My daughter’s best friend and her family are moving to a different town, and I am going to miss them.
My daughter is 10 years old, and Y is her best friend. Every day they walk home together from school. Almost every day, M comes home with Y alongside her, and they do their homework together, sitting side-by -side on the couch and reading for hours on end, or at the table playing cards. They splash together in our little pool and play silly games. Each of them is the other’s go-to person if they are bored. Y is used to my daughter’s occasional tempers and waits patiently for her to snap out of them if they happen while she’s around, while my daughter knows when Y will feel shy and how to make her feel comfortable. They share secret words and funny nicknames.
But this is the thing: Y is more than “just” my daughter’s best friend. We recognize her schoolbag in the hallway and her shoes on the stairs. We know which foods she likes and what games she likes to play. My younger son treats Y like another older sister; she helps him with his homework, and he shouts at her not to tell him the answers just like with his real older sister. Once, I was coming in from picking up my son from school, and we passed M with Y, walking home. The girls said goodbye to each other and separated to their own homes, and my son said “Where’s Y going?”
“She’s going home,” M answered.
“Why?” wondered my son.
But now, Y’s family is moving away.
This is going to be hard for us in many ways. This family has always been very involved in our community, and by moving, there will be a huge gap in our midst. Y’s mother is my friend, and I will miss her. My husband and I know that we will have to support our daughter with “losing” her best friend.
When you are 10, having your best friend move away is a catastrophe, and a real loss. We tell M that she can call and talk to Y all the time, and they can email, and visit for sleepovers, but all of the adults know that at this age, a friendship is not the same when the kids can’t see each other every day. We know (and they know) that they are each losing their best friend.
And Y won’t be our bat bayit any more, either. A bat bayit is one of those phrases which is somewhat untranslatable in English. Literally, it means “a daughter of the house.” But in Israel, it’s an expression that’s used to define a different kind of family member. It’s not the same as an adopted child, because Y has her own family who love her very much (and won’t let us kidnap her and keep her when they move away). Bat bayit also doesn’t quite have the same connotations as “surrogate child,” either. The nearest I can come to defining it is to say that Y has become something of an extra daughter and sister in our family, in a way which is separate from my friendship with her mother. We are used to having her around. My sons are used to having her around. We all treat her as one of the family.
I don’t think I realized until now how much our children bring new special people into our lives. Only now that our children are old enough to have friends who spend long periods of time in our home, do I really see it, and possibly only because we’re losing one of them.
It’s often said that your friends are the family that you choose for yourself. There needs to be another line in that saying; perhaps, “your children’s friends are the family that your children choose for you.”