photo: Hannah Rodrigo
I remember coming home from school and telling my mom I was very confused. One day I thought that this girl and I were besties, but then the next she didn't act kindly to me all day or sit with me at lunch. My mother said it was very hard to find a true friend at any age, especially at seven. With her warmth and understanding, I was able to face an endless number of future days navigating this contemptuous friendly/unfriendly sea. We have a word for these types of people...enter the world of Frenemies.
As parents, we know that this continues into adulthood. I read a book where they called them a gang of "Mean Mommies." And yes it still stings. But what do we do when we recognize one with our children? Do we point them out and tell them to stay away from them? Do we allow them a period of growth and change? Do we immediately cast them away, or allow the tide of childhood to carry them along...with the belief that it's inevitable?
(@lexiahayden with @official.remidancer. photo by Clay Morgan)
The severity of the situation of course also dictates our reaction. Being left out of lunchtime giggles is painful, but it's not the same as being made fun of or cyberbullying. Though of course, it all hurts. Even if we wanted to, it would be impossible to prevent the emotional cuts that accompany growing up. But what advice do we give them?
Frenemies are nuanced. An enemy is easy to spot, but someone who tears at your spirit slowly wearing a smile is even harder to recognize.
I have two children: an 11 and 1/2-year-old girl, and a 14 year old boy. I have to admit I've steered them away from children I felt were not in their best interest, and encouraged play dates with the ones I felt that were. I also speak to them about what traits are important in a friend and which ones aren't. I tell them that if they're hanging out with someone who continously makes them feel uncomfortable, even if they can't pinpoint exactly what it is, then it might be time to move on. Most importantly, I tell them that companions are like plants and need to be watered and that it's most important to be a good listener.
(photo: Joshua Clay)
Am I being too controlling...too involved...perhaps? Or am I teaching them how to cope with the complexities of friendships? Every age brings its own rewards and challenges. My daughter is in her first year of middle school and fingers crossed...so far so good.