Typically when your child’s best friend leaves for college, they too are headed out into the great beyond or will be in a year or so. It’s sad, but they have their own adventures on the horizon to keep them occupied.
This past weekend, we bid goodbye to my daughter’s best friend, to a child who has become like an extra daughter to us, like the sister my only child will never have.
It will be nine long years before my daughter does the same, and trust me, I’m not exactly doing anything to make time speed up.
Some people may say it’s strange for someone so young to have a relationship so close with someone so old. Some people have, in fact, tried to tell me that letting a teenager become so close to my 9-year-old is odd – at best.
And to some people, I say this: some kids are luckier than others.
My daughter is one of the former.
When she was just 5 years old, I went back to work full time and had to hire a mother’s helper to lend a hand during the summer months. The teenager who showed up was bright, enthusiastic, and up for anything.
She didn’t “watch” my child. She played with her and played hard. If there was a cardboard box rocket ship being built, you’d better believe there were two kids inside it – even if one only slightly fit. If there were water balloons to be thrown, there were two soaked children running in my side door.
That summer she invited my 5-year-old to her 14th birthday party. A teenager, inviting a kindergartner to her birthday party.
I knew she was a keeper then. Still, I didn’t realize how lucky “I” was. We parents spend a lot of time talking about role models for our kids, about the people we want them to look up to, the people we expect them to emulate.
We just never know where they’re going to come from.
In the years since, there have been parties. There have been overnights. There have been gigglefests and movie dates. There have been secrets told and secrets kept.
There’s been a person in my daughter’s life who exudes a confidence I only wish I’d had as a teenager, a person who has everything I want in my own child: intelligence, a strong work ethic, a kind heart, a zest for living, a bright future.
Some people have asked me this summer how I would handle my daughter’s best friend leaving for college. At first, I wondered too. Could I handle the heart about to break into a million pieces? Had I made a mistake in letting them get so close?
But on Saturday night, as my one-time babysitter turned extra daughter picked my little girl up and spun her around for “one more squishy” before getting in her car and driving away, I knew I’d gotten it right.
“See you on Skype, tomorrow night,” one called to the other.
Because it was see you later and not goodbye.
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Image via Kevin Ferguson Weddings