Dear Daughter of Mine,
There is a quote I recently read that goes something like this:
The profoundness of that statement resonates strongly with me. I hope it serves as a guiding principle for you in your own pursuit of supportive social relationships (not only in these middle school years but far beyond).
When I think of my “few” who are tried and true, they fall into one (or more) of the descriptors below. These are the ones that stand out, and for good reason. I pray that your life is enriched by friends like these, and I know you already pour into others with many of the below attributes. That alone is proof positive that I’m doing something right, even when the day has gone so terribly awry that I’d put the Worst Mother of the Year crown on my own head.
More than anything, enjoy the friendships you make. Treat each and every one of them with respect and care. When they end, as many inevitably will because of the transient nature of friendship, it’s ok to be sad for a bit while you grieve the loss. As you do that though, remember to look up and see the ones who are still there.
If you’re lucky enough to find a cadre of friends like that, then count your blessings honey, because these are the few that are for keeps.
The Long Hauler.
Unlike the Friend for a Season, of which you’ll have plenty, the Long Hauler is one to cherish forever. She is loyal. She is trustworthy. And she makes an effort to invest in the relationship, not in a quantifiable way but just through her genuine warmth and authenticity. This is the kind of relationship where “you pick up right where you left off.”
It’s a safe space, made so through long periods of mutual compatibility. The time horizon matters a lot here. People can only hide their true colors for so long. Build your relationships slowly and don’t disclose private things too early. Give yourself enough time to decide if someone has the character to deserve a spot in your inner circle (spoiler alert – most won’t). Be especially wary of those who are quick to throw out the BFF or “ride or die” labels. Those who cozy up to you seemingly overnight are often also the first ones to bore of you and bail.
She gets you to try new things, be it the new Egyptian restaurant that just opened, Goat Yoga (yes, this is really a thing), or learning to speak Italian (because Under the Tuscan Sun – swoon!)
Without bullying or badgering you to get outside your comfort zone (sky diving is a hard no for me), she just sparkles with a contagious joie de vivre that makes the world seem a little more wondrous.
The total opposite of the Carpet-bombing Texter, who sends generic mass messages intended to seem individualized. Pro tip – real friendship isn’t something you can productivity hack.
There can also be no fakery here. Heaping over the top, false, ego-stroking praise amounts to nothing more than being a suck up (hardly a cornerstone of healthy relationships). It’s definitely not encouragement.
Encouragement is having someone who is unequivocally in your corner, whether you’re in a Renaissance season of your life or trying to crawl out of the pit of despair. This last point is a key one. If people are only there for you when you’re down on your luck, especially if they seem competitive or disinterested in your success, pay attention to that. Someone who isn’t able to genuinely celebrate your joyful moments (or if they feel the need to bring you down a notch when you’re happy) is someone who still has a lot of growing up to do.
The Thought Provoker.
Shallow chit-chat has a short and unfulfilling lifespan. I can’t even tell you how fast my mind begins to wander when talk centers around clothes and shoes and who’s buying this house or that car. By blissful contrast, the Thought Provoker is well-read, interesting herself and also interested in you, your life and how you see the world. She sparks the kinds of conversations that foster deeper connection, and she helps you think about things in new ways.
Should jealous tongues start to wag, she’s the one who has your back and will shut that stuff down. She will lovingly yet firmly set the record straight. When done right, this tactic alone has the power to make a mean girl question her own angst.
The Grown Up.
She is refreshingly easy to communicate with – there are no sensitive snowflake tendencies here. When you have a misunderstanding, she doesn’t go all Chandler Bing and “break up” with you because the prospect of working through something is just too uncomfortable (oddly, adult conversations scare a lot of adults).
In addition to being a Non-Ghoster, she shows that she has your best interests at heart. She has a disarming way of speaking helpful truths into your life, and you (gasp!) may even become a better version of yourself for her compassionate honesty.
She can pick up your kid in a pinch. You can trust her with your house key. She is as happy helping you reorg the pantry as she is loaning you a killer handbag because it goes perfectly with your special occasion outfit and it’d be wasteful and dumb to buy that luxury on your own.
When you’re sick, she’s happy to ding dong ditch freshly made soup at your door. She never keeps score of all the nice things she’s done and she doesn’t have to because you reciprocate in equal measure.
Least glamorously and most importantly, she’s the Steel Magnolia who shows up and holds your hand when no one else will.
Be that friend, and seek that friend.
I love you!