This weekend I took Laurel to Robbins Park in Arlington -- the park with the two huge slides built into the hill and the spectacular view of the skyline. And oh, Laurel is such a different kid than she was just a year ago. Instead of clinging to me, or wanting me to stay close, or refusing to talk to other kids, after a few moments of scoping the place out, she broke loose and immediately made some new friends. Two of the girls turned out to be sisters, ages 4 and 6 (I met and chatted with her parents and it was one of those super fun experiences you always hope for at the playground), and the "big girl" in the group was 8 -- she was so sweet and definitely had a mothering way with the three younger girls. I wondered whether the 8-year-old also was a "hybrid" (she looked more Asian than Laurel does but not 100%) and whether she and Laurel had communicated a secret handshake.

Most of the time it was purely fun and silly to see this quartet roaming around the playground, but then I found myself moved to tears -- when the girls went down the big slides, arms wrapped around waists to form a train, laughing hysterically as they gained speed. Or as the sun dropped below the horizon and the girls ran together across the big hill -- from down on the playground, it was easy to see the joy and laughter in their silhouettes.

On our way home Laurel told me that she felt excited but also a little bit scared when she was up on the big hill, running around so far away from me. But that the big girl held her hand and made her feel better.

And though I have wrestled with these thoughts countless times over the last several years, this comment made me truly, truly ache for Laurel to have a sister. To have a built in buddy. To have someone to hold her hand when she's scared amidst peers. To have someone in-house to commiserate with about her crazy parents. Though it certainly wasn't always puppy dogs and unicorns, I was so lucky to grow up with six siblings (including four sisters) and Laurel has none.

And this is the one area of my life where I feel complete and utter failure.