“When a best friend moves away” by Saelen Ghose
Read in one of the many Gatehouse Newspapers.
My daughter cried in my arms when I told her her best friend was moving to California this summer. As her quiet tears dropped onto my shoulders I realized I didn’t have the words that would comfort her. I only had words an adult might understand. New job. New opportunities. New adventure. Change. But those words fall flat to a girl who just turned eight; a girl who’s shared many of her childhood adventures with her best friend of five years.
As I held my daughter I remembered vividly when my best friend moved away in second grade. I cried then. A lot. Granted, he only moved a few towns over, but it was never the same for us. No more jumping on his bed as we rocked out to the Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash.” No more lego fights in his attic. No more neighborhood Kick the Can games under the late evening summer light. No, he would move away after his mother remarried to a mansion filled with rooms that were off limits to kids, and the limitations of a grammar school friendship would only amplify as the months passed.
Losing a friend at such a young age, let alone a best friend, is like experiencing death for the first time. Because the staying in touch part is hard, controlled by adults who have busy lives and know that even with much effort, these early friendships often fade as kids make new friends to fill the void. I know my daughter senses this inevitable outcome even if she can’t express it because I can read the pain on her face. And seeing my kids in any sort of pain—especially the kind of pain that can’t be fixed with ice cream and a movie—is difficult.
And really that’s what it comes down to: pain. As parents we know that our children’s lives will be full of ups and downs, victories and losses, and people coming and going. Good is so inextricably tied to bad that no matter how much we might try, we can’t prevent life’s altercations from happening. They are part of the human experience. Okay, that’s fine and dandy, but no parent signs on for this. I surely didn’t.
It’s a fine line between protecting your child and inhibiting their growth. It’s a subtle balance between giving them the freedom to express their evolving opinions and at the same time teach them what’s appropriate and what’s not. And my wife and I constantly ask the question: When is the right time for our kids to try this new experience? This question seems to pop up time and time again. Are our kids mature enough to see “The Hunger Games” or some other movie that involves questionable content? Are they responsible enough to bike or walk to school on their own? Are they ready to have some sort of portable music player or a cell phone?
All parents are faced with these questions, and all parents make the best decisions they can with the information they have in front of them. And with these decisions more questions get asked. Is my child mature enough to handle this situation? If I let her participate will she be impacted emotionally by this experience? What will my child learn from this experience? If my child doesn’t participate will she be ostracized from the group? Am I putting my child in danger somehow? Parents are constantly weighing the pros and cons of the many decisions they have to make throughout each day, each week, each year. Some we get right, and some we don’t.
But these are only the experiences we can control to a certain degree. The bigger problem arises from all the experiences that are out of our control. That’s when we just have to stand by and observe. And that’s when we sometimes have to watch our children feel pain.
I’ll be doing that this summer when my daughter and her best friend say their goodbyes. When that happens I’ll do what every jazz musician learns to do throughout the course of their studies. I’ll improvise as best I can. And then offer the comfort of my shoulder and a lap to cry on.
From THE GUYS: Please leave Saelen a comment. Or leave your own thoughts on the topic. Thanks!