As parents of our kids, we want to impart illimitable wisdom to our children. As children of our parents, we know that we might not get a very receptive audience, but somewhere something will stay. And so the interminable conversations continue- even in the face of disinterested looks. Or do we detect some fleeting interest?
As we stroll down a busy street while vacationing in Washington DC, it’s windy, and I want to distract my kids from the chilly weather. My husband and I joke about ‘dropping by for chai’ at the Obama residence- aka the White House. “I called and told Michelle to start the chai”, I say. The kids laugh and we carry on the made-up scenario. We all laugh as each one adds to the diegesis as if we were best pals with Barack, Michelle, Sasha and even Malia. We start to wonder about what it is like for the friends of Obamas who do want to ‘just drop by’. I see this as an opportunity to talk about friends with my kids.
I tell my kids that as life continues to happen you make many friends and probably part with just as many. Ultimately, the ones who are closest to your heart, the ones you strive to keep in touch with, ones you actively seek out to hang out with, are the ones who make you feel good about yourself. The ones who bring out the natural best in you. Those who in no way put you down- directly, subtly, indirectly. Literally, the ones who let you be you.
“Mom, of course, you are yourself with friends”, says my 11 year old son. “They don’t have to ‘let’ you be yourself”, adds my perspicacious daughter. At 16, of course, she is sure she is as wise as you can be.
I am actually thankful for what they say as that means they do have good friends in their life. I don’t want to lapse into painting a picture of a friend who is otherwise. I want to keep our conversation positive. I do not want to delve into negativity.
“You’re exactly right”, I tell my daughter. I don’t want to take her confidence away- the trust that she has placed in herself and on her friends. “And you’re right too”, I turn to my son. “And always remember that. Be with friends where you don’t have to work on being yourself, you don’t feel like they’re not ‘letting’ you be yourself. And more importantly, be that friend to your friends too”. I see the satisfaction on their face, that they “know” what I’m talking about. I feel I’m ready to drop the topic and end on that note, but not without leaving with a final thought on friendship. In fact, on a final thought on relationships. So I say, “Looks to me that you guys have good friends. In future, you’ll have boyfriends / girlfriends / spouses. Remember that your friendship with your significant other should be the same. For friends are those you love, not just for what THEY are, but also for what YOU are when you are WITH THEM”.