S found her very first best friend at preschool this year. He’s the first friend that S chose all on her own. They were in the same class last year, but as two-year olds they really just played near each other instead of with each other. But something magical happens in that fourth year of life: parallel play gives way to cooperative play. When school started last September, S was suddenly playing with other kids in her class; in fact, most of them had made this leap. They were having conversations, and sharing toys, and playing games, and making up stories -- together. The person that S started playing with most often was N.
N and S are really cut from the same cloth. They both tend toward sensitivity, but can be loud and boisterous when they’re feeling happy. They’re both cautious, tending to hang back and watch activities before getting comfortable enough to jump in. They love books. They love little animals like frogs and turtles. They’re both oldest children with toddler-aged siblings who inspire similar levels of protectiveness and frustration in them. Playdates with N are events that are looked forward to with such great anticipation that I’ve started waiting until right before his impending arrival to tell S about it – just to avoid the continuous queries of “When is N getting here?” The last time we spent a weekend away, she worried that N would miss her. At school the two of them giggle and chatter, heads bent toward each other immersed in a world of their own making. They hug when saying goodbye. Today they blew each other kisses as we were leaving school. N is truly my daughter’s first best friend.
And he’s moving away.
His dad got a fabulous new job in another state. The man is literally working on a cure for cancer, so I can hardly begrudge him the opportunity even if it does mean moving a thousand miles away. They’re leaving in less than a month; their house is sold, they’ve bought a new one, and all that is left is the packing up and the goodbyes. And the goodbye part is what I am stuck on: I still haven’t found a way to tell S that N is moving.
I have started laying the groundwork. I’ve gotten a couple of books from the library about best friends moving away. I’ve started telling her things like, “You know, friends are still friends even if they’re far away.” I’ve been encouraging her to make new friends. I’ve basically done everything except come right out and tell her that N is moving. I can’t seem to bring myself to do it. Heartbreak and disappointment will inevitably touch her life – they do for all of us. And there are good lessons to be learned in these situations; I recognize their value. I was just hoping that we could put it off for a little while longer.
So in the meantime I am trying to screw up my courage to deliver my daughter her first heartbreak. I know she’ll get over it. She’ll make new friends; she’ll find another best friend or maybe several of them. But N will always be her first best friend. And I’ll make sure she never forgets him.
Edited from original post to Silicon Valley Moms Blog