Since birth, my daughter has had a best friend. Her older cousin Katie* has been there every step of the way, helping her get into mischief and introducing her to the “cool” toys from elementary school. My sister and I had daughter two years apart, but the girls might as well be twins. They want their hair cut the same way. They want to own the same toys. Every once in a while, they even bicker like siblings. But at the end of the day, they love each other with everything they have. My niece is my daughter’s very best friend. And now she’s moving three hours away.
Between my husband and I, we have six siblings. All of those siblings, plus both sets of parents, live within twenty minutes of us. We all get together on an almost weekly basis. As a family, we’re just an incredibly close bunch.
My sister and her family are going to be the first ones to move away, and it’s a process that has been difficult on all us, none of us more so than the two little girls who have grown up together. They went to the same daycare. They had regular slumber parties and countless playdates. Now, my daughter is sobbing on weekends when they can’t get together. She has a picture of her and Katie at the zoo with which she insists on sleeping. She’s even refusing to go to other social events because Katie isn’t going to be there and that’s the only person she wants to play with.
As a parent, it’s easy to forget what it was like to lose a friend as a young child. You forget the level of grief kids go through when their friends pull away with the moving truck. Parents don’t notice the exchanged tokens and promises to get together soon. Our daughters are too young to write and call, so they’re really just depending on family holidays to get together again. Maybe a week in the summer here and there. That’s a bleak outlook for two little girls who have spent almost all of their time together since birth.
Obviously, since it’s a family member that’s moving away, all of us are feeling the loss a bit. But my daughter’s struggle with it makes me think about how invested I am in my little one’s social life. When she gets upset that she can’t have Katie over to play anymore, I get a little weepy with her. When we Skype with Katie and her mom, I get just as excited. I’m sure I won’t always feel this involved or this concerned with my daughter’s friends, but this first loss hurts. And I know that I should be steering my daughter away from the sadness, but instead I’m indulging her in it just a bit.
My daughter will fill the void Katie’s leaving. We’ll all still get together for holidays and birthdays. It’s not like her cousin is gone from our lives forever. And it’s not like my daughter will never find another friend. But just this first time, I feel like it’s okay to allow my daughter’s “end of the world” emotional reaction to saying goodbye. I think a little coddling won’t hurt anything.
Saying goodbye is hard. Losing a friend at a young age, even if they’re just moving far away, is difficult. I don’t want to ignore or brush away those feelings, especially when I completely understand what my daughter’s going through. I’m going to miss my big sister as well. So yes, my daughter is a complete wreck over her friend moving away. And I’m going to let her work through those emotions in her own time. I’m going to let her be emotional. We’re going to grab a couple ice cream sundaes and be weepy with grief together.