There have been a lot of goodbyes around here lately. I guess it’s a feature of expat life or more specifically international schooling that if you stay longer than four years in a location, the people you met when you first arrive, start to move on. In fact this happened in the Philippines after less than three years, so I guess the time-line can vary, but the effect of the exodus of friends doesn’t.This time though it’s not just I that is losing friends to other destinations but my children. Both girls’ bestest friends are leaving Norway for good. We don’t say ‘for good’ though; we say things like ‘oh but you’ll be able to email them’ and ‘you never know, we might move to Singapore/Washington/Shanghai/Berkshire/Scotland!’. I’ve already set up a Hotmail account for my eight-year old whose friends since she was three are both moving.
On a logical level I know that this is the way the life we have chosen is. I am very fortunate too to have really close friends who are living in Norway 'til death do them part. I also know from experience that I still have very strong friendships with people I have left behind before and will continue to do so. I feel slightly deflated after a whole stream of farewells but thank goodness for Facebook!
But for my girls saying goodbye like this is a new experience and one for which the only coping strategies I can think of are playdates with new friends, lots and lots of ice cream and keeping busy, busy, busy. I will of course spend even more time than usual on Facebook keeping in touch with the mothers of their wee friends because I am the kind of Irish martyr mammy who is prepared to make such sacrifices. There will also be lots of conversation about it being OK to feel sad when your friends are leaving the country (forever, shh!) as opposed to the ‘aw for God's sake take that long face off ya' strategy employed in my own youth.
And you know, at least these girls are old enough to understand logic if not emotions. But what about the little man? At two and a half he already has one favourite friend at barnehage, a little boy called Olav Nikolai who shares his passion for cars.
Olav Nokolai is moving barnehage after next week and little man will only see him again if I make a big, big effort to ensure that he does. So, it’s not just expats who move. And it seems that befriending Norwegians is no guarantee of being frens forever either.