The Gift of Friendship

How is your oldest and dearest friend? What drew you to them when you met? What has kept you friends all these years?

My youngest son is a very friendly kid–he can talk to people easily and engage in new situations without being prompted. He loves to laugh, and be silly. He struggles though, with making friends. He’s likable enough, and people want to be around him, he just struggles to do simple things like: introducing himself (he can play with someone for hours, walk away and we can ask, “Who’s your new friend?” and he’ll reply, “I don’t know.” “Did you ask him his name?,” we’ll continue, and he’ll share, “No, I didn’t think about it.”); or engaging in other’s interests–he is happy to have people engage with him if it’s something he’s interested in, but when it’s not–he’s not as willing. We’re working with him, along with his teachers and others, to help him develop these social skills.

He shared some frustration in lacking strong connection with his peers–even though he’s only seven years old. “I don’t have any friends, and I’m not going to.” When I asked, “What are you talking about?”, he replied, “I haven’t gotten invited to a birthday party in a long time.” He was measuring his friendships by the number of birthday parties he was invited to–I probably did the same thing when I was his age. And while he doesn’t yet understand that friendship is more than getting invited to a birthday party, it still broke my heart when he said this–one, because I could see the pain in his face; and two, I knew he was experiencing self-doubt and feeling hopeless that his situation would never change. We talked about friendship, what goes into being a good friend to someone and how it happens over time. My husband and I shared our own experiences with him and friendships, how some come and go, and some stay when you work on them. Those friendships are gifts that keep on giving. They are the relationships you ultimately want to develop and cultivate. We encouraged him and said his efforts to make lasting friendships would pay off.

Without any intervention or action on my husband’s or my part, within days of this conversation with our son, a flurry of birthday invitations arrived for him. It was almost like the cosmos or God heard our plea and responded in kind (and then some). He ended up getting invited to three birthday parties being held over the same weekend. He was ecstatic. What a wonderful gift those birthday invitations were for him. His demeanor changed, and hope for making meaningful connections with others returned. As a parent, you couldn’t help but share in his joy.

What gifts of friendship have you received or shared with others? How is your child experiencing friendship?

Today is my Birthday

I have friends who get bummed out when they turn a year older but I’m one of those people who love birthdays. I love all birthdays but mine in particular. It’s a day to celebrate and treat yourself. For me, it’s the one day a year I fully love myself and allow myself to be loved all day long. That may sound a little depressing I know, but don’t despair, I’m working on fully loving myself all the days of the year but that’s another story (and possibly book) for another time.

Last year was a milestone birthday year for me: I turned forty. As I prepared for the day I sought advice from friends that had gone before me. The resounding theme from pretty much everyone I asked was the same: that the forties were a great time in one’s life, that you will really start to get comfortable with who you are, and all the “stuff” we concerns ourselves with—like what we look like, where we are in life professionally and personally will all become less important. I was fascinated!  That all sounded so freeing.  Like many of us, I feel like I’ve been wearing heavy invisible chains most of my life: trying to be the right weight, look the right way, work hard to advance in my career, appear happy at all times regardless of how I’m really feeling inside, and the list goes on.

Now that I’m a year into my forties, I see that my friends were right. As my birthday clock readies itself to hit forty-one, I think about the year in review and smile. I feel like I’m continuing to get more comfortable with who I am and am much less concerned about things that used to monopolize my time. I am more honest and open about how I feel with my friends and seek deeper more meaningful connections with others. I’m happy with where I am, but still have a ways to go and I’m actually really excited about what the future brings.

No, I don’t like the idea of lots of wrinkles and I am dropping a bit more cash at the hair dresser than I used to, but these things also remind me of the road I’ve traveled to get here, and I can’t wait to see what I find on the road ahead.

Now, where’s my cake?