I am very proud of my daughters. So far, they have been successful at navigating the challenges, pressures and insecurities found in their teen years...that's not easy. I equate those years to a Tough Mudder Race. You know, those races that middle aged people sign up for and then realize that they really shouldn't have. Once they register, they have to compete with other crazy people full of self doubt and dressed inappropriately, only to realize that they actually had no idea what they signed up for and there's no turning back.
Anyways, I have always tried to instill in my daughters that kindness matters. "Be a good friend to others and in return you will have good friends." "What you put out into the Universe will come back to you." "Treat others the way you would like to be treated." Although these are simple statements that have since become cliche, they remain as true today as they were when I was growing up. They have stood the test of time for a reason. I have been the recipient of more than one eye roll while repeating them, and most often during difficult times my girls have experienced with friendships. However, my goal is to raise caring, kind daughters. Daughters who will contribute to the lives of others in a positive way. In order for each of them to realize the importance of such wisdom, they need to experience heartbreak and disappointment. I know, I know, as mothers we are supposed to protect them from that. Nope, that is not our job! Our job is to help them navigate those feelings and turn them into positive influences due to their greater newfound perspective. We are to guide them referencing our own personal experiences (even though they can't even contemplate that we were once their age and experienced many of the same feelings). To be a good friend, you need to differentiate your personal definition of what a good friend means to you. For example, if trust is one of YOUR values, then trust is what you will seek in a friend. If you value honesty, then honesty is what you will expect in a relationship. If you value gratitude....and so on and so on. You see everyone is different in that way. We all place value on different qualities and we seek a friend that reflects those qualities back to you.
The lessons we learn through friendships can be really tough. We will love and respect friends and sadly, they may not love us back or respect our friendship enough. Here's the deal...here's what we need to instill in our children. Be kind anyways, but don't be attached to the outcome. You will find one or two friends in your lifetime that will remain, through all of the bullshit, the good, the bad and the ugly. They will honor you, respect you, and bring you so much joy. They will be there to celebrate your triumphs and sit with with a kleenex box during the most difficult and insecure times. You will know who they are immediately, when they enter your life. Your souls will connect and you will feel as if you have known them forever. Their friendship will seem effortless. Hang on to them with dear life. All of the others, simply give them a chance, then give them another, and when you are faced with granting them a third chance, find the courage to cut them free. They may possibly come around one day, but its not up to you to cajole them, lure them or kiss their ass. That is not part of the friendship process! Be true to yourself first, be kind to others secondly. And when friendships go bad...and they will, take responsibility. You can admit that you are not a good friend to someone, because you simply have not put in the effort and you should explore why? Then be kind and have a conversation with that person and let them know that you are sorry but you must move one. Do not leave them hanging! Do not avoid them! That, is unkind. Remember that saying "Treat others they way you want to be treated" well here you go again, do you wish to be left hanging? Kindness includes being honest and respectful of others feelings. Friendship is not a game!
My greatest piece of advice on friendship and kindness can be summed up in one word....YOU! Be kind to yourself, and you will seek kindness in others. Be a friend to yourself, and you will learn how to be a friend for others.
So, in conclusion, I have become my own best friend at age 48.I wish I had put effort into that friendship when I was a teen. I love spending time with myself. I enjoy the things I like to do, and I treat my opinions with respect. There are times when my inner voice decides to be unkind and rude, and I shut it down by saying, "would you talk that way to your best friend?" It typically works! Show your children through action how to be a friend. They will learn more from your actions than any wisdom you try to communicate with words. Actions always speak louder than words!