Sophie has developed her first friend independent of me—someone who she has chosen and who has chosen her. Their mutuality is dictated by something other than sheer geography or parental design. They share the same delicious mixture of creativity, mischievousness, and silliness. Today, they were playing “spa” in the cracking plastic sandbox in the back yard. I happened to glance out the kitchen window just in time to see Sophie “washing” Lola’s* hair with sand.
“No! Stop!” I called out waving my hands. They looked up, surprised. Disappointed.
“What?” asked Sophie. “I was doing her hair.”
“Soph, you could get sand in her eyes.”
“I didn’t. I’m not gonna.”
“Famous last words,” I replied. “Please don’t wash your friend’s hair with sand. Help her get it out.” And she did.
Last week we were at a craft show with my mother. Such things bored me to tears when I was her age, but Sophie looks at every item—whether it’s adult jewelry or sponges cut into fake cheese for a display—with great enthusiasm. “Mom! You’ve got to see this!” She called me over to where she was standing in one booth, “It says Best Friends Forever.”
“It’s a charm for a bracelet or a necklace,” I told her.
“Can I get it for Lola? Please?” She widened those great gray eyes of her in earnest.
I have a hard time saying “no” to displays of thoughtfulness and generosity. I bought two, one for Lola, one for Sophie. Matching bracelets to seal their friendship beyond the last days of kindergarten. Next year, they would be attending first grade at different schools across town from each other.
Sophie happily swung the little Chinese take out box that held the bracelets. Once we were home I set the bracelets aside, for Sophie to give to Lola after kindergarten was over.
I didn’t want the two of them flaunting their bracelets in front of the five other girls they were friends with in their class.
The Monday after our craft fair outing, I picked Sophie up from school and we went food shopping at Wegmans. She asked to sit in the cart, like she had when she was much younger. Somehow, she folded her long limbs and forced her legs through the holes in the seat. I was concerned about how I would get her out without the Jaws of Life.
“Mom, something happened at school today.”
“What?” I asked, scouring the shelves for Marsala. They are constantly moving everything around at Wegmans. I’m sure it’s an evil ploy to encourage you to find and purchase products that you wouldn’t ordinarily even think of. It just makes me hostile.
“I told Lola about the bracelet.”
“Oh Sophie it was a surprise. Why did you do that? What if the other girls overheard you? You wouldn’t want them to feel bad.”
“Well, they didn’t. But then Lola told them about it.” This is exactly what I didn’t want to happen.
“And?” She had my full attention now.
“And Isabella* got really upset. She was crying.”
“Well, put yourself in her shoes…”
“But I didn’t do anything wrong!”
“I know you didn’t mean to do anything wrong. But imagine this. What if Isabella had bought Lola a Best Friends Forever bracelet and told Lola to keep it a secret. But then Lola told you about it. How would you feel?”
Sophie was quiet. I waited. “I’m thinking about it,” she told me.
“I see that.”
“Bad. Jealous. Maybe left out.”
Sophie looked like she was ready to cry. “Honey, I don’t mean to make you feel bad. And it’s okay for you to give a gift to Lola, but you want to do it in a way that’s not going to hurt other people’s feelings. I was going to have you wait until after school was over to give the bracelet to Lola.”
“You didn’t tell me that!” It’s true. I hadn’t. I thought out-of-sight, out-of-mind. I had underestimated her excitement. And her ability to be discrete.
“You’re right. I probably should have. But you learned something from this, didn’t you.”
“I won’t ever talk about a gift in school again. Ever.”
“Well, more like you have to consider how doing something like that might make other people feel. Don’t worry. This too will pass.”
I gave her a hug.
But it didn’t pass for Sophie.
Saturday morning there was a knock at my door. Sophie came bounding into my room, throwing a handful of bracelets onto my bed.
I pulled myself into a sitting position and looked at the clock. 7:15. Sigh. I had set the clock for 7:45 because we had an End-of-the-Year breakfast for her class to get to. I could have slept for thirty more minutes.
“What’s all this?” I rubbed the blear out of my eyes.
“I made everyone charm bracelets!” She had taken six of her very own bracelets, wrote her friends names on little paper tabs she decorated with drawings of flowers and stick-on jewels and stuck the tabs to the bracelets with tape.
“Now everyone will have one. No one will be left out. I want to give them to all the girls at breakfast.”
She’s becoming more and more of her own person. Not just developing her own, meaningful relationships, but understanding how to navigate the complex social world, and generating creative, caring solutions to some pretty thorny problems.
“They’re beautiful,” I told her, smiling, and basking in the warm aura of my charming daughter.