Thursday, September 19, 2013

Maintaining Healthy Friendships

Life is Good: good friends are great!

Being a good friend has always been important to me. "Good" meaning kind, loving, interested, supportive, loyal, and more. I've always made friends easily. This might be due to the fact that if I: a.) meet you and b.) we have a nice chat and c.) walk away smiling that I think that we should be best friends for the rest of our lives. I'm joking. Kind of.

Friends have always been important to me. And I can remember being fiercely loyal all the way back to grade school. As an adult, I have often wondered if this is nature or nurture? Was I born this way? Born to respect and honor true and bonded friendships? Or does this have something to do with my sister's death? I've often wondered if I'm looking to fill in that hole where a sister is supposed to be. I do love my friends like family, for sure. But I am also guilty of having a big, fat, sensitive-like-crazy heart that only has one gear: wide open. So I guess I'll never know.

So friendships have always been important to me. And in the last several years, having friends who are also kind, loving, interested, supportive, loyal, and more has become important to me, too. I'm idealistic and even now, naive about people. I simply expect the best of intentions from everyone. I assume everyone comes from a good place. Well, I've discovered that's not always the way it is. And I've also discovered that even the seemingly nicest of people can go down a bad path and take your reputation with them.

So way up high on my long mental list of parenting to-dos is friendship. I hope that my children will be kind, loving, interested, supportive, loyal, and more people. And that those qualities and a whole lot more will spill over into the kind of friend they are. I will do my best to lead by example. I will leave our front door open to celebrate the big and the little. I will knock on doors when there is cause for celebration or distress. I will give compliments and praise and big, deep hugs. When I ask, "How are you?" I will wait to hear the answer. I will never let a chance to laugh pass me by. I will not be snarky and excuse it as humor. I will not speak unkindly of my friends behind their backs. I will not try to affect other people's opinions of someone. I will not be a "joiner". I will be inclusive. I will be positive, upbeat, and encouraging. I will take time and make time for others.

It is surprising how many bedtime conversations that the big kid and I have had already about "friendship" and being a "good friend". Where do three and four and five-year olds learn to use their birthday party invitation list as power? Where do they learn to compete, to bully, to hit, to exclude? We can blame it on a kid at school or on the bus or even at church. We can blame it on a cousin we see once a year, but the truth is that, for the most part, children are a reflection of their home. They are a mirror of us. Now, to be fair, they do occasionally learn something "new" from a kid at school or on the bus or even at church. Even from the see-you-once-a-year-cousin. But we can't blame it all on somebody else. Which is one more reason why parenting is the most important work anyone will do in their lifetime. Heads of state, CEOs, airline pilots, rocket scientists, cancer-curing doctors alike---none as important as the work you do as a parent because you are laying the foundation for the future of your child. And that child will inherit the earth, so we parents are essentially responsible for the future of our world.

But no pressure.

So today as I was pondering "friendship", a notion came to me. True friends are not the ones who call you when they need something. But rather, they call when all they need is just to hear your voice.

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything.” (Muhammad Ali)

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