Lessons About Saying Goodbye From A Five-Year-Old Military Child
It’s PCS season. After six moves, I should be used to this. But it never gets easier. Several of us (friends and neighbors) on our block are moving this month. I’ve been making less eye contact with them, mostly just to avoid talking about leaving. Before, there would have been in-depth discussions, play dates, wine dates and plans to get together. Now we are avoiding each other– it’s mutual, it’s perfect.
I need to be strong and stoic for this move. I’ve never invested into others like I have this assignment – especially the children. These people are my military family – they are my support network, my social life, my wine cabinet, and my children’s best friends. This base and assignment have been a two-sided coin for me– it’s been extremely hard on my family, but it’s been the mother load of friendships for both my kids and myself. We are scattering to the different parts of the globe within the next 30 days. It’s time to say goodbye.
I have deemed this month as the “Month of the Ugly-Face Cry.”
The other day, my neighbor and very close friend, surprised me the news that she is “going away” for a quick vacation before she moves. See, she’s the last one of us (four military spouses/moms) to move. It’s easier to leave than to be left. So this little vacation is nothing more than avoidance and an excuse to not watch the moving trucks pull up to our homes and witness the end of a two-year friendship, childhood memories and support system – which will inevitably come to an abrupt end. I’m angry; only because she thought of it first.
My little five-year-old daughter has met her very first BFF during this assignment, and she lives next door – she belongs to the neighbor that outsmarted me. I’m so emotional that my little girl has to say goodbye to her BFF that I can’t speak. My sweet little girl doesn’t understand that TODAY is probably her last play date.
I how do I tell her? What will she do when she realizes she probably won’t see her again this summer? Breathe, breathe. I’m starting to panic. These two girls have been inseparable for the last two years – more than 1/3 of their lives. It’s been a daily vision of dress up, tea parties, stuff animal parades, lemonade stands and scooter races – all while the moms watch and smile with happiness. We all know that if our children are happy in this life, then we are happy.
I can’t believe it’s over. I’m watching my neighbor and her family packing their truck from my window when I see my daughter hug her BFF and run inside our home.
Okay – I’m ready.
“Hey, mom!” Abby yells as the screen door slams.
“Yes, honey, I’m upstairs in your room. “ I reply, preparing for the worse.
She dances up the stairs, gives me a huge hug and starts to pack up her Barbie Cruise Ship and all of her Barbies, including accessories and shoes. Oh no!
“Why are you packing up your Barbies?” I ask quietly, ready to console.
“Because, I only play Barbies with Amelia, she’s my best friend, and she’s gone.”
There is it! She knows.
I start to break down and sob in my hands. I’m heartbroken for her. I sit at the edge of her bed and launch into the ugly cry face. That’s when Abby shuffles over to me with a look of such concern on her face but wait; she’s concerned for ME.
“Why are you crying, Mommy?” she asks so sweetly that I want to bottle it instantly.
Through my tears, I try to sound grown up, “Because, your best friend is gone, and you are packing up your Barbies. I’m sorry this life is so hard on us. I’m so sorry this is happening to you, Abby. I’m so sorry.”
She grabs my face with those cute little hands and cups them around my cheeks. She smiles and instantly brings me back to reality.
“Mommy, don’t worry. I’ll make new friends again. And when I do, we will play Barbies together. Don’t worry, it will be ok.”
And there IT is. My five-year-old, Barbie-loving, dress-up-playing, tea-party-having daughter just taught me the lesson of the Military Spouse Mother Motto. The ugly face cry is inescapable as military spouses. However, it will be okay because our military kids understand it better than we think they do. She will make new friends at our next station, and so will I.
She’s so resilient and wise, I can learn so much from her. I’m the luckiest mom in the world.
Thank you, sweet military child.
*A previous version of this article appeared in Military Spouse Magazine.