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You've Got A Friend In "ZeeZee"

Well, it's happened. Our daughter,  just shy of 19 months old, abandoned us for a friend.

Okay, maybe I'm being a little melodramatic. But when you're a first-time parent, sometimes little events can trigger a tidal wave of emotional response, especially when the event is completely indicative of your little one growing up and needing you even slightly less.

Saturday evening, we were all at a fish fry hosted by Nana and Papa D's (Grandma and Grandma on mom's side, for those who aren't in the know) neighbors. Included were a number of kids, including an adorable, friendly 5-year-old girl named Izzy. While 'big kids' can often be too busy with their own activities to notice somebody as little as Ava, Izzy immediately took to her and befriended her.

Now, Ava has had encounters with kids before, but it was all pretty inconsequential. What happened next, neither Amanda and I were prepared for. Ava trotted off with Izzy (who affectionately became known as "ZeeZee" to Ava), leaving us in the dust without looking back. The two proceeded to the yard and played Ring Around The Rosie, kicked a ball around and ate watermelon; and not once did Ava look for us, come running for us or show any concern about what Mom and Dad were up to.

Sure, this may not seem like a big deal to the average person. But we are talking about a little girl who spazzes out when her own grandparents come over and she thinks Mom or Dad are leaving. Yesterday she spent the majority of the day clinging to one of our legs in a daylong fit of separation anxiety.

These children had an unfortunate encounter with Medusa while playing Ring Around The Rosie.

So why the sudden change of heart? What kind of spell did this 5-year-old girl cast over Ava that made her drop us like a bad habit? While Ava played with Izzy, I'm sure Amanda and I both looked like sad little prairie dogs, constantly popping our heads up and looking over in the yard, hoping that at some point Ava would show some sort of need for us.

It's all kind of ironic. As frustrated as we may get on Ava's "extra clingy" days, we really would never want it to end. If she woke up one morning and suddenly showed complete independence and no need for either of us, I think our hearts would collectively shatter into a million pieces.

Her 'alone' playtime with "ZeeZee" was heartwarming. It was exciting. But it was frightening. While on the surface, it's just a toddler and a Kindergartner having innocent fun, in my mind it was like a flash forward to Ava being in Junior High and running out to go to a sleepover every chance she got. It was Ava turning 16, and realizing that with a driver's license (or friends who could drive), she wasn't as tethered to the house anymore. It was her leaving for an out-of-state college, coming back only when she was low on food or needed to do laundry. It was a spark that will inevitably contribute to a burning desire for independence that will only grow as she gets older.

Ava is still little, and obviously still needs us. But as she grows up and meets more Izzies, Susies, Lizzies and Julies (like that rhyme I spit?), that tendency to gravitate towards friendships (and away from Mom and Dad) will only increase. And of course, I want her to have friends. I just don't want her to ever forget that Mom and Dad will always be her best friends.  Hey, I'd like to think I can rock a pretty good game of Ring Around The Rosie too!


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