I was cleaning our home at the end of a long Saturday and ahead of a busy Sunday: hula and Hawaiian Studies class at the YMCA Saturday morning; homework; late lunch at our daughter’s favorite restaurant; sports to improve her hand-eye coordination; reading and story retention practice; sleep!
This was before Sunday faith service and school; reading and math practice; a trip to Ellen’s favorite museum; more reading.
When Ellen made it to bed Sunday, I showed my husband what I found during cleaning on Saturday evening: a note Ellen had written when we encouraged her to spend some time on her own with both her parents in the house but during a needed break when we were all taking a little alone time.
How can someone be my best friend? Please can someone be my best friend?
Oh, boy. My heart stopped when I first read my seven-year-old daughter’s note.
My daughter is adored by her two fathers. I miss her when I’m at work. I miss her when I’m asleep! In Hawaii, she has aunties and uncles who love her but don’t see her often. Last year, she had a once-in-a-lifetime teacher who changed her life — and ours.
Ellen plays with a lot of kids at school and at the YMCA. She knows other kids in Dharma (Sunday) School and Girl Scouts. She has birthday parties although she herself has not been invited to any for two years. We have had a few playdates at our home. We put the word out that we would like more. Responses are kind, but there have been no commitments aside from a recent playground acquaintance.
My husband and I are treating that bit of promise carefully, trying not to go overboard while still being hopeful.
Ellen’s playground friend is also seven years old, in second grade, loves to play. Unlike Ellen, she has a sibling and she was not born with an extra chromosome. She has a mother and a father.
She and Ellen have exchanged a few notes and small gifts that they have brought with them when they have met at the playground. We hope in the near future to have a family meal together.
But we offer Ellen words of caution: take it slowly. Ellen usually does not. She loves to embrace kids, call them Sweetie, her Best Friend. We have told her it takes time to get to know someone and that best friends are truly a special gift. We have even told her that if she showers too much affection on people she doesn’t know too well, she will be mocked.
We know that may happen anyway given Ellen’s extra chromosome. But since she was born and a few national experts told us she was very healthy and had great potential, we have tried as parents and encouraged others to treat her just like any other young girl.
My daughter and I are very much alike. When I was a teenager, I wrote a poem called Nantucket Verses where I compared myself to a seagull flying too close to people, hoping for food and leaving hungry. The poem won a major award, but poetry did not always cure long stretches of feeling alone.
I kept taking my chances, though, on tennis courts all over the world, in book and running clubs, poetry and music groups, places I’ve worked and studied, faith groups, the scary world of dating, reconnecting with my family. Eventually I found friends, even those I would consider best friends.
I have one now, thousands of miles away, whom I can call at any time of day for any reason. I love her as much as any sibling or cousin. She is there for me no matter what. I can also count on her to give it to me straight, so to speak, a real gift.
So I’ve told my daughter it takes time, to be patient, to really get to know people and try to observe how they are responding.
It’s taken me decades to acquire this wisdom and I’m still learning! In the meantime, though, my daughter has two best friends already: her two dads.