A Letter to My Daughter About Friendships

Dear Daughter of Mine,

I won’t claim to be able to impart an extraordinary amount of wisdom on you in many realms of life. I’m a decent business person, I’m a decent writer, I’m decent at planning parties, but I’m not an expert at much of anything.

In my near 40 years of life, I have, however, learned a few things about friendships and I feel the need to share my knowledge because someday this will be extremely important to you, maybe more important to you than it should be. It’s possible that as only children we tend to put more emphasis on friendships than others because our friends truly become our family,  so I need you to be prepared to navigate these relationships.

As I type this, you’re just three months shy of turning 7. Everything I’m typing here will be of interest to you soon enough but for the next few years, friendships will {hopefully} stay as they are for you. Full of playing, being silly, bonding over your love for Super Heroes and Minecraft and your worst argument will be about whose turn it is to put on the Star Wars costume next. But somewhere in the middle school years, friendships become more complex. It will be up to you, love, just how complex you allow them to become.

The pre-teen and teen years will be this ever-evolving dynamic shift in literally everything and everyone that once made you feel safe and it will align you with new circles of friends, possibly several times over. Cliques will form. Bullies will show up, hopefully not to target you but you’ll be ill-privileged to know that they exists. When this happens, I need you to be an ally to those who are being picked on and promise me you won’t succumb to the pressure of becoming one of the bullies. This never feels good. Remember, I’m speaking from experience and your mama didn’t always make good decisions. I was bullied and I was, at one time, the bully. I’m not sure which role felt worse.

Hormones are fully charged in all of these years which translates into arguments over stolen boyfriends or girlfriends. Know that there is not a romantic relationship worth risking a good friendship over. None. As important as falling in love may feel, it pales in comparison to finding a friend that you might have for life. Friends made in your teen years can most certainly become friends of a lifetime. The chances of that happening are much higher than finding a romantic partner for life at this age. Remember that. Your mom has been so fortunate to have several friends from my teen years, friendships that I hold in the highest regard.

Peer pressure sets in and you will feel the need to fit in with any given group. Here’s the most important piece of knowledge I can share with you about these middle and high school years in relation to building long-lasting friendships: being popular just isn’t important. In fact, in most cases, being popular might even set you up for unrealistic friendship expectations as an adult. You will want to do and say things that go against your grain just for the sake of being well-liked and this is not a trait that you’ll want to carry into your adult life. It’s too much work, I promise. Do not settle for quantity over quality. Strive for being an individual, strive to be unique and own it. Do not seek validation, do not constantly seek acceptance. You will not find it from everyone. Relish in those that value your soul for just who you are.

This is the time in your life to learn how to deal with people not liking you for you, right now, in the teen years. Be confident in who you are, what you believe in, and what you bring to the table of friendship. Be a good listener, but also be listened to. Ask your friends how their day is going, but be sure they ask about yours, too. Be available at any time of the day for your friends, but be sure to have the same access to them in the middle of the night. So much of what I just mentioned will go unspoken with true friends but you will just know. Trust your intuition.

There will be friendship break-ups and that will be OK. It’s a necessary part of life and something I wish I would have accepted so many years ago. Friends will come and go. There won’t always be a nasty ending in these break-ups, there will be no blame sometimes. People just take different paths sometimes. Do not over think this, love. It is OK to move on from friends and it’s OK for them to move on from you. This will continue throughout your adult life, too, especially if you choose to get married and/or have children. As your life changes, friends will also change. Do not try to figure people out when this happens. It might hurt but know that it just wasn’t meant to be a friend for life, but just meant for a season or a specific reason. And that is OK.

You will have some friends that you won’t speak to for years but then you meet for a random, impromptu dinner and it will feel like there hasn’t been any time missed between you both. Cherish these friends. Let them know what this means to you to have this kind of relationship with them.

You will have others that you will speak to everyday, or at least a couple of times a week, about every.single.thing. and these will be your soul mates. These are the rarest form of friendships and the true gems you find in the rough seas. These won’t be forced, they will be natural and comfortable. You won’t agree on everything, not a chance, but you’ll feel at home with these friends. They are your family.

So, my love, just know that friendships, when done correctly, are the most beautiful relationships in life but they can also be some of the most painful. Know that they aren’t that much different than romantic relationships in that they take a tremendous amount of nurturing. I won’t call it “work” because good friendships shouldn’t feel like a job but they do need attention.

Don’t wait until you’re your mama’s age to really learn about friendships. Try to do your best to understand where people fit in your life now, while you’re young. Above all, be kind and let your light shine to others and theirs will shine back.

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