Of Friends and Friendships

We received the girls’ teacher assignments for this year in the mail today. As I opened each letter, one by one, their faces lit up and they squealed when I read the name of their teacher. Even Emily whooped and did a happy dance, and she is going into the sixth grade.  As soon as she finished her celebration, though, she turned quickly on her heels and ran toward her cell phone, grabbed it and went off to type texts and make calls to all of her friends to see if they had received their letters yet.

And to think that just the other day she was distraught over some insane belief that she only had one friend in the entire school. And this particular friend was surely not going to be in the same class and…oh-my-god-what-am-i-going-to-do-because-people-tease-me-and-i’m-not-going-to-have-any-friends-mom?! And then she fell into a heap on her bed in tears. I just cannot believe that anyone in their right mind would dislike this beautiful creature, but I am her mother after all. So putting that aside, I laid down with her on her bed and tried my motherly best to take her by the hand, lead her through the drama and hormones with my words and tone, and introduce her to logic and reason. Of course I would like to think I was successful in this attempt, but that is the tough thing about parenting.  They will say they understand what you mean, but it isn’t until you later see them negotiate a situation on their own that you really know if anything at all managed to sink in. 

We have had several serious discussions lately about friends and friendships.  I read a really good article today about building good friendships that I think underscored some of the things I have told her during the course of our conversations; and really, these are things I have told her throughout her young life.  You can read the article here.  I sent the link to her and told her I thought it was a good article that she should read.  I’ll have to ask her about it in a day or two to see if she actually read it. Of course, we were in Barnes & Noble yesterday and I recommended she pick out a Judy Blume book because I loved her books when I was her age, and she turned her nose up at them.  I mention that only so you know that I am not holding my breath.

Anyway, the article includes a lengthy list of items which, while I’m sure daunting to an 11-year-old, hopefully impresses upon her just how difficult finding a good friend and being a good friend really is.  More importantly, I hope it gives her a better idea of what a good friend should “look” like.  And because she is still very literal, so very black-and-white, I will have to do my motherly best to make sure she understands that there are grey areas.  To remind her, when a “friend” divulges a deeply held secret of hers, that nobody is perfect. I will have to help her find the right words when, as a friend, she too falls short.  And very carefully help her understand her frustration when she is giving more than she is getting in return. 

I am sure that this school year will offer many an opportunity for her to measure the friendships she has, make some new friends, and for her to work on being a good friend. I’ll be there watching, and waiting to help her pick up the pieces when things go bad or she needs some support. Here’s to hoping we have very few, if any, of those instances. Let the sixth grade begin!

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