We know that friendships are powerful sources of life and help us build self-confidence. What a gift both of my children have had in building strong bonds with others. Yet, there have been periods of time where they’ve struggled to build new friendships, too. I’ve noticed that having old friends helps them weather these social storms, and, since they’re still young, it’s my job to help keep these bonds strong.
I watched both of my children form sibling-like relationships with children in their preschool classes at only eighteen months old. My son, the eldest, bonded with an active, curious, empathetic, and very articulate little boy in his class. They loved moving piles of wood, wheel-barreling things around the backyard, and would go one hundred miles a minute together from one activity to the next. Yet at the same time, they also appreciated down time side by side on beanbags just staring at the ceiling not saying a word. That friendship lasted despite the other boy moving preschools. However, when kindergarten came around we lost touch with this precious family.
Kindergarten was a challenging transition when not a single soul from preschool attended my son’s school. Talk about rocking his little world! I wish I had the wisdom to reach out to my son’s preschool friends to help his self-esteem, but I did not have the benefit of hindsight to keep all of my son’s friendships intact as we transitioned to kindergarten. My daughter, however, reaped the benefits of her mom living and learning.
My daughter bonded with an adventurous, articulate, creative, and caring little girl in her tots class as well. The teachers would send daily pictures and updates from class; they were inseparable. Whether they were hiding in cupboards, taking “selfies,” or laughing their heads off, it was obvious these girls had an amazing bond. This classroom friendship was cut short when the family moved home to Ethiopia. Thankfully, we have the memory of visiting the Oakland Zoo with her and her family just weeks before their move to the other side of the world. The most amazing thing was that her parents also recognized the special bond these girls had.
We have Skyped to keep in touch and sent messages through Facebook. My daughter speaks of her friend as if she still “knows” her. It has also given us an opportunity to teach her how time is different on the other side of the world. “Is Anashe waking up right now since I am going to sleep?” she will ask, as we are getting ready for bed. And the other little girl asks her parents if they are going to visit my daughter every time they get on a plane. These girls are now six and have not seen each other since they were two years old. Yet, their friendship still speaks into each other’s lives despite the distance (thank you technology!).
My daughter went on to make a core group of friends with whom she graduated from preschool, and you can be sure we keep in touch with some key players from that group! Why is this so important?
As life continues there will be friendships gained and lost. There will be hurt feelings and challenging situations. My children need a soft place to land. I see both of my children behaving most like themselves when they are with people that love them and accept them for who they are – where there is history. And though my children’s historical stories are only six and eight years along, they are significant. When things go south on the playground at school, they know they still have family friends to turn to despite the separation of school districts and locations. When transitions take place, there are certain friendships we can rely on at our place of worship, too. They can let their hair down with these friends – these friends who have known them since they played in their birthday suits in the sandbox and know them now as they are reading books side by side.
These friendships rely on us parents to keep them going. They won’t happen on their own if we don’t make the effort. Our family has been blessed beyond measure with four other families with whom we do life: camping, birthdays, Super Bowl parties, holiday parties and even RV trips. The bonds the kids have are priceless. Our tribe of 22 (10 adults and 12 children) makes our children’s lives rich and safe.
So reach out. Make friends with that couple and their kid(s) to whom you are drawn. Chances are you and your child won’t regret it.