Somehow I missed it — that my daughter and B were best friends.
Maybe I’d been too busy to notice. I’ve been zipping through life at warp speed lately trying to organize back-to-school breakfasts and come up with exciting, fall craft projects. Maybe I missed it because I didn’t realize that preschoolers were old enough to have real, meaningful relationships. Probably though, it was that as a grownup, it’s been so long since I’ve had one true best friend that I kind of forgot what that looks like.
But one recent morning at preschool drop-off, my daughter’s teacher took me aside and told me that it was really beautiful to see how much these two little girls loved one another.
“They sit together at lunch, they play outside, they’re inseparable, and they play so nicely with each other. It’s lovely to see,” she said.
That’s when it really hit me — that my daughter had her first best friend, and that it was a pretty big milestone.
No matter what happens, she’s going to remember this forever. Her friendship with B is always going to be extra-special because it was her first. I still remember my first best friend, too. Her name was Katy and we rode the same bus to kindergarten and we were best friends for years until I moved away from our hometown, and she went away to boarding school. Our elementary school days were filled with magical memories: sleepovers, movies, playing princesses, splashing in the stream behind her house, and picking beach plums at the shore.
When my daughter started preschool last fall, she was nervous and unsure of herself. She acted so tough that no one else could tell, but I knew she was afraid. She may have put up a good fight over that pink princess dress in the classroom home center, but inside she was sensitive and insecure. She feels things hard, like me, and she’s strong-willed and passionate. She needed someone to ground her, and when B magically appeared, probably at the sensory table over a bin of raw rice, sharing a love for all things My Little Pony, everything changed. All of a sudden, my daughter couldn’t wait to get to school every morning so they could play.
Slowly they bonded. I watched all last year as their friendship unfolded over playdates and birthday parties. B was the gentle, soft-spoken snow to my daughter’s flames, a perfect match — Anna and Elsa, though who gets to be the queen and who gets to be the princess changes daily. The two of them are great about treating one another fairly like that, so they each get a turn at being Elsa.
I hope my daughter and B always have each other. When I watch them playing Barbies on a rainy afternoon, wading at the beach pretending to be mermaids, frolicking in the matching blue dresses that they both desperately needed for their birthdays, I try to picture what adventures their future holds. I pray they stay best friends for a long time, because they’ll need each other to navigate the complicated underworld of elementary school politics. Come middle school, it’ll be the mean girls. High school brings the challenges of boys, peer pressure, and lord only knows what else teenagers will be doing in 10 years. I don’t even want to think about that. But at the same time, it’s amazing imagining them driving actual cars, prom dress shopping, visiting one another’s college dorms.
I shouldn’t get ahead of myself though. What they share right now is perfect, and the recent memories alone are enough — watching the parade, coloring eggs, playing endless versions of dress-up, learning to swing, still not mastering the art of pumping without being pushed. Oh, and thanks to B for getting my kid to eat carrots, too. That was a huge accomplishment. First best friends clearly have more influence than moms about certain things.
Each time my daughter and B are apart and then see each other again, I swear, even if it’s only been a 10-minute separation, I love how they act like they’ve been reunited after decades of longing. They’ll scream and embrace and tell each other every single detail of every event that’s gone down since they last saw each other. Then they pull up their skirts and compare the characters on their underwear and shriek in delight if they’re both wearing Rapunzel panties. That’s true friendship right there, and watching them made me miss that kind of friendship in my adult life.
Friendships change when we get big. We guard our feelings more carefully. Grownups don’t have the same kind of trust and optimism, the ability to forgive and forget in the span of 10 minutes that children do, and I wish that I could tell my daughter, in a way that she could understand, to keep her willingness to love her friends so much. I wish she could know how magical a first real friendship is, but that will come in time. We can only see that kind of stuff when we’re older, looking backwards.
No matter what happens, I want her to be able to look back and remember how special the times with her first best friend were. I want her to remember the innocence, the way when she was little that she lived completely in every moment she and her best friend spent together. Remember that pure joy they inspired in one another. I’d forgotten, until she and B reminded me.
For right now, I just want them to play. I want to tell them: keep giggling, girls, keep telling those knock-knock jokes that make no sense whatsoever. Keep sharing your Uncrustables and juice boxes. Remember the feel of your tiny hands entwined, sticky and sweaty and holding on tight to one another as you run headlong into the tall grass of your futures.More On