Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Mom's Perspective: Children's Friendships

Picture from the weekend of my brother and Chris.  We outfitted my brother in Notre Dame garb so he could attend last weekend's football game in style.  


Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.  

Or something like that.

The concept of friends has weighed heavily on my mind ever since becoming a mom.  The thing is, I want my boys to have friends, lots of them, good ones.  But finding those friends is a process and one littered with speed bumps and heartache along the way.

As much as I’d like the boys’ friendships to evolve naturally and effortlessly, it has become apparent over the years that the matriarch of the family is really one of the most instrumental forces in a child's quest to find and sustain friends. 

At an early age, it is up to the mom to play friend “matchmaker.”  She is the one scouring the playground and the preschool roster in search of the perfect playmate for little Johnny or Susie.  She wants to find a companion with enough spunk to keep things interesting but not too much spirit to have a preschool version of Bonnie and Clyde on her hands.  Once the perfect fit is selected, the mom is the one arranging and supervising regular play dates and scoring birthday party invites.

In my opinion, those years are the easier years when it comes to friends.

By the time kids enter primary school, it becomes more difficult for the mom to play friend matchmaker.  She relies more on the child's judgement to secure friends (good ones).  If a child reports sitting by himself in the school cafeteria or swinging alone during recess, she begins to fret.  Is said child incapable of making friends, she worries?  Is he or she feeling rejected and alone?  What's wrong with these other kids that they don't see the specialness and beauty in this child?

Just when said mom has reached the top of her worry barometer, a son or daughter mentions a classmate's name and how they swapped sandwiches at lunch or played house during recess.  Things look up.  Said mom rushes to the school directory and dials up the classmate's mom.  A play date is arranged.  But then worry bubbles back into the chest of the mother.  Did the child pick a good friend?  A friend that will push the child to church and not a tattoo parlor?  A friend that will teach said child kindness and not four-letter words.  A child that’s dependable, loyal, thoughtful, and kind.  

Then the mom thinks about her own child.  Is he or she a dependable, loyal, thoughtful, kind playmate?  Did she teach him or her well by example and instruction?

After the first play date is arranged and several more follow, a friendship is started.  But the friendship has seasons.  Times when the two kids are compatible, moments were conflict is apparent.  The mom rides the waves of this friendship and coaches said child along the way (sometimes holding back tears when things seem painful).

As much effort as it takes to cultivate children's friendships, one might wonder why a mother exerts so much effort.  The thing is, the mother knows how important friendships are to a child because she knows how important friendships are to her.  Sometimes friendships can be hard, but they are one of the most rewarding and dear aspects of life.  If a child slides into the right one, a friendship offers a child companionship, acceptance, and encouragement.

Because friendships are so important, I've learned to be the mom that falls on her knees and prays like crazy for my children's friendships.  I pray that the right friends will land in my children's lives and that my children will be the right friends to others.  Then, I pray for the strength to endure (and enjoy) watching the process unfold.

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