Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Best Friends

This is a story about two little boys and their remarkable friendship. I hestitate to tell it, because I know I'm not going to be able to do it justice. I know that you're not going to get it, not going to understand how special, how extraordinary this bond is. But I've been wanting to tell it for a long time now, each time something special happens, each time something reminds me how unusual these two little boys are in the depth of their connection. Because I'm proud of them. And because some day they are likely to have to part, and it's going to be painful, and I need you all to understand so that you can help me help my child heal.

N is one of these boys. The other is named WeeyumWise. (The more perspicacious among you will realize that's not his actual name, but it's precisely how N says it, so WeeyumWise it will be.) WeeyumWise is two months younger than N, a full head taller (not a hard thing to be), an only child, and N's kindred spirit.

WeeyumWise and N met in the infant room at their daycare. From the beginning, they had a bond. WeeyumWise's mom and I, who have now become good friends, didn't know each other; we didn't push these boys together. But by the time they were around 8 and 6 months of age, they were already clearly interacting with one another. They crawled together, they walked together, they played together. I can't remember a time when they didn't respond to one another. Parallel play be damned; these kids played TOGETHER.

When N left the infant room at 18 months of age, leaving Weeyum behind for two months, everyone commented that it was going to be a tough separation. And it was. N didn't get comfortable in the toddler room until Weeyum joined him.

I don't remember when it was that N started calling WeeyumWise "dada," but it started young, and it continued for some time. Baroy was always Daddy, of course, but WeeyumWise was Dada, a male of equally important stature in N's life. Long after N was capable of saying Weeyum's name, he continued to call him Dada. And Weeyum understood how special it was. He never corrected N. To the contrary, he always seemed to smile when his best buddy called him by his special name. Weeyum's mom and I used to laugh, thinking about N standing up at Weeyum's wedding and offering up a toast to "my best friend, Dada."

I also don't remember when N stopped calling Weeyum Dada, and started calling him WeeyumWise. Full name, always. A sign of respect. A way to differentiate their relationship from the relationship others have with Weeyum. All those other folks may call Weeyum by his first name, or by a shortened version o that name, but only N calls him WeeyumWise.

After a year in the toddler room, it was time for N to move to the preschool program. Again, Weeyum was scheduled to move two months later. Away from his friend, N shut down. He wasn't talking. He was crying all the time. He was lying in the corner of the room, napping as much of the day as the teachers would let him. He was, for lack of a better word, depressed.

I didn't know what to do. And Weeyum's mom couldn't stand seeing N so unhappy, either. So she asked the school's director to consider moving Weeyum to the preschool program a little early--even though he was very bonded to his toddler teachers, even though he wasn't necessarily ready for the move. He, too, was hurting without his friend N. So she asked. And the director said yes. And N came out of his shell, little by little, with his buddy by his side.

When I started N in gymnastics class so he could be like his big sister, he refused to join in at all--refused to even walk into the room, clung to me, eventually had to be moved to the younger class where moms can accompany their kids, and even then didn't do much in the way of participating. Until, that is, WeeyumWise's mom suggested we see if having Weeyum in class would make a difference. It has. N is now in the age-appropriate class, goes in by himself, and even participates with gusto. Like night and day.

After my first teacher conference at the preschool, I joked with Weeyum's mom that they might as well have just done a joint conference with us, because I heard as much about Weeyum as I did about N. They talked a lot about how the boys need to learn to spread out a little more, give each other some room, play with other kids. A year later, little has changed; in advance of our conference tomorrow, N's teacher gave me her assessment sheet, and all the written comments are about the things that N and Weeyum do together in class. It's unbearably sweet, and yet disturbing...in the sense that they are most likely going to be separated at some point, as WeeyumWise's family doesn't live in the same school district as us, and time does march on. I worry. While Weeyum is quite dramatically attached to N--as much so if not more as N is to him--he is also a more social child than N. He will be OK, I think. He will be sad, possibly; they will miss each other wildly, for sure. But Weeyum will make new friends.

N, well, he doesn't make friends so easily. Kids love him, but he prefers the one-on-one of his interactions with WeeyumWise to playing with others. The only time I see him getting involved in group activities is if WeeyumWise is leading the way. Otherwise, he's separate. Doing what the rest do, but not talking to the others, not interacting. It's almost like the parallel play that he skipped over because of his bond with Weeyum. Weeyum is the only child N asks to have play dates with; he's the only name on N's birthday party list.

So I wonder whether N will be OK in kindergarten, in first grade. I wonder if he'll find a new friend, or if he'll retreat, again, into his shell without WeeyumWise's support. I wonder, oh-so-briefly, about whether I'm making a mistake in aiding and abetting this deep bond with Weeyum.

And then I look at them together, shouting in the evening air when I come to pick N up, faces flushed. I hear N negotiate with WeeyumWise over a toy. I see them hug each other when they're forced to part after "just fi minutes in the car together, OK Mommy?" My boy has a friendship the depth of which many people never feel in their entire lives, and he's just three years old. He is learning so much about loyalty and what it means to be there for another person, and he's learning it intrinsically. WeeyumWise brings out the best in N, and I think that N brings out the best in WeeyumWise as well. There's no mistake there.

On a shelf in N's room there are two pictures. One is of Em holding N, when N was just an infant. And the other is of N and WeeyumWise, flanking WeeyumWise's mommy. It's a professionally done picture: in fact, it's Weeyum's school photo from this year. Apparently, Weeyum refused to be photographed without N. Absolutely refused. Even though his mom was there, and got into the picture with him. He wasn't going to have anything to do with this whole photo-taking experience unless his best friend was brought into the frame with him. And so, there it is, this gorgeous picture of my son, his best friend, and his best friend's mommy. A snapshot of this time in their lives. A glimpse at a remarkable friendship. We should all be so lucky.

free hit counter