There are times as a parent that I find myself looking at my kids and feeling a little bit of envy towards their youth. After all they have more energy than I can muster after a full night of sleep and an entire pot of coffee. They also have the endless ability to use their imaginations and act silly while receiving zero judgment (people look at me funny when I run around my yard chasing bubbles). They still believe in the good in everything. They don’t have adult responsibilities to ponder as they desperately try to fall asleep at night. No. My kids get in bed and blissfully fall asleep while dreaming about ice cream and a game of kickball, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Childhood should be chock full of innocence and smiles and void of stress and sleepless nights.
The one thing I don’t envy though is navigating through the ups and downs of unestablished friendships. If there is anything that I have learned in my forty years it’s how to know the difference between a real friendship and a fake one. I no longer have the patience for nonsense or fair weather friends. Age and experience have taught me a thing or two about friendships over the years. I haven’t escaped without a few cuts and bruises, mostly to my pride but I’m better off for it.
I think one of the most important lessons we can teach our children is how to be a good friend. I want my kids to be able to recognize a good apple from a bad apple in the bunch but I also want them to know what it takes to be the good apple. It’s not always easy and if we are being honest I haven’t always been a good friend when I should have been, but with life lessons and maturity I have learned what it takes to be a good friend.
- Be a good listener. Good friends take the time to not only hear your words but to really listen to them. No one wants to talk to someone who is always talking. Take a breath. Listen. It means more than you realize.
- Show up. It sounds easy but not many people do it so when you find someone who shows up without being asked you have found a friend. Be that friend. Show up for the good stuff. Show up for the bad stuff. Just show up.
- Stand next to and up for your friends. When someone is your friend you don’t always have to agree with them but you should always want to stand up for them.
- Don’t talk about them. Talk to them. If you have a problem with one of your buddies tell them. Don’t tell everyone else instead of them. Real friends tell each other when they’ve done something to upset them. Be direct. Be honest. It says a lot about your character.
- Celebrate their achievements. You and your friends didn’t learn to crawl or walk at the same time. Your successes are going to ebb and flow. It might take you a little longer than your friend to find your success but be happy for them. Cheer them on and they will return the favor by rooting for you.
- Embrace them during their failures. Life is about learning. We cannot learn if we don’t fail along the way. When we fail we need someone to tell us it’s going to be okay. We need someone who will tell us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep trying until we succeed. Be that person.
- Believe in your friend. Believe in their dreams. Believe in their hopes. Don’t minimize any of that because in doing so you deplete the air from their balloon. No one wants to be friends with someone who sucks the air out of their balloon. Balloons make people happy.
- Allow them to be who they are and be the real you whenever you are with them. Real friends don’t have to change themselves to be friends. They love each other for exactly who they are. They love the good, the bad, and the ugly. You don’t always have to like your friends but if you are real friends you will always love them.
- Be silly, be vulnerable, cry, laugh and have fun with your friends. Don’t be the fun vacuum. No one wants to be friends with someone who walks into the room and sucks the fun right out. Don’t be afraid to have fun. Don’t be afraid to laugh until you cry, and definitely don’t be afraid to cry when you need to. Friends who are willing to show emotion in front of each other form a deeper bond because of it. The things you laugh and cry about will change as you grow older but the bond will remain the same.
- Call your friend out if they need it. You know who they are and you know who they want to be so if you see your friend headed down a path that will take them far away from both of those places call them out on it. You might lose them for a little while but they will come back.
Life is about making connections. The bonds we form and the relationships we build enhance the life we lead. They take work but they shouldn’t feel so hard that you are exhausted from them. The relationships worth fighting for and working on will not always be obvious to you, but when you realize one is, I know you will both give them your all. The thing is, every person who comes into your life comes into it for a reason. Some will leave you and some will stay, but each one will teach you something about yourself that you wouldn’t have known without them. Enjoy the simple things. Take in the moments. Don't worry so much about the years and the memories because in the end the moments that you show up for will make up the memories that you will look back upon for years.