I don’t know exactly how long the term BFF (you know, Best Friends Forever) has been a part of the American lexicon, but I do remember thinking in high school, after seeing a couple of girls proudly sporting BFF necklaces, “That’s ridiculous!” No one is guaranteed to be best friends forever. Even 20 years ago, the cynic in me was always just beneath the surface. Plus, by then I’d endured the most exhaustive rite of passage for all adolescents – middle school – and I knew anybody could go AT. ANY. TIME.
“An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.”
That said, I get it – the need to vow your allegiance in friendship until the end of time. And now I get to watch this play out through my daughter’s eyes, which is simultaneously humbling and horrifying.
My daughter is all peace, love, and happiness which I admire about her. And she uses the term best friend ubiquitously – something, that I must admit, bothers me sometimes, but that I also understand is common at the ripe old age of 10. But as she’s risen through the ranks of elementary school, I have also started to advise her to use some discernment when picking her BFFs. The question I’ve posed to her most often is pretty simple, but I think it serves as a litmus test for us all: After you’ve spent time with your friend, how do you feel [about yourself]?
A couple of weeks ago, Gabby came home from school and said she needed to talk to me about something. She proceeded to tell me that she was confused about how to handle a situation between two of her friends. Apparently one of them had systematically been icing the other one out, and then the dreaded day had come when BFF #1 was asking Gabby to make a choice between her and BFF #2. (Sound familiar? The basic storyline never changes.) Oh, and did I mention there was some sort of deadline for this decision? Anyway, Gabby, of course, didn’t want to choose and was really anxious about it.
As I often do, I asked her what she thought she should do. And her reply: “I don’t want to give up [on her BFF#]. Maybe she was just having a bad day or maybe she didn’t really mean it.” She went on to say that maybe she would give a chance to apologize to BFF #2 before making a decision, but that “if she kept being mean, I don’t think I can be friends with her anymore.” Good answer.
Ok, I know what you’re thinking, “Kids go through this all the time.” And they do, but I’m acutely aware that my daughter is on the fringes of pre-pubescent drama and I want to make sure she has the tools and the self-confidence to rise above it. Because between now and sixth or seventh grade, lines will be drawn and she may find that some of her BFFs have left her behind. And just to be fair, she may also decide to drop a few, too. It happens.
While I certainly don’t want her to become jaded, I know that the mean girl phenomenon is alive and well and one day it will really rear its ugly head. So, I sometimes worry about how to prepare her for this next phase of her social development. And although it’s my job to guide her, I also know that there some things that only time and experience can teach her. But here the lessons I’d like her to learn:
- Some of the friends you lose were never really your friends to begin with. And when the hurt and pain has subsided, not only will you see this clearly, you’ll be thankful they’re gone.
- The nature of friendship changes, and not every change is a betrayal. Sometimes it means you just go from being Best Friends Forever to Best Friends on Friday night. (This will mostly happen in college.)
- Sometimes friends just outgrow each other. Period.
- Some people really are only supposed to be in your life for a reason or season, and not necessarily a lifetime.
- The number of friends you have isn’t nearly as important as the quality of your friendships.
It took me a while to learn these lessons myself, and some I had to learn more than once. But as an adult, I have grown to appreciate the nuances of my closest friendships. I have friends that I may talk to every other day and others that I don’t talk to for months or years, but the love I have for them is just the same.
Because they have stood the test of time we’ve had so far, and also because we have each at some given point in time NOT been the “best” friends to each other and still managed to come out the other side. And one day, when my daughter is much older, I’m sure she’ll find the same to be true.
So what’s your BFF story? How do you navigate the waters of best-friendom with your kids?