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Uneven Friendships

Hadas Fuchs

She’s ten years old, but her friend is five.... He’s eleven, but for some reason, he prefers learning with yeshivah bochurim…. What’s best for a child’s development? Friends his own age? Older? Younger? And what involvement should a parent have in these relationships — if any?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

When Rivka opened the door and saw the tall girl who was standing there, she couldn’t imagine what she wanted. “Hello. I came to play with Dena,” the girl said, as though it were the most natural thing in the world. Rivka led her to Dena’s room. Only after the new guest was welcomed with cries of delight and Dena had closed the door behind them did Rivka let herself break into a hearty laugh.

True, she’d always known that her daughter was a sociable and well-liked child. She also knew that she was blessed with a tremendous amount of self-confidence; it had been no surprise when fifteen girls had shown up to visit their succah. But this latest phenomenon seemed to be taking things too far. Her six-year-old Dena … friends with a girl nearly twice her age? Was this normal?

Yet despite the fact that Naomi, Dena’s new friend, was indeed five years older than Dena, this didn’t prevent them from spending an enjoyable afternoon together. And that was only the beginning. The next day, Dena was invited to Naomi’s house. Then it was Naomi’s mother’s turn to stare in surprise. She couldn’t understand why her mature, highly intelligent daughter, who sometimes served as a babysitter for children Dena’s age, would want to “adopt” a five-year-old friend!

But in spite of everyone’s amazement, the friendship flourished; the two friends continued to visit and share confidences. Even the mothers, who had at first opposed it, found themselves adjusting, in light of the chemistry between their daughters. To this day, many years later, the two remain close friends and have always stayed in touch. True, the age gap remains and can’t be denied, but if you ask them — it really doesn’t matter.


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