It was never really hard for me to make friends growing up. I was always one of those extroverts who looked around for the quiet introverts I thought needed my friendship. It wasn’t until fourth grade that I met my best friend. And we are still pretty close today.
We were making totem poles at the beginning of the school year. We were instructed to put items on the totem pole that help describe us.
I noticed the girl working on her project had a rabbit on hers. It seemed strange so I asked her why she put that there and she told me it was because she’s as swift as a rabbit.
“I bet I’m faster than you,” I challenged, and she accepted. Playground at recess. It was on.
We went to open end of the playground with lots of running room. We had an audience nearby watching, cheering us on, and keeping us fair. I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that I’d win.
“On your mark. Get set. GO!”
We both took off running but didn’t get far before we heard a strange noise. Someone farted. (It wasn’t me). But we both laughed the whole way down the field. I can’t remember who won but it didn’t matter. That moment is what started our unbreakable friendship.
We’ve had our ups and downs as any friends do, but Shannon was my first true loyal friend. We were close all through middle school, which is arguably the most brutal grades in school socially. She stuck up for me when people made fun of me. We talked each other out of bad decisions, and encouraged each other through tough times.
In junior high we both were cut during dance team tryouts, and we cried together. She stood by my side as I was rejected by several boys. And we passed origami notes like no other.
Our friendship survived high school, even after my cross-country move. It’s survived two marriages, three kids and many phone numbers. We don’t talk nearly as much as we used to, but thanks to apps like Snapchat and MarcoPolo that allow us to talk in sporadic moments we’re able to hide from our kids, we are once again chatting it up like we used to.
Shannon wasn’t my only friend, but she’s always been my most constant. Every conversation feels like we can pick up from where we left off. We don’t feel judgement from one another and we knew we could always rely on the other.
I would love it if each of my kids found someone like Shannon in their lives. Someone who you can have disagreements with, even fights you’d think would end the friendship, only to come back together after some time apart to cool off. Friends who you can trust not to let you do things you’ll seriously regret later. Friends who won’t peer pressure you to do something you really shouldn’t be doing.
My daughter is very much like me–A social butterfly, yearning for close friends. I worried that might make homeschooling a challenge for her, but I guess some kids find a way to thrive because she manages to find friends everywhere we go. From the fast-food playground to homeschool co-ops and her new favorite: Cheerleading.
Her teammates are motivating and encouraging. They also inspire her and despite the stereotype, are just plain nice.
Since she’s not in a regular classroom scenario her friends are many different ages. She’s the youngest on her squad, at church she’s the only girl in her class, and at co-ops there’s a good mix. Then the two friends she invited to her birthday party at the beginning of summer were friends from her kindergarten class. So she’s definitely all over the map when it comes to her pool of friends but it’s fun for me to notice which sides of her come out depending on who she’s around.
I try to have periodic conversations with her about what makes a good friend, so she not only knows how to choose them, but how to be a good friend. She’s very aware of which friends make her feel better about herself, which ones make her want to be better, and which ones don’t.
Learning to form strong friendships from an early age helps kids as they get older, and I want to make sure she focuses on quality over quantity.
Psychologist Dr. Alvord said “Research shows that even having one close friend serves as a protective factor against bullying.”
When kids are surrounded by good influences, chances are they’ll be encouraged to make decisions that they want to make. A good friendship should encourage our kids to be the best they can be and give them a little push to want to succeed.
That was the case for me growing up. And I hope both of my kids finds a best friend like that the can count on. Sometimes I wonder (and secretly hope) if it might even be each other.
Did you have a best friend growing up? Do you still keep in touch?
The role of friendships gets even more important as our kids get older and face peer pressure situations. As you may remember, I’m a #TalkEarly ambassador helping to spread awareness about the importance of talking to our kids at a young age about alcohol safety. Though we don’t drink it doesn’t mean it’s a topic we should ignore. You can log onto the #TalkEarly page for more information on building a lifetime of conversations with kids around alcohol responsibility. And if you would like to read more form Dr. Alvord’s interview with Responsibility.org, you can find a link to the full blog post about it here.