Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Friends and other ships that pass in the night

Dear Annabel,

You probably know by now that friendships ebb and flow in a ways similar to bodies of water. Sometimes they wobble like ripples in a pond or crash like waves in an ocean.

I've watched you interact with people your own height, but I haven't been able to pin down what it is about the person that makes you want to hug them and chase around them in circles or what makes you try and inch away.

I suppose it could be arbitrary, but more likely its some unknowable equasion that only makes sense to you and the person that holds your affection. Adults like to analyse these qualities, we lable people with words like "best" and "toxic," and no doubt we will clash on which friends get which lable.

Such is the nature of friendship.

We all seem to have friends in different ways.

Your father still keeps in touch with many of his pals from his adolescent days. You've already met their children and will be introduced to more as time and due dates march forward.

Many of my friends from my youthful days are still milling about in the universe, but they've spun off in some direction or other that's kept me from following. Or perhaps I've spun off in my own direction.

The funny thing is that I still think of many of these folks not as "one-time friends" or "former friends" but as friends. I feel as if each person has a place on the shelves of my memory. I imagine that if someone were to show up on the doorstep or in my e-mail box, I feel as if time would drop away.

It may seem as if people become less important to us, but that's not really what happens. What happens is we move in new directions and sometimes it means people become less accessible. Perhaps you won't remember this girl you hugged and held hands with on your trip through the apple orchard. Perhaps she will become a distant memory once you are in Kindergarten. It's also possible you will walk down every hallway together, and some years you'll hold hands and some years you'll hold noses.

Such is life.

I hope your friends will be good to you, sweetie. As I hope you will be good to them. Most importantly, though, I want you to be good to yourself. I want you to know that being a good friend has nothing to do with self sacrifice. Friendship shouldn't require we harm ourselves; The best of friends will bring out the best of each other.

Thing is, though, most adults don't understand this. Parents worry about bad influences, hurt feelings and being led down the wrong path. But they aren't always making the best choices for themselves, either.

Now that it's apparent you have preferences, I know that there will be times when our preferences will not match. And then our dealings with each other will seem like a hand of poker. We'll read each other's "tells" and decide which, if any of us, are bluffing.

There's a lot to remember. There's a lot of things that will need to be worked out. Friendships have very little in the way of blacks and whites. There are always going to be shades of gray.

And the biggest swath of grayscale is something I have to manage. I have to remember that ultimately I am not your friend. I am your mother.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree. No need to analyze what comes and goes. No need for the either and the or. And when I do that, I find that I can be my daughter's friend AND mother and that the two are not exclusive. Sometimes, when I've been such a good mother that I've made hard decisions on her behalf, I need her friendship more than ever.