My dad was in the military, so I moved around a lot as a kid. Growing up, I learned some critical skills for coping. I could make friends really easily. And then just as quickly, I could forget about them when my family moved to the next base. It was necessary. Otherwise, I would have been in tears for the majority of my childhood. All of my friends were military kids too, so somebody’s best friend was always moving away.
It wasn’t until right before I graduated high school that I found friends who would end up being my ride-or-die’s even now, over 20 years later. I realized, as school was ending, that I didn’t have a crew. I attached myself to a group of girls who were always doing something fun, and they haven’t been able to get rid of me since.
A few months ago, a friend from back in the day sent a couple of pictures of me via Facebook messenger. When I saw them, I cried. I don’t have many pictures of myself from middle school, and since I’ve lost track of everyone I knew back then except for this one friend, I can’t reach out to anyone else to see if they have pictures that I might be in. That entire time of my life is undocumented except for the few things that I can occasionally remember.
I want a different experience for my children. When I look at folks who have friends from elementary, or even preschool, it makes me wish I had people in my life who knew me since forever. It makes for a different kind of friendship. Growing up with someone from childhood until adulthood means that you have someone else who can corroborate your experiences. Your memories have a bigger chance of never being forgotten because it’s not just you trying to remember things.
Do I feel like I missed out on something in life by not having friends from when I was a kid? Absolutely. There’s always been a sense of instability because of my family’s constant moving. At least if I was still close to people who were at the different places I lived, maybe I wouldn’t have so many instances where I feel like I don’t belong anywhere.
My husband didn’t grow up that way. He still knows tons of people from his childhood, and whenever they get together, they have fun stories to tell and memories to share. I watch them laughing and talking about how things used to be and feel a bit envious. When you have friends who are as old and go as far back as that, it teaches you how to value relationships. You also have a stronger sense of self-confidence because you know where you came from — and you have proof.
I’m setting my kids up now to have long-lasting childhood friendships. It takes work on my part, but I’m finding that other parents seem to be just as interested in keeping our kids connected as I am. We started by putting my daughter in a school that only has one class per grade and that goes up to the 8th grade. We lose a student or two each year, but for the most part, these kids do everything together. From basketball to Girl Scouts, playdates,and summer camp, those friendship seeds are being planted deep. At just 9 years old, my daughter already has four solid years of relationship-building with most of the kids, and 5 or 6 with the ones who came from preschool with her.
It’s a bit of a heavy-handed approach, I know. Maybe I’m projecting some of my issues on the situation. The worst thing that could come from working to make sure my children stay close to their childhood friends is that they stay close to their childhood friends. I’m helping to preserve their memories. When they’re adults and recounting the fun they had with their adolescent buddies, they’ll thank me for it.