Friday, May 28, 2010

Promise ring

E and her beloved friend SMA walk out of school together almost every night. Often they hold hands. Often they argue about important topics such as which of them loves a certain teacher more. Often they will utilize any opportunity to delay the inevitable: that they will have to part ways and say goodnight.

Of late, E has been climbing in SMA's car to say a lingering goodbye. While in there one evening last week she took a great interest in his Etch-a-Sketch, and because his mother and I must often resort to creative and drastic tactics to break up their nightly love fests, his mother asked SMA if he wanted to lend his Etch-a-Sketch to E for the night.

"Okay," he said so sweetly with his patented head-tilt, "E, you can take that home tonight to play with it."

She held it in her lap in the car, begging me at every red light to see her latest masterpiece of rectangles and stair steps. She kept it by her side as she ate dinner and she played with it before bed and after I tucked her in to sleep she said, Oh, Mommy! When you come upstairs for your sleep will you tiptoe in my room and put SMA's Etch-a-Sketch in here? Because I don't want to sleep all night without it and I don't want it to be alone downstairs.

The next morning as we got into the car to go to school with all of our regular things plus one Etch-a-Sketch, we talked a little about kindness and generosity and friendship. I'm proud of the relationships she's building in her social life, and I'm grateful for the lessons she learns from them. One of E's traits is that she has a hard time letting go of her belongings. We've talked before about kindness and friendship and generosity, but all my millions of ethereal words meant less than SMA's example. Such is the power of friendship.

The next day E wanted to be fancy, and so she wore a sparkly necklace on top of her dress. It was a long, beaded necklace made of iridescent, faceted plastic pastel beads. It was shimmery and very noticeable, especially in its absence. "E," I asked nervously when I was getting the kids out of the car at home at the end of the day, "where's your necklace, love?"

J told me all day how much she liked it so when she was packing her bag to go home I put it over her head and told her she could wear it home tonight, E told me in a carefully crafted nonchalance.

That nonchalance didn't stop the tears forming in my eyes and I told her I was super-duper proud of her and gave her such squeezey hugs that she asked me to stop, and she never asks me to stop. All evening I told E how proud of her I was and all evening she feigned disaffection, but I could see nervous excitement in her eyes for her out-of-character behavior. The real courage of the generosity of this gesture was on display in the middle of the night when E woke up with a nightmare, wailing in her sleep and shaking with emotion. The next morning, she told me that the dream was that J wouldn't give her necklace back, but I assured her that J would have it waiting for her when we got to school.

Oh, that sweet J girl. She had E's necklace, which she garlanded around my very appreciative and relieved girl. And she had something else, too. "E, I brought you this ring to wear home tonight because I thought you would like it."

E wore it with pride and with care all yesterday and last night, and this morning returned it to sweet J with grace and a hug. Such is the promise of friendship, and I hope E will receive that lesson again and again and again.

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