Sisterhood Blog

The Power of a Best Friendship

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

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Girlchik’s best friend is moving away next week. Her friend, who I’ll call SweetGirl, and her family are moving all the way from Brooklyn to Portland, Ore. – about as far away as someone can move and still be in this country.

And my heart is breaking. Not for me, though our families are good friends. But for my daughter. She and SweetGirl have been best friends nearly all their lives – since her mom and I met in a neighborhood moms’ group when they were both 1, and they’re now 11.

I have never seen another relationship like the one they share. Both girls also have other close friends, but there is something different about theirs. They are close, but also deeply connected and tuned-in to one another. At an age when I hear little snippets of occasional – let’s face it – bitchiness – in the tone of some of Girlchik’s other good friends, it’s not like that with SweetGirl. They are completely kind to each other, totally at ease and without self-consciousness.

In a decade of friendship I’ve never heard a single disagreement between them. When one pushes a bit, the other simply gives, and vice-versa. They work everything out agreeably. Both are a bit shy by nature, but both have bloomed as they’ve grown into pre-teenhood with the security and encouragement of their friendship as a foundation.

By their age every child knows that there are sharp edges to most relationships; parents arguing, children being chastised by parents, children saying unkind things to each other. Amid the prickly edges and self-protectiveness found, at least occasionally, in most relationships, these girls have found safe harbor with each other.

And I am sad for that loss. Sadder, at this point, than Girlchik is. When I ask how she’s doing about SweetGirl’s moving, she says she’s “okay.”

This article in today’s New York Times covers how some schools and parents are dissuading children from having a “best friend.” I understand wanting to discourage clique-i-ness, but that’s not the same thing. And now, having seen in Girlchik’s and SweetGirl’s relationship what having a best friend can mean, I can’t imagine why anyone would think that it’s a harmful thing.

For years I have admired, and even, in some tiny way, envied their relationship, because I have never had a friendship as close and as sure. I didn’t have a best friend as a child, and encountered people, in college and beyond who, after even years of friendship, would simply decide it was time to move on, and walk away. While I have a handful of wonderful and dear close girlfriends, it has made me a bit wary. I hope that SweetGirl’s leaving doesn’t create that in Girlchik.

I know that the girls will email and Skype, and soon we’ll be putting them on direct cross-country flights for visits. Still, It won’t be the same. There won’t be the daily interaction in school and at shul, the easy play-dates, the same male classmates annoying them, the same petty dramas between other girls that Girlchik and SweetGirl stand back and watch and discuss. They won’t be able to give each other the courage they need to stand up in front of the congregation and lead “Ein Keloheinu” at the end of Shabbat services.

In truth, Girlchik is probably more emotionally resilient than I was as a child. But she also has never before experienced loss, and probably doesn’t realize just how painful this may be. But when she does, I’ll be here. And, I hope, in the months and years to come, that other ‘best friends” will be too.


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