Can we really teach our kids how to be a good friend? Once they get into social situations, they will quickly learn what is acceptable and what is not. They will see that grabbing a toy out of a friend’s hand leads to a much different reaction than if they share their snacks. As the dynamics get more involved your children have a choice, fit in with the crowd or stay true to who they are. How will they decide? No matter how much parental advice you give them, they will have to figure it out on their own.
We can all agree a big part of friendship is behavioral, you have to act “right” to be a friend. But when you start to think about it, you realize a big part of friendship is also intrinsic. There is an attraction to each other you don’t always feel with everyone you meet. Case in point, you can’t force someone to be your friend. Similarly, there are people you just don’t connect with no matter how hard you try. So, it makes sense to think there is something about friendship that is largely out of our control. It is about being in the right place, at the right time. It’s the luck of a softball draft that puts you on the same team or the lack of skill that sits you both on the bench together. It can rarely be planned. Often when you are desperately seeking a friend, because of a move or new job, you won’t always find them if you try too hard.
What if our friends are our true “soulmates”? I can’t remember if I saw a social media post with that question or whether it was a conversation raised by a friend, but it poses an interesting thought. Our culture is obsessed with romance movies, weddings and happily-ever-after when it comes to a romantic partner, but what if your true soulmates are the ones who know you stand beside you through thick and thin? The ones who are not linked to you romantically or financially. Their only “benefit”, if you will, is the companionship of being a good friend.
It’s interesting to watch my kids with their friends. My daughter is in the middle of the emotional social tornado that is high school. Everyone is trying to figure out who they are while figuring out how to fit in, all in the spotlight of social media. My son on the cusp of junior high, starting to see masculine energy playing itself out on the school playground and online games. Equally confusing, yet a few true friends continue to show up with genuine friendship without the machismo the playground demands. I can only watch and hold my tongue (unless they ask for my opinion, which is rare). I sit and wonder, are any of these forever friends? Will they be at their weddings? Will I ever say, remember when you used to come over? Only time will tell.
I don’t think my mom ever wondered if the girls she drove to softball practice would still be riding in my car today. She probably never gave a second thought to the snacks we ate at the kitchen table or the countless Days of our Lives episodes we watched on the VCR. In those moments none of us could have known this was only the beginning, that these weren’t just passing childhood memories. Soulmates can be found in the most unlikely of situations, in the most subtle interactions and may take years to appreciate.
The saying goes “people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime”. I would argue everyone comes into our lives for a reason, it is our true friends who help us to grow and forgive us along the way. The good ones set the bar high, showing us how we deserve to be treated and exemplifying the word friend in every facet of the word. I may not be able to teach my kids how to be a good friend or be able to control those they choose to be friends with, but I can show them by example the friend I am and the wonderful friends I have been lucky enough to have in my life.
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I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.