by Kimberlea Chabot
When my son was in elementary school, one of his closest friends moved away. His heart was broken, but at his young age, I was sure it would be easy to mend. I gave hugs and sound advice like, “Call someone else. You have lots of friends.” I brushed off most of his feelings, just wanting him to bounce back quickly and to be happy again. “It’s just not the same,” he would say. I didn't understand the depths of his sadness— until it happened to me.
What is magical about a friendship is that it is a unique bond between two people who can bring out something in each other that no one else can. As I recently waved good-bye to a friend who was moving across the country, I knew we would always stay connected. I also knew our friendship would never quite be the same again— the stopping over unannounced, the quick walk in the middle of a rain shower just because, meeting each other at the local coffee shop, holiday dinners together, taking each other’s kids for the afternoon when it had been “one of those days.” The day she left my world became a little less full, a little less bright. I suddenly understood how much my son’s heart must have hurt.
Thinking back, I feel badly about how I parented my child through the loss of a friendship and I didn't want to make the same mistake this time when he parted from his “cousins,” my friend’s children. Carla Naumburg, author of Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters, revealed “I don’t like it when my kids are sad, I want them to feel better, and I want to make them feel better, which is pretty much the opposite of full acceptance. What greater gift could we possibly give to our children than our presence, our full acceptance of them, whoever they are, whatever they bring?” This time, instead of trying to just cheer my son up, we talk about what we love the most about our friends when we miss them and how it can feel miserable not to see them any more. Carla Naumburg uses the definition of mindfulness as “paying attention to the present, on purpose, without judgment.” Now we pay attention to what is coming up for us, acknowledging the full range of emotions, including anger. We also discovered the brilliance of Skype, seeing someone face-to-face in real time, which is a wonderful way to be fully present with one another!
I also regretted making my son feel powerless over his situation. There is always something you can choose to focus on in your present moment. I shared my new strategy with him. Now, after school, as the children explore the playground, I look for someone sitting alone, someone who is not in a small group conversing with others, someone who might just be praying she can utter the words, “We just moved here.”
As difficult as it is for children to make new friends, I can only imagine what it is like to make new friends as an adult. Through this small act, I hope to feel lighter by brightening someone else’s day. Honestly, each time I reach out my hope is that someone in my friend’s new hometown is reaching out to her right now, too. This helps me to focus on what really matters in the present moment, including hearing my son say, “Maybe I should try that too.”
Kimberlea Chabot is a leader for the Holistic Moms Network in Connecticut and is the founder of a hyper-local resource for holistic living called Lucky Penny Found.