childhood friend

Three Friendship Inspirations from a 7-Year Old

It has been a record 22 days since I've blogged!  I guess you can't complain you're ever getting too many e-mails from me!  :)  My excuse for my negligence is two-fold: First, I sent off the complete draft of my book manuscript "Friendships Don't Just Happen!" to my publishers in the beginning of May so all my daily writing time was focused on getting that done instead of blogging! And my second reason is that the day after I e-mailed those 80,000 words, my husband & I flew out to Tampa, FL for 12 days to babysit my 7-year old niece and 4-year old nephew while my sister and her hubby enjoy their first long get-away without kids. So as a substitute mom I've pretty much limited my work to the bare bones while I'm here playing!   

Three Friendship Inspirations We Can Learn From Kids

But now the kids are happily playing in a homemade fort we built in the backyard so I thought I'd share my musings about three moments of beautiful friendship I've witnessed from my first-grade niece, Naomi. The first example comes from her meeting a stranger at the beach over the weekend, then I share two moments with her best friend (known in this post as T.) who lives down the street.

  1. I love how kids don't need a ton of warm up to play with others: We weren't at the beach for even an hour before Naomi and another little girl introduced themselves to each other in the water. They were inseparable the rest of the day as they practiced standing on boogey-boards, jumped on inflatable toys, and collected shells. I just shook my head in awe.  Never in a million years would I be making friends on the beach.  Not because all the other women didn't look friendly, but we simply don't walk up to people sun-bathing, introduce ourselves, plop down on their towels, and spend the afternoon together. But that's not to say we can't learn from her. I love that kids value the moment, playing with whomever is there, caring more about having fun now than trying to figure out whether they have a future together or not. We all value connection and there are a lot of activities in life that would be enhanced with new friends even if we don't know it will only last an hour or a day.
  2. I love how kids easily express adoration:  We arrived a few days early so we could attend Naomi's 7th birthday party.  Her BFF made her a card where she wrote: "You and I have been best friends since I moved. I wish I knew you since I was a baby. You are the bestest friend anyone can have! I wish in my next life we can be together." Wow! That they don't yet filter their adoration is such a sweet gift of childhood.  They aren't consumed with worrying about whether they'll look desperate, whether the other feels the same way, or whether it's 'too soon' to say it yet. They just proclaim the friendship into eternity.  Some of us adults can do that with friends we've known forever, but I've noticed we become much more guarded as adults, taking much longer to tell each other "I really like you!"
  3. I love how kids steal extra moments together: Naomi quickly informed me upon my arrival, "You know Aunt Shasta that T. and I play together every day, right?" Her face looked a little worried that when her parents were to leave that maybe I wouldn't know the routine.  I smiled and said, "yes" thinking this is exactly why friendship felt so much easier as kids-- we had every day together! Now I'm lucky if I see new friends once a month! Then a super precious moment came when T.'s older sister came to tell T. that she had to come home one day when they were playing over here. Next thing I know T. is running away from her sister, refusing to go home, not wanting to leave her BFF.  Her older sister began chasing her, begging her to obey.  T. then runs to Naomi for help; they stand there clinging to each other, refusing to end their time together without a fight. I'm sure if I were the mother who had to put up with that often then I may not find it as charming, but as the visiting aunt who knows the value of friendship I loved it! In our adult lives we schedule each other in, fitting our friends between this-and-that appointment, rarely giving each other an entire afternoon and then begging for more time together! It inspired me. To watch kids get together with no plan for what they will do ahead of time, play for as long as they can, and still wish for more time together-- that is as good as it gets!

I do believe that there was an ease in childhood friend-making that we can't always repeat as adults.  In fact, my book is all about how to meet people and develop them into meaningful friendships because I find that we often, as adults, just keep waiting and hoping that friendships will one day feel as easy as it did back when we were kids.  We may not now have the repetition of school or an open schedule to play every afternoon as we did back then, but we need friendships all the same. 

Naomi inspired me, reminding me that it doesn't always have to be complicated.  When it comes down to it, if we just 1) played with the people we met, 2) told them we liked them, and 3) tried to spend as much time together as possible-- that really is the bulk of friend-making. Even as adults.  

What do you miss about childhood friendships? In what ways are friendships the same or different as kids from adults? What observations have you had about friendship when you watch kids play?

Let "Best Friend" Refer to Quality, Not Quantity.

One of my neighbor friends from childhood saw my post on Facebook about my recent TV interview on women's friendship. Watching it reminded her of a time when we were kids where she had been in tears as a result of hers and my friendship. In her memory we had all been coloring at the table when I must have announced that I wanted to read out loud something I had written for school. Apparently I had written a story about my best friend. And it hadn't turned out to be her.  :(

Of course it pains me to know I caused her to go home and cry! And hearing her share that long ago memory reminded me of my own memory of uncontrollable sobbing in the third grade coat room during recess.  I still remember my best girl friend (the one I had read about!) announcing to me one day that she was now going to be best friends with Kristin instead of me.  I couldn't be consoled. Drama queen or not, I was convinced life was over.

I Want To Feel Chosen

We do eventually grow up, but the drama around feeling chosen, or not, never quite goes away, does it?

In Elizabeth Gilbert's book "Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage" she lists the losses associated with marriage for women (more likely to suffer from depression, die younger, accumulate less wealth, earn reduced pay, experience more health problems and thrive less in their careers than those who are unmarried) and points to the 50% divorce rates to basically ask the question: why is that we get so consumed with marriage when it doesn't appear to be all that good for us?

Her ponderings included the theory that we all just want to feel chosen. Picked. Wanted. Loved. A wedding allows us to publicly say "Someone thinks I'm amazing." When it comes to a wedding-- we are told that we are the one. The only one. The chosen one. And that feels good. (Even though ironically most of us would be more than happy to have a few more wives/mothers in our homes helping share the workload! LOL)

But Being Chosen Doesn't Have to Be Exclusive

I wish as a little girl I had been taught to value the importance of fostering several different friends.  That we didn't have to be exclusive to feel special. That my worth wasn't tied to one girl and who she wanted to play with at recess.  That me feeling chosen happened more when I decided to choose others.  That the term "best friend" didn't refer to a number, but to how well we treated each other.

As adults we don't want to feel any less chosen, but hopefully we now know that our chosen-ness can include others. And that more important than someone else choosing me, is my own sense of choosing myself, knowing my own worth and value. That security allows my BFF's to have other BFF's without me feeling jealous, knowing their other friendships don't make what we share any less valuable.  In fact, research shows that our friendship will be healthier and stronger if she's getting some needs met by others since we are each happiest with 3-7 people in our lives whom we'd consider "confidantes."

Because I love her-- I will want that for her. I will cheer for her when she finds new friends. Friends who have kids the ages of her kids. Or friends who know what it's like to be single again in her 50's. Or friends who can afford to go to the fancy spas with her.  Or friends who get excited about her political or spiritual passions.  Or friends who can make her laugh.  Or friends who live close enough to her to go on a spontaneous walk with her. Or friends who know first-hand how scary it is for her to be starting her own business.

Because I can't do all those things.  And that's okay.  I don't need to. Even if I could-- she's still better off with a circle of support, with more than just me waving my pom-poms for her.

Best is a quality, not a quantity.  Best says we like this-- which is not the same as saying that we have to dislike everything else in order to like this one. Best means that something, or someone, has reached a level of excellence, trust, appreciation.  It doesn't mean nothing else can. Like a mother with multiple kids,  we can hold love for several without it meaning anything less for any one of them. We are human beings capable of loving many.

To my sweet childhood friend-- please know you were at the center of some of my best childhood memories.  You were definitely a best friend.  :)

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For more on how to foster the kind of friendships we all crave-- here are relevant past blogs: How to Make a BFF and Stages of a Friendship. And here's a 3 minute video that talks about the difference between our friends and our BFF's.