For the first three and a half years of my daughter’s life, her friends were exclusively children of my friends. That’s the way it goes, I suppose, until they begin school. Our kids all loved spending time with each other, but because of their varying locations and ages, none of them saw each other regularly. I was anxious for my daughter to make friends at preschool — friends of her own — local kids her own age that she could see every day. And indeed, she quickly made two best buddies.
Annie was thick with her two best pals, S and R, last year in preschool. Every day Annie came home with tons of stories about the games they played together. The teachers told me the three of them were inseparable. I exchanged phone numbers with their parents so the girls could play outside of school. And then, after winter break, without any warning … S never came back. Annie came home from school every day and told me S was sick. I finally asked one of the teachers, who told me that S’s family had moved. They’d only found out the morning school started back. Annie was devastated. “I didn’t even get to tell her goodbye!” Annie writes S letters, but the family hasn’t ever returned my calls so I don’t have an address to send them to.
Luckily, R was still in class, so she and Annie grew very tight. They played for the rest of the year and had a few summer play dates. R’s mom and I knew the girls were both going to be in pre-K but we never confirmed which days … and of course, Annie and R are in different classes that meet on different days. They won’t see each other at all at school.
So Annie had to start from scratch this year as she began pre-K. This was terribly sad for her, and difficult to watch for me. I turned to books for help.
I started by reading her books about friends moving away. The first one I found, My Best Friend Moved Away, is exactly what you’d expect from the title but it was perfect for my four-year-old. As we read, she said things like, “That’s like me and S … except I don’t get to see her anymore.” Ooof, my heart.
I then read her Making New Friends. It’s really about kids moving to a new neighborhood, but I thought it was a great book for any kid because even if they aren’t personally the new kid, there might be a new kid in their class at some point. I told Annie that my favorite thing at the beginning of each year was meeting the new kids. I said, “New kids are just friends you haven’t made yet … and your class might not have all of your old friends, but it will be full of new ones.”
She lit up. “I get to keep my old friends AND make new ones!” she said.
I’m a little sad that R isn’t in Annie’s class, but I’m mostly excited to see Annie make new friendships and expand her heart. Only four years old and she is embarking on the journey of friends entering and exiting one’s day-to-day life. I think it’s going to be an amazing year after all.