Dear Savvy Sister,
I recently had a parenting “first.” Our neighbors moved away, and my 3-year-old daughter is devastated. She was great friends with their 9-year-old son, and they saw each other every day. He was the first kid we met in the neighborhood when we moved in a year ago, and he had dinner with us at least once a week.
When we came home from school last week and the moving truck was gone, she instantly started bawling, and asking to see him. After a long cry, she finally looked up and said, “Mom, he was a great friend to me. Was I a good friend to him?” I love that my daughter is so caring, but I wish that I had an instructional guide so I’d know exactly what to say and do in this situation.
How do I help her cope with the separation?
Dear Mama Bird,
I’m pretty sure I saw this in a Lifetime movie. The boy is going to move back to the neighborhood in, say, 13 years. He will be a total hottie with a barbed wire tattoo, and your daughter, barely 16, will be sneaking out of her bedroom window to go for midnight joy rides on his Harley. Don’t cry about it, okay? They will be really, really in love.
Listen, this is the first of many times your daughter will learn that life’s a bitch, and then you die. Your job is to help her understand how to tame the bitch by learning from experience and finding ways to change her perspective when it comes to adversity.
Honestly, it sounds like she’s practically doing your job for you. When she asked whether she had been a good friend, it was the perfect opportunity for you to introduce the tenets of friendship. In toddler-speak, of course. Here’s a sample script:
Yes, Bubba was such a good friend, wasn’t he? Remember when he taught you how to catch worms and feed them to the cat? And I think you were a very good friend to Bubba! But honey, another way we can be good friends to Bubba is to be excited when something good happens to him. He’s really happy about going someplace new, even though he’s going to miss us, so let’s be happy for him! I know! How about we draw some awesome pictures, so he’ll remember what we look like! We could even draw ourselves with crazy purple hair! Then he’ll get the pictures in the mail and it will make him laugh!
Tell her it’s okay to be a little sad about it, but it’s also important to be happy she was able to be his friend for a whole year, and grateful that she can send him pictures and emails. And remind her that now’s a good time to meet new friends.
Frankly, as separations go, this is a piece of cake. I’m guessing this is your oldest child, right? And to you she seems like the most mature 3-year-old girl alive? Uh huh. Just wait until she’s 11 and her “best friend” ditches her to go hang with the more popular girls. Now that’s a separation that will stick with her forever. This is just a blip. Consider it a practice run.
Buy the girl some stationary, hope for some awesome new neighbors, and send a prayer up to St. Columbanus, the patron saint of motorcyclists, that when Bubba comes back in a decade or so, he’s a really cautious driver.
the Savvy Sister