As our normal, lazy Saturday morning came to a close and I was about to start giving the dog a much-needed bath, Nat burst into the bathroom in tears sobbing "It's today! It's today, Dad!"
I was up to my elbows in dog hair and had no idea what she was on about. Eventually I got it out of her that it was "today" that our neighbors were moving. The same ones who's dog passed away this past spring. The same ones who's children welcomed ours to the neighborhood four years ago. The same ones who's daughter and Nat are best friends (except when they're not, because *girls). Those neighbors are moving.
We've known for a couple of weeks now. But to a kid, a couple weeks can feel like a lifetime, until that time is up. And today, that time came up.
They had a chance to play Friday, and we knew it was the last night they were sleeping there, but it still broke her heart to see the moving truck as she had to come to grips with the facts of their move.
Of course, there was nothing she could do about it, moving is a grownup's problem. Parents have to make the decision to move. They have to pack the house, balance the finances, manage the kids, move the family and keep it running all along.
So what can you do as a parent to help your kids deal when a friend moves away?
We started by talking with her about it before the move. Explaining that they would still be in town, and we would still see them from time to time.
We also encouraged her to play with her friend as often as she could in those last days. She needed to have good last memories of her friend to carry with her as time goes by.
I've been told it can be helpful to have the kids trade something with each other, whether it be a friendship necklace, or a photo frame or a special stuffed animal. We did not do this, as they were trying to downsize before the move and the two have traded toys back and forth for four years. We do however, have pictures a-plenty of them together, so I'd say the "memento" step is taken care of.
And now for the heavy stuff, where I really earn my parenting stripes.
The biggest thing I could do for her was to listen. Covered in oatmeal dog shampoo, knee deep in american cheese wrappers (bribery goes a long way with our dog) and wet to the elbows, all I could do was make sure she knew I was listening. Once I knew the issue, I had to reassure her that it was ok for her to be upset, and suggested we invite the kids over for one last play while the grownups did the heavy lifting.