Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Friendship 911

Last week this story came to my attention and at first I couldn't believe what I saw. I thought perhaps it was a passing thing, but now, a week later, it is being talked about by newspapers and bloggers around the country. So I couldn't let it slip by without saying my two cents on the subject.

"A Best Friend? You Must Be Kidding" is a title that sounds innocent enough, but what does that really mean? It means that schools and camps are now advocating that children focus on groups of friends rather than a single best friend. It means that the days of the paired up children who can always be found together is over. It means that these adults think they know better than the kids about who their friends should be and are interfering with the normal social dynamics of growing up. They say they have good reasoning for doing this; such as preventing bullying and cliques.

Now I agree that bullying is not a good thing. I have seen some of my own students become victims of bullying because of their delayed social development or physical disabilities. Bullying has always been an issue at schools where a student is singled out for some reason or another. I was bullied as a child myself. In fact, I remember a girl one time got mad at me when we were playing and told me that the only reason she was being nice to me was because the teacher had told the class to be nice because my brother had died. I look back at that now and see this intentional manipulation of friendships as its own type of bullying that will do more harm than good, in my opinion.

You can't possibly be friends with everyone in the world. Why? Not everyone has the same interests, values and experiences from which to build a friendship. That doesn't mean that we throw common courtesy out the window however. Shouldn't acceptance and inclusion be taught rather than going to the extreme of trying to interrupt the natural tendency for people who share commonalities from being together? I wonder how this will play into the continued erosion of the family and marriage in this country? I have to agree with the psychologists on this one, "
If children’s friendships are choreographed and sanitized by adults, the argument goes, how is a child to prepare emotionally for both the affection and rejection likely to come later in life?"

With that in mind, who is your best friend? Why do you consider them to be your best friend? Mine is my husband and it is because we share everything. That doesn't mean we always get along perfectly. However, through the ups and downs I had with best friends growing up, both betrayal and bonding from the time I was a child that continue into my adult life, I have learned how to deal with the emotional fall out and truly share my triumphs with someone who also shares in my beliefs but can add perspective to my life. I don't believe that this would be possible if most of my childhood friendships were staged and yes, I am glad that the girl who told me she was only being nice because she was told to was honest with me. Perhaps I was a spoiled child who was selfish and needed to be ostracized by my peers in order to learn a lesson that has helped develop me into the compassionate, loving adult I am today.

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