Today’s theme in our household was clearly childhood friendships. All three boys spent time with their friends and had experiences that covered the entire scale from good to bad.
I came home from work to find Jansen, our toddler, standing on the sidewalk with his little neighborhood play mate, Maya. Our nanny and her nanny have hit it off well, so they make plans to meet a few times a week on the playground. Jansen talks all day and evening about “Maya Baby”. He waves at her house when we drive by and he is just flat out enamored by this little brunette with the cutest button nose. They play side by side in the sand lot and enjoy each other’s presence during their age appropriate parallel play. Jansen who is just starting to speak in two-word sentences answers proudly with a “Maya Baby!” when we ask who is girlfriend is. Theirs is a perfect first friendship.
Later this evening I took Jordan and Jansen for a walk, while dada had Jacob at soccer. Jordan is in preschool and this is his first go at spending time around the same group of kids every day. There are 11 boys and 3 girls in his class, so no shortage of Dinosaur and Train loving playmates among his group of classmates. We ran into his friend Gavin from school in our neighborhood and learned that he lives down the street. Jordan and I had just been talking about what he should bring for show & tell this week. He wanted to bring something his friends Gavin and Luke would like. Imagine the thrill and gleam in Jordan’s eyes when he then saw his friend right outside our house. I spent some time talking to Gavin’s mom, while Jordan and Gavin caught up on their favorite characters in the video game they both enjoy. The boys get along great, so his mom and I scheduled a first play date at our house next week. Jordan and Gavin parted ways, looking like they both just won the friendship lottery.
And then there is Jacob. Sweet sensitive Jacob. I received a call today from the mom who carpools him home from school every day. Apparently Jacob and her son had a minor disagreement/ altercation which led to a kick, unkind words, sad tears and hurt feelings. Jacob was on the receiving end of the kick and he was the one shedding the tears. But all of it could have been avoided if Jacob had not touched his friend’s toys, as he was repeatedly asked not to do. As a complete third party in their disagreement, yet as Jacob’s mother I tried to remain “Switzerland” when I spoke with Jacob this evening about the day’s events. Mama Bear always wants to come out when one of her cubs have been hurt, physically or emotionally. However, for the sake of teaching Jacob a lesson about friendships and navigating the waters of different personalities, I had to remain somewhat neutral. We agreed that his choice not to listen to his friend was not the best. But we also agreed that his friend should have never physically hurt him and used unkind words.
And this is where I started to have flashbacks from my own childhood. One of my children is forming his first friendship with a neighborhood child of the opposite gender – that is just like me and Finn. He was the neighbor’s son who I just adored and wanted to play with every chance I got. My heart was broken when he chose to run around with the boys instead of playing with me. But I cherished the days that we played together, even if we played different games, as long as he was close.
My other two sons are gently starting to form friendships with their schoolmates. I had my “best friend forever”, who was with me, by my side, from kindergarten through 9th grade. Marianne and I went through our ups and downs, but since the age of 5 we were more or less inseparable. We could make each other giggle until our stomachs hurt, yet we knew each other’s hot buttons and would push them – if the situation called for it. Some days or weeks we claimed to be twins separated at birth, while other times we stooped to hurting each others feelings for no other reason than we were learning the ebb and flow of relationships and friendships. To this day, over 30 years later, she is still a part of my life, although not someone I speak with frequently. However, we reach out to each other in times of need. When push comes to shove, like it did for Jacob and his friend today, some childhood friendships are made to last, while others may fade over time.
Time will tell which of these three budding friendships will last. I will try really hard to let my boys form their own relationships and allow them to foster the ones they enjoy, and ever so gently discard the ones they do not. I will try – although Mama Bear may struggle with this from time to time.
How have you handled friendship issues with your children? I am sure the issues grow as the children grow – what is your best advice to mothers of young children?