• leahwacek

The heartache of "good-bye"

Today was sad. We knew it was coming, but that didn't make it easy.

I'll start at the beginning. When our second daughter was born, I took a part-time job at the middle school that allowed me to be home in the afternoons. That meant that this girl (baby number 3) got her mornings at a small, in-home daycare, and quiet afternoons at home with momma for the whole of her littlest years.

We recognized early on that she wasn't as outgoing as our other girls and chalked it up to a difference in personality. She wasn't eager to go to Sunday School at church or to meet new people. Ask me the last time my husband, myself or my other kids were nervous about a new situation. The answer? Never. Because Jason and I love to be around people, we didn't have the experience or tools to deal with a kid who was different from us. Still, it was so interesting and necessary to have her peaceful, calm spirit in our home full of crazies.

As pre-school approached and we chattered about how "FUN!" it would be, she became visibly alarmed. Throughout that summer, her worry intensified and she spent many days sobbing and worrying about leaving home. She had headaches and tantrums and this sweet, quiet girl gave us a world of unease.

My older girls walked into their first days of school like they owned the place. They were full of confidence. Cara, our second, had the audacity to ask me to leave open house night, telling me she could "take it from here". Needless to say, we were fish out of water dealing with an anxiety we'd never experienced or parented.

We did, finally, convince her that school was not a choice and after a tumultuous first week at pre-school, she eased into things. We thought she'd conquered her fear! She learned to love pre-school and we were so relieved! We had even gotten to the point where she was excited to join her older sisters at their elementary school the following year. With a pat on the back to each other, Jason and I decided that her fears were safely in our rear-view mirror.

Unfortunately, we were wrong. She attended her first day of kindergarten and we watched an avalanche of despair crash over our little gem. As it turned out, she was comfortable with the seven kids in her pre-school room, in the little wing that housed only her class and one other, but when she got into a building with hundreds of kids, a loud cafeteria and all kinds of adults, she crumbled. She didn't eat lunch for months. She would sit at the table and sob. She hated every minute of it and we did, too. Well-intentioned friends suggested we try something else, but we felt strongly about making her face her fears. We would give her a hug every morning, reminding her that she could, indeed, stand on her own two feet. We prayed and let go and watched her struggle.

Does this photo just break your heart? 😔

We cried with her, but we kept sending her to school. We kept making her face the cafeteria. We kept reminding her that she was strong and brave. One day, her kindergarten teacher put her desk next to a new friend who was also struggling to find her footing. This little honey was hating school and missing home and the teacher thought these two might find what they needed in each other. It was the exact answer to our prayers. Little by little, both these girls came out of their shells and ended the year connected and thriving.

That spring we bought a new house. Little did we know it was directly across the street from our kindergarten angel friend. There's more to this story, but basically these girls have created a tandem, climbing trees, swimming in our pool and playing four square together every day. They've both learned to love school and have made other friends through the confidence they've found in each other. It's been the most beautiful thing to watch these little caterpillars morph into beautiful butterflies. Now, here's the hard part. I wish I weren't writing these next paragraphs, but here goes:

Today, Ruby's friend is moving 8 hours away. We cried the day we found out. We cried the day the FOR SALE sign went up. We cried every time a strange car was in the driveway. We prayed that the right people would move in, but we also prayed that it wouldn't happen too fast. Neither her nor I were ready to say this hard "good-bye".

Now, we are looking at a moving van and strange people and knowing that they're probably really great, but also realizing that some people are so special that they just can't be replaced. When she asks me how often we will be able to go visit them, I don't want to tell her the truth; 8 hours is a drive we won't be making often, or, if I'm really being honest, maybe ever.

We're standing here so very grateful for the fact that this friendship came at exactly the right time. We recognize that after we learn how to stand, the supports fall away, AND THAT IS A GOOD THING. We know that part of growing up is learning to walk on our own. We are so thankful for the confidence this friendship inspired. We are learning to rejoice in an exciting adventure for someone else, even as we stay put. We are telling ourselves that endings are also beginnings.

We're happy for our friend and her family. They have such a fun future ahead of them.

This situation has given us the opportunity to teach our kids that being a good friend can mean many things, including letting go.

Still, in between all those lovely thoughts, we're also feeling extremely sad that living in close proximity to someone we cherish was a temporary gift.

It's a good day and it's a sad day and although we know that new laughter will replace the old giggles, there is a real lump in our throats as we wave "good-bye".

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