What About Your Friends?

My daughter can be a very difficult person to befriend.  She has a very dominant, sometimes overpowering, personality.  She has strong opinions and will defend her position to the death.  If she likes you, she is loyal to a fault.  If she dislikes you, forget it.

In many ways, she scares me.

As a young child, she was never in the popular group.  She was the one girl left off the invitation list for the all-girls party.  She was the child in tears at nearly every birthday party she got to attend, mostly because it was someone else’s party and not hers.  I sometimes marvel that she survived toddlerhood and preschool at all.

When my daughter was going through her toughest friendship challenges, I would tell her that quality mattered more than quantity, that she should focus her energies and attention on the people who did like her, who did support her, and ignore the popular girls who shunned her.

It took her a long time to accept the wisdom of that lesson, but she’s exceeded my expectations.  I admire her current choice of friends.  My daughter is much more social than I was at her age, and her circle of friends is far more expansive than mine will ever be.  She collects people who are loyal to her and remains loyal to them.  She’s still good friends with girls she met at sleepaway camp two years ago, and kids from the private school she left nearly three years ago. 

One of her closest friends is a guy who punched her on the first day of school.  She responded by punching him back.  They’ve been inseparable ever since.

The kid who greeted her with a punch in kindergarten, recently graduated from 8th grade.  For my daughter, attending his graduation was a must.  “I’m going,” she said, and that was that.  She made sure she had a way there and a way back.  She made the arrangements herself.  I would have gotten involved, but didn’t need to.

In turn, he supported her at the wake for her school friend who tragically drowned on a school trip, in a way I hadn’t seen since…well, since the way she was there for him when his dad died.  He was by her side when she needed him, and he stepped back when she didn’t.   At one point, she said she was hungry, and he took off down Broadway, coming back with a slice of pizza and garlic knots.

I was dumbfounded and delighted at the same time.  It is beautiful and heartwarming to see 13, 14-year-old-children with such a deep and abiding respect for one another.  It was especially poignant to see this young man, who lost his beloved dad at such a young age, becoming exactly the man his father wanted him to be.

As a parent, the one thing you want most for your children to learn, and the hardest thing to teach, is judgment.  Teaching judgment requires parents to navigate the difficult divide between protectionism and allowing your children to try, and sometimes fail — sometimes with serious consequences.

And judgments about other people are among the most difficult, yet most important, judgments we have to learn how to make.  We parents may not like to admit it, but there are kids we dislike, to whom we react negatively because of our own inherent prejudices and biases.  It’s inevitable that our children will pick up on some unspoken signal that we don’t like a particular child — an eye roll, a sigh, an offhand remark.

My daughter always knew which of her school friends I didn’t like, and she always took me to task because of it.  She told me she had to decide for herself who people really were.  So while I couldn’t always control my body language, I learned to keep my mouth shut.  I figured she’d see for herself who the worst ones really were. 

And she has.  Because in addition to choosing to remain friends with good people, she has also avoided getting too close to bad people — based on her own criteria, not mine.  Some of the kids I found questionable at first have turned out to be great.  Some of the kids I liked turned out to be sketchy.  She gave everyone a chance, even when they weren’t willing to do the same for her.  She insisted on the right to form her own opinion.

I hope my daughter continues to make and exercise sound choices in her associations, platonic and romantic alike. When your children choose to associate with good people, it eliminates a host of other concerns.

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5 Responses to “What About Your Friends?”

  1. Saida M Latigue Says:

    Simply wonderful. *smile*

  2. A.Smith Says:

    Bravo to your daughter. BRAVO! I definitely wish I’d been better about my friends at 13 and 14 than I was. Glad she’s got that down early, it will help her so.

    There’s a lot we can learn from kids and teenagers. I think we forget that.

    As adults we get more caught up in developing relationships that can further us (we call this networking) than in developing relationships that can fullfill us. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that since it’s certainly true that for many of us, we have good and close friends and that’s enough. However, and I know this is because I have such a strong focus on relationships of all sorts (I think having good relationships is one of the most important things we’ll do in our lives), I say it never hurts to stop for a second and take count of who we’ve let into our lives, for whatever reason, and make sure they really are good for us.

  3. Gracia Quane Says:

    As adults we get more caught up in developing relationships that can further us (we call this networking) than in developing relationships that can fullfill us. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that since it’s certainly true that for many of us, we have good and close friends and that’s enough. However, and I know this is because I have such a strong focus on relationships of all sorts (I think having good relationships is one of the most important things we’ll do in our lives), I say it never hurts to stop for a second and take count of who we’ve let into our lives, for whatever reason, and make sure they really are good for us.
    +1

  4. Breaking Up (With Friends) Is Hard To Do « Carolyn A. Edgar Says:

    […] Carolyn A. Edgar Notes of a lawyer, writer, and single mom « What About Your Friends? […]

  5. Breaking Up (With Friends) Is Hard To Do | Carolyn Edgar Says:

    […] the breakup, especially when cutting someone out of my life who is a bad friend.  My daughter loves her friends deeply, but if she feels she is being dishonored, she will call them out and cut them off.  She values […]

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