Do you have friends you’ve kept up with since childhood? High School? College? First job? If you’re a parent, who among your kids’ friends do you think they’ll still be close to when they’re in their 40’s and beyond? I think one of the best gifts we can give our children, and ourselves, is to help foster and nurture deep friendships.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, as I count down the days until my teenager starts high school (66 as of today– I can’t believe it!) and watch my kids spend their summer hours.  Having “best friends” in childhood, college and beyond is an important component in weathering the ups and downs of life. I’ve been fortunate to have had really good friends, friends who will drive (or fly) a long way to be at (or in) your wedding, attend your father’s funeral, show up on a moment’s notice when you’ve just moved to the ‘burbs and are really depressed about it, send you a “gorilla gram” for your birthday…  a lot of these friends have known me since elementary school, one since preschool, and I’ve wondered lately, who among my two daughters’ friends will be their Best Friends Forever? 

From reading this blog, you probably wouldn’t think my teen is very much on the shy side, but she is.  It’s always been hard to get her to call up “new friends” and ask them to do things.  Still, I’m noticing a few good signs of her establishing strong friendship “foundations”– a certain group of friends (people she’s known a long time) that consistently come over to spend the night; inside jokes and good times they “reminisce” about; lots of laughter; funny photos they share with eachother on Facebook.  I try to help them make memories when I can, by suggesting fun activities and accompanying them there, like outdoor exhibits, concerts, etc.  Things are looking good for my other daughter as well– she has a tight-knit group of school friends (there is only one classroom of her grade level at our neighborhood elementary school so they’ve all been together since kindergarten), and no matter where she is, she collects phone numbers and addresses of new friends (just like I used to do). It’s my job to help her find these scribbled scraps of paper, encourage her to put them in an address book, and try to arrange get-togethers, providing transportation when necessary. 

But as adults, do we put as much effort into nurturing/fostering friendships for ourselves?   We get busy with jobs, family, community…our BFF’s from our younger years are often not in our own neighborhood anymore.  We call them maybe once or twice a year.  Send a birthday card.  A holiday “form letter”.  (Luckily, Facebook has greatly helped increase opportunities for communication!) If we’re lucky, we might see them in person once in awhile…
We try to make new friends, but it’s hard. When you’re married with kids, or married with older parents to care for, you tend to “circle the wagons” and focus inward. There’s a lot to be done as a family and there’s hardly any time for anyone else.  Or at least, we don’t prioritize and make the time.  I see it time and time again, not only in my own family, but in others, among men as well as women.  How sad, huh? And then when we really need a good friend to talk to, someone outside the family, we’re kind of “on an island”.  Oh, sure, you talk with other moms at soccer games, birthday parties and PTA board meetings, but that’s not quite the place (or enough time) to make deep friendships.  If you’re lucky, you might be blessed with neighbors who become your good friends– my husband once had that kind of next-door-neighbor, and then our neighbor passed away.  For women, the concept of “retreats” has sprung up to help meet their needs for friendship– opportunities to “get away” from their families and hang with other women.  Around here, on any given weekend, there are scrapbooking retreats at country B & B’s, church ladies’ retreats at lakeside conference centers, Girl Scout volunteer retreats at wooded campsites, babysitting club retreats,… if I went to all of them, I’d never see my family! So I rarely go to any of them, because I’m too busy

Just as we help our kids nurture friendships, we need to model friendship, show them that it is important to our own health, happiness and well being, by making time for our friends.  I keep telling my teen, when she’s feeling bored and lonely, “Friends don’t just happen.  If you want a friend, you have to be a friend.  You have to nurture that friendship.”  It’s time I took my own advice!

1 thought on “Friendship 101

  1. Isn’t this depressingly true? Too often we nurture out families and forget about ourselves. Some new ‘mommy’ friends and I have started trying to have regular girls nights, without kids. We all feel so great after we do it, yet we let months pass before doing it again. I think too though it’s not only about being a friend to someone but it’s about letting them be a friend to you… I think many people are just waiting to be asked for help or advice or just to be a soft shoulder, yet we hesitate to ask for help for so many reasons. When we let go of our pride, or our insecurities, or whatever is holding us back, we’re suprised at the depth of what we find. We just need to let ourselves need and be needed. It’s advice I wish I could take myself.

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