When I was in school, my mom was so great about working through friendship issues with me. It was so comforting to look forward to going home and hearing my mom’s encouraging words, knowing that she loved me and was a safe confidante for me.
One thing I remember particularly well is her conversations about the differences between a friend and a playmate, and I think it helped me through many a challenging, perhaps hurtful, situation. She always discussed with me what a true friend was–someone who “loves at all times,” “shows himself friendly,” and is loyal and faithful. A person who is a “friend” one day, and not the next; or who manipulates you to do her dirty work, or who spreads gossip about you, is not a “friend.”
But how do you handle those people? You can’t just ignore them and pretend like they don’t exist (then you are being just like them). One way that was helpful for me was to distinguish between a friend and a playmate–the person who consistently and repeatedly is not a faithful friend can be a playmate…you can play with them, eat lunch with them, whatever, but just know in your heart they aren’t a “friend.” Then all the consistently rude and unkind things they do to you aren’t as big of a deal because you know they aren’t being a true “friend.” It’s much easier to put their actions in that “playmate” box and not take them personally.
Through the years, and definitely the last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to have these same conversations with my girls, as they work through confusing behavior from other children. And of course, all these lessons about friendships hopefully inspire and encourage them to be the kind of person someone can call a friend too, and not just a playmate. They (as we all do) will definitely make mistakes as a friend as well, but it’s my hope that they will be the kind of people that are faithful friends–that when asked to be a friend, you know what you are getting into.