"It's sad that my daughter won't be able to continue her friendship with her best friend since we're moving to Europe."
"7 year olds just can't maintain a long-distance friendship, so it almost doesn't seem worth the effort to try."
"I'm struggling with the fact that my kids will never have forever friends because of our choice to move overseas."
I have heard these words come from the mouths of many parents who have chosen to move overseas as a family. I think they often expect me to respond with a "True, but it is so worth it!" But, I don't. Instead, my answer is, "False. Let me tell you about my best friend, Corrie."
Corrie and I became fast friends in the 5th grade. We climbed trees and perfected the art of pancake making. (Our mothers were remarkably patient when Saturday mornings turned their kitchens into 10-year old culinary experiments.) We had sleepovers and tobagganed down the stairs in sleeping bags. Then we struggled together through the friend drama, zits and insecurity of being almost 13. When my family moved to Africa in the 7th grade, leaving my best friend was, by far, the hardest part. But, we were determined to keep in touch and to not let our friendship end.
During those first couple of years in Africa, internet was spotty (when it was available at all) and short phone calls were only occasionally possible. We exchanged e-mails when the internet was good, and snail-mail in between. At one point, I mailed her a videotape with a tour of our house, neighborhood, new African friends, and my new school. It got to her 6 weeks after I mailed it, and it was the perfect way for her to see a glimpse of my life in Africa. Our communication wasn't incredibly frequent and there were some stretches that it dropped off completely, but we always got back in touch.
During our furloughs back in the US, we would rekindle our friendship, each time relearning how to be friends with the older versions of ourselves. Those times weren't easy, but again, we were determined and intentional.
We attended colleges in different parts of the US; Corrie in California and myself in Indiana. But, since we were no stranger to maintaining a long-distance friendship, the distance during those college years didn't stop us from navigating an adult version of our friendship. She flew out to visit me, we spent countless hours on the phone, and she even went with me back to Africa to visit my family for summer break one year.
We were the Maids of Honor in each other's weddings, have taken many trips back and forth to visit each other over the past few years, and now have babies 8 months apart. She and her 7 month old boy are currently sitting in my living room visiting for the week and I am overjoyed reminiscing about the way our friendship has grown and flourished despite the unconventional twists and turns that come with being best friends with a missionary kid.
One of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist, says,
"Good friends are like breakfast. You think you're too busy to eat breakfast but then you find yourself exhausted and cranky half way through the day and you discover that your attempt to save time totally backfired."
Maintaining friendships while living the life of a global nomad is challenging, time consuming, and may take dedication from you as the parent to help facilitate the communication between your child and their best friend, but IT IS SO WORTH IT. Corrie has been one of the very few constants in my life. She knew me pre-missionary kid, she walked with me through many TCK struggles, and she has loved me in a new ways as we've both become wives and mothers. She truly knows me better than just about anyone, and that is pretty special.
So, while it is not easy and may even seem unlikely, know that your kids can maintain friendships when you move across the globe. Not only is it possible, but I can't imagine many things more precious.