asked me what things would be like if she were my child, too. I’m pretty sure she was mainly referring to the overabundance of toys in our playroom–typical only-child perk–and whether she would get to have so much stuff, too. But as she ran back over to her own home, a happy one brimming with the kind of activity and energy typical of a four-child household, I felt grateful for all the chances we get to expand our family dynamic from time to time.

In the morning–on a school day, no less–I made some pancakes, with chocolate chips and NO blueberries. Exactly the way my only likes them.

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