Friends Come First
My daughters are growing up … and away from me.
For someone who has been the maid/matron of honor in at least three weddings, calls everyone “my best friend,” and has been putting off writing this for at least 45 minutes while texting about seven different people, I had a surprisingly slow start at making friends.
The conventional wisdom that kids can make friends easily was not true for me. I had very little interest in other children when I was young. I lived inside my head, and I played imaginary games with elaborate rules that I had no interest in explaining to anyone.
One of my favorite games, which I played every weekend at City Park, involved pretending I was a squirrel, stuffing pebbles (aka food) from the playground in the pocket of my hoodie, and then climbing my favorite tree to stash the pebbles in a knothole “for the winter.” I had a system for this, a careful ratio, and when other kids would want to know what I was doing, I would roll my eyes and think, “You can’t possibly appreciate the complexity of this game.”
By middle school, though, I’d grown out of that, and my friends were the absolute most important people in my life. I was close to my parents – then and now – but I didn’t care about their opinions as much as I did my friends’. Counterintuitively, it was precisely because they loved me unconditionally – they couldn’t help me gauge whether I was cool or not because they had to think I was cool!
Watching this play out with Ruby is both incredibly gratifying – she is hitting her developmental milestones just as she should be; she has close friends, people who like her for her – and achingly bittersweet – my baby is pulling away from me.
When she gets back in town this week, I will pick her up at the airport after four weeks away … and immediately drop her off at her best friend’s house for a sleepover. It’s fine. It’s normal. It’s as it should be. And it hurts.
At the stage in life when my best friend was my absolute favorite human, I was 12 to 15, and it was 1992 to 1995, and because of these things, we loved nothing more than lying on her bed, playing with one another’s hair, and listening to Tori Amos songs on repeat.
Little Earthquakes was the album we played the most, and somewhere in my memory bank still are all the lyrics to “Happy Phantom,” “Crucify,” and the riveting “Me and a Gun.”
“Winter” was never our favorite song. We didn’t skip it, but it just didn’t resonate with us.
But I heard it the other day, on a ’90s Spotify channel, and it stopped me in my tracks.
“Things are gonna change so fast … I tell you that I’ll always want you near/You say that ‘things change, my dear.’”
I didn’t get it as a teenager. I completely get it as a parent.
Right now, Ruby is just about as old as I was when I heard that song, and I already know that things are gonna change so fast for her. And Georgia, just 7, says that she’ll always want me near, but I know that “things change, my dear.”
Georgia still prefers my company to that of almost anyone, but already that is fading. Yesterday, she got her very first “best friends” heart-half necklace, and once that milestone is hit, it’s full speed ahead.
I don’t know yet what album my girls will listen to while braiding their besties’ hair, but I’m happy they’re growing up. And I’m sad they’re growing up.
Things are changing, my dears.