I’m a heart-pounding 9 days away from the first day of school. We have procured new shoes for gym, replaced high-water pants with new ones and are now sporting newly shorn heads – what remains? Two more chats. And these chats center on friendship.
One thing maybe you and I can agree upon is that friendship is wonderful. It is a gift. And yet it can be tricky to navigate. What is required? What is needed to be a true friend to another person can remain foggy – so this week we will talk about how to be a friend in order to prepare for all those wide-open smiling eager to be friends faces they will meet next Wednesday.
I call my simple motto for friendship the three F’s. Fun, Freedom and Forgiveness. First and foremost (sorry I couldn’t help myself), being a friend is fun. The discovery of what you and another human being have in common is exciting and interesting. Figuring out what you both like and enjoy doing is well, fun. I tell my children to ask lots of questions, listen well and ta-da! A recipe for friendship is born. (The biggest secret to friendship may well be that its our differences that lead to a more enjoyable relationship but I’ll leave that for another time.)
But fun needs freedom to breathe. They are dependent upon one another. My kids need help in understanding this simple fact: their idea for playtime is not the only idea. There is give and take in friendship and while they may be having fun employing their favorite move on the monkey bars, their friend may want to play tag. Being a good friend also includes doing what your friend enjoys. This leads to a balanced friendship. This summer I have seen this work out poorly at home like this:
“Hey! Let’s play Legos!”
“Sure! And then can we play dolls?”
“No. I don’t want to do that. I invited you to play Legos. I don’t like to play dolls.”
“But I don’t love Legos, so I’ll play Legos with you and then can you do something I love?”
“Then I’m not playing with you!”
“Fine. I’ll get someone else.”
(Perhaps this conversation has also been on loop in your home this summer.) Adults sometimes need help with this too I daresay. Helping my kids enjoy what they do and also participating in what their friend likes brings balance to their friendship. Not one person’s ideas rule, but there are choices to be made and each are equally valid. Fun friendship needs freedom or it won’t be fun for long.
The last F is for forgiveness. I cannot count the times my girls have shed tears after coming home from a difficult day at school with friends. (My husband assures me that my boy will not be as laborious but the jury is still out on that one.) Whatever the reason for their tears, it’s never truly as bad as it seems. Next week when the doors to their school are flung wide open new friendships will form quickly and may be broken even more quickly. Talking with them now about being quick to forgive these new friends will save many a tear later.
Want to be a good friend? The keys are fun, freedom and forgiveness. Now – let’s go make a new friend.