So the latest thing to threaten out children’s safety? BFF’s. Yeh yeh yeh – Best Friends Forever. There was an article in the New York Times that described the dangers of kids having best friends. Blah blah blah cliques and such. And the entire time I’m reading it, my personalities are shifting into high gear arguing with each other. The first personality, the devil’s advocate, advocates not jumping in to tear the flesh from this article. The second personality, the pragmatist, had a knife and fork out and was ready to feast on tearing it apart. (Sidebar: I think I’m hungry for meat.) Anyway. When I read sensational things like this – that seem to be written primarily to get people to react, I try I really try to not bite. But I’m biting because it cannot be helped. Let me bullet point the multitude of reasons why having a best friend is actually not a danger to the youth of today:
- The only way for our children to learn to navigate the highly cuckoo and complex web of social interaction is to actually navigate the highly cuckoo and complex web of social interaction.
Ok, it’s not actually a multitude of reasons, but it gets the job done. It sucks, I know believe me I know it’s really hard to watch your child be left out of something because they cannot break into a fortress of a friendship that may already be there. But it’s equally tragic for them to be paralyzed by dependence on their parents to force other kids to play with them. I’ve found that at some point, every kid gets left behind, at least once. The nice ones, the mean ones, the friendly ones, the outspoken ones, all of them – yes your kid has felt excluded at some point and so has mine. Or at least they will. And it isn’t the fault of the age-old Best Friend tradition. It’s just because life sucks sometimes, even for the young. But what better way for a child to learn to keep moving forward, and to find a person who does want to hang out, or even find something they can do on their own? How awesome is it to be an adult who knows how to not crumble into a pile of tears when our social life doesn’t work out? We learn from doing. I’m pretty sure that’s what Mr. Miyagi taught the Karate Kid. See how nicely that turned out?
I’ve never really been a Best Friend subscriber. So I’m defending something that I actually don’t even use in my life. Forever, I have been more likely to have groups of people who are dear to me. They’re usually from all sorts of backgrounds, and often times don’t know each other. One friend is the best to go to dinner with. One is best to hang with at her house. One is great on the phone. One is simply the best at slapping me five in passing on the street. My biggest childhood anxiety attack happened in 7th grade, when a girl by the name of Monica gave me one-half of a golden heart with the letters “Be Fri” engraved on it. She of course had the matching half, with the letters, “St Ends” on it. I felt totally locked in, and committed the greatest Best Friend foul when I “lost” the necklace. It just wasn’t for me. She moved on, and so did I.
But having a Best Friend works beautifully for some people, and that’s great. The idea of “friendship coaches” who go around deeming friends “too close” and separating them is just really stupid. The idea that one model of friendship should be universal is universally stupid. My take? Give our kids the room to build the kind of relationships that work for them. Be ok with the fact that sometimes they’re going to get burned. Just like you have been, just like I have been. Protect them from things that are dangerous, obviously – but that doesn’t mean that we solve everything for them. Back off, have faith in our kids that they will find their people. And if they have a Best Friend, celebrate it with them. There are far too many things to say “no” to – enjoy the times you can just kick back and say “yes”.
[Unrelated Note from Jodi: Frugal Mama is giving away passes to NYC museums - information on how to enter is at the bottom of her post today. It's easy! It's fun! AND....it's free! Check her out for sure! Go with a best friend!]