The most assured way to be entrenched into adulthood is to have a child. Or two. Or more. Dealing with my daughter, there are days when it’s clear I am the smartest person in the room. While other days show me without fail that not only do I not have a clue, but I’m not even in the hemisphere where the ‘clues’ live.
As a mother, I don’t believe I’ll ever be comfortable with not protecting my child. From the moment of her birth, I have ensured she was swaddled correctly, nursed amply, boo-boos bandaged, head covered, seatbelt tightened, sniffles wiped, crosswalk verified, side-eye reprimanded, and fair-weather friends shu---wait. Exactly how do I protect her from her friends?
There was once upon a time when, as children, we were taught to look to our parents, guardians, and adults we trusted to show us the way to conduct ourselves as we became ‘of age.’ As an adult, while I flip through the television channels, wade through the muck of internet sensationalism, and just plain walk down the street, it’s hard to imagine the things young people have to sift through on a daily basis when it comes to making decisions on appropriateness, friends, self esteem, image, the opposite sex, and again, friends. In this current age of social media, selfies, live videos, and reality television, exactly who ARE the appropriate role models to show the ways of good old-fashioned adulting? How well do those so-called examples model behavior our children are supposed to follow? I mean, really?
I must be honest when I say I am not always as confident as I should be as an adult. Some days I can barely get out of bed and brush my teeth. Sadly, it’s not because I’m ill with a virus. It’s simply because I don’t want to be bothered with the wayward twists and turns life chooses to offer me in that moment. Complicate that with the addition of managing family, relationships, colleagues at work, staff, and lastly, friendships. Full disclosure—I don’t always get it right.
I recently faced the challenge of helping my daughter through a situation with other girls whom she called her ‘friends.’ They were making comments to her that, although she laughed, I could tell ultimately hurt her feelings. When encouraged to address it, she did her best to reassure me that they were only “joking,” and that I was “doing too much.” In short, she didn’t want to admit that maybe, just maybe, they weren’t really her friends after all. Or were they?
The incident took me back to times when I felt the same way, yet opted out of addressing the true issues at hand. I’ve had ‘friends’ whom I trusted to be honest with me, even in times when I didn’t want to hear the truth. I’ve also had ‘friends,’ that never seemed to be fully in my corner, and/or constantly found ways to compliment me all kinds of off-side and backwards ways when I was expecting to receive (translation—really needed) their true celebration.
Looking back, I can choose to dismiss their behavior and say they weren’t really my friends, or I can recognize that like many of us (then and now), we at times face situations where we fail to feel confident enough to address issues with our 'friends.' Or we are standing on the opposite side, offend a 'friend,'/mess up and need fair minded, appropriate adults around to steer us in the vicinity of how to respond in those situations.
All of this sounded awesome in my mind until I had to explain it to a young girl navigating these types of relationships in a hormone-filled world. It flowed with ease right? Nope. Nada. Not even remotely. I quickly abandoned the daydream of drop-kicking the little girls in their backs until their knees buckled, and settled on spending time showering my girl with encouragement, reassurance and a little advice. I found myself sharing a few thoughts with her I’ve embraced for myself over the years:
Be the most authentic person possible. Every day in every way.
No one else will ever win at being you. It’s just not possible.
Treat people well even when they make it hard to do so.
Realize every friend is not meant for a lifetime; some are just here for right now (and that's ok).
Everyone cannot be a friend. Some can only be spectators. And sometimes those roles switch.
When everyone you know is clapping for you, you’ve missed a step somewhere.
Give the best effort to never judge people, but if it’s a must, judge yourself by your actions and others by their intentions.
I’ll never be able to totally shield her from spats and mishaps with friends. But I do hope she’ll learn to be confident in her abilities, her chosen actions and her voice. I also hope she'll be able to operate in humility, be quick to admit when she's wrong, and not be ashamed to ask for forgiveness. I hope the same for us all.
Until next time,