When it comes to friendship and acclimating to new environments, my daughter and I had very different childhood experiences. By her sophomore year, my daughter had lived in four states and attended two high schools. Just as she got comfortable in a town and solidified her friends, we would uproot her to start all over again.
I, on the other hand, was raised in the same small town where I ultimately went to college (go Cougs!). The only friendship navigating I did was avoiding the incestuous relationships among the 170 people in my graduating class. There were rarely new kids. Friendship groups were well established by middle school. My social experience was more about surviving the status quo than being forced to branch out and meet new people.
As a mom, there is no greater feeling than being in awe of your children. Therefore, it’s no less than mind-blowing pride I feel watching my daughter navigate the turbulent waters of relocating across the country in the middle of high school and painfully observing her fight through loneliness, finding friends, developing her identity, and most importantly finding her voice. I have a great amount of admiration for her strength with the adversities she has faced.
I have done my fair share of unsolicited advice-giving and protective over-involvement. But, in my quieter moments of simply watching my daughter interact with her peers, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about friendship.
1. It’s a duck.
Like my daughter, I want to believe people are good, loyal, and trustworthy. I want to believe people when they tell me who they are. If someone says they hate drama, I find myself shocked right along with them when that same someone finds herself in the eye of a storm she caused. When I hear someone gossip about others, I am stunned when I find out she is also talking about me behind my back.
Unfortunately, my daughter and I have both learned the hard way that if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. So, even if you want to believe someone is who she says she is . . . watch her; eventually, she will reveal who she really is. And sometimes it is flat out disappointing.
As the wise Maya Angelou said: “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” Emphasis on the show, not the tell.
2. Friendship is for a season.
As an avid reader and also a lover of metaphors, I think about friendship like books. First, you have the easy beach read. You love getting through the book, recommend it to friends and then move on. It was fun while it lasted. Then you have the books you can only get about 40 pages into and realize it’s not for you and close the cover. And then you have the classics. These are the books you reread, cherish, and keep displayed on your shelf among other treasured favorites.
I spent the first 20 years of my life with the same friends. It took me time to figure out some friendships just simply don’t last forever. Life gets busy and people change. Friendships evolve for different reasons (relocation, divorce, death, etc.). I used to get really hung up on making sure my friendships withstood the test of time, moves, babies, and whatever other hurdles were thrown in. But I have begun to realize not all friends are classics. And that’s OK.
In a new technological age where we can stay in constant contact with one another, we need to remind ourselves not all friendships are created equal. Friendships are meant to be enjoyed for the season–whether that season is months, years, or decades. Appreciate the people who land in your life and the moments you have with them.
Not all friendships are destined to last forever, but enjoy them while you have them. Make sure to treat the classics with care. And if you find yourself in the middle of a learning friendship, learn the painful lesson and let go of the need to learn it again!
3. Quarters are more valuable than pennies.
A large community of friends/acquaintances is invaluable. It is especially nice to have a village during the child-rearing years. However, never underestimate the value of investing in quality over quantity.
I only have a handful of close, close friends. These are the ladies I consider my soul sisters. One framed me a quote that perfectly describes our friendship: “A soul sister is someone who fully understands you, like a soul mate, but of the same gender, like a sister, but with no relation.” These are the women who I don’t just do life with. We know each other to the depths of our core–and still want to hang out.
So, we can run around picking up as many pennies as we can, or we can spend the time looking and waiting for those valuable quarters. I can assure you, when your babysitter bails or you need advice at 10 p.m., a penny may or may not answer the call, but a quarter will be there every single time.
It’s better to have four quarters than a hundred pennies.
4. Best friends aren’t the shinest.
I’ve seen this phenomenon in our last two moves. The kids (moms) who approach the new kid (new mom) first are not always the lasting friendships. They tend to be the extroverted type who are welcoming and wonderful but not always your people.
It takes time and patience to find and cultivate deep friendships. The good ones are often needles in a haystack. So, be patient and do not settle. Don’t be afraid, don’t rush it.
The most trouble I ever witnessed my daughter go through is when she took on a large number of new friends, none of whom she knew very well. She learned the hard way that diving in deep with a bunch of strangers could be detrimental. You might just find you’re swimming with sharks.
It is not a race to find and make lasting friendships. Take it easy and trust yourself.
5. All it takes is one.
Watching my daughter, or any of my kids, go to a new school for the first day makes me absolutely nauseous. Luckily, we have a million kids, so on our last move, each child had a sibling with whom they could take the bus and walk through the ominous school doors.
As I played scene after scene in my mind of sending them blindly into a pack of wolves, I reminded myself “all they need is one.” On that first day, all my kids needed was one person to be kind to them. Just one person to sit with at lunch or play with on the playground.
And after that, my prayer was for them to find at least one loyal and kind friend. From that solid foundation, maybe more friendships would form. But I knew on that first day having one person, even if they weren’t the long-term friend, would make all of the difference in transitioning to their new life.
For the first time, I had built-in friendships in our latest move. Knowing those ladies were waiting for me and my family to arrive made all of the difference for my transition, too.
One close and meaningful friendship can be all it takes.
I would not have wished these lessons on anyone’s teenage child. The school of hard knocks is a brutal place to enroll. However, I am grateful she learned them now, and we continue to learn them together. I trust she will be better for it all.
There are a couple of layers of silver linings in this clown show of teenage angst. One, my daughter has solidified a really great group of friends, kept in contact with a few of her old ones, and has learned valuable lessons to take with her as she is thrown from the nest in the next couple of years. And also watching the teenage melodramatics unfold, I have a heightened sense of the friend I want to be, and the friends I hope my kids will become. Many of these lessons have been life-changing for our family, especially for a small-town girl like me.
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