Monday, April 12, 2010

Some Friendly Advice -- by Jamie

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a busy single mother who doesn’t have time to waste—or simply the result of being older and wiser—but ever since Jayda was born, I’ve been more selective about which friendships I choose to foster. I consider myself very fortunate to have so many wonderful friends from every stage of my life—high school, college, my “single in the city” days, former jobs, and even my few years of motherhood. But it’s quality, not quantity that counts to me. And at this point in my life, when it comes to friendship, I only give as good as I get.

Over a year ago, I met a woman at my gym who, aside from our shared stair-climbing workouts, I had very little in common with; she was single, childless, rough-around-the-edges, and after devoting herself to her ex-boyfriend for years, now had no girlfriends to speak of. But she appeared to have a good heart, and she needed a friend, so I let her into my life. The woman latched on to me, called me incessantly, and, despite all the hours of listening and support I gave to her, never gave anything back to me; she was simply self-consumed. When we got into an argument a few months ago, I easily made the choice to “let her go,” as I don’t have the time or energy for people who drag me down and never do anything to lift me up.

That said, friendships are a complicated thing…and sometimes “letting go” of someone who really isn’t “good for you” isn’t as easy at sounds. For instance, my mother has been friends with one particular woman for decades—a woman whom I almost consider to be part of our family. But over the last several years, there have been countless fights between these women, tons of miscommunication issues, and lots of hurt feelings. In the last few weeks, things came to a head, and my mother was attacked by this woman for a long list of silly offenses my mother had purportedly committed. When this woman called my mom, my mom was put on the defensive, and hung up the phone crying; she has been miserable about the situation ever since. Everyone tells my mother to “let this woman go,” and I personally advised her that she shouldn’t be friends with someone who makes her feel so uncomfortable—someone whom she has to step on eggshells around, and always be fearful of offending. But dumping a long-time friend isn’t so easy. There’s history there, and lots of emotional investment. Sometimes it’s even a “pride” issue: We want people to like us—especially our old friends—and we sometimes bend over backwards to “fix things,” even when we’re not the ones who broke them.

I’m trying to teach my daughter, Jayda, the value of good friends—and what she should expect from them. Fortunately, she knows a bunch of sweet, little girls whom she likes to play with, and I try to foster these relationships by organizing play dates and encouraging Jayda to be a good friend to her friends. But there’s one little girl at Jayda’s day care who has been a source of angst for both of us. This girl is a close friend of one of Jayda’s best friends, and, as is often the case with threesomes, jealousy issues and conflicts have arisen between the girls. Jayda has told me on many occasions that this girl is “not nice” to her. And several times in the last few months, there have been notes on Jayda’s daily progress sheet informing me that my normally-well-behaved daughter has pinched or pushed “a classmate.” Upon pressing Jayda for details, I’ve learned that Jayda’s attacks have all been toward this particular girl, and Jayda always prefaces her confessions with the fact that this girl was “not nice.” I spoke to Jayda’s teacher, who told me there was nothing to worry about, but I still felt the need to speak to Jayda about the situation. I told her not to spend time with this girl, and to, instead, hang out with girls who were nice to her and treated her well. I stressed that friends should respect one other and make each other feel good—not hurt each other physically, or hurt each other’s feelings. She seemed to “get” it and, lately, has been proudly informing me that she’s been hanging out with “good” friends, and offering the names of a few kids whom I know treat her well.

Recently, I’ve started planning Jayda’s upcoming third birthday party, and asked my daughter which of her classmates she wanted to invite. After offering the name of her “best friend” and a few other nice girls from her class, Jayda rattled off her former nemesis’s name, too. Huh? She says they’re friends now. And the other morning, Jayda waited for this girl in the parking lot so they could hold hands and walk into day care together. I’m not sure if this truce is going to last forever, but for now, I’m hoping the kids have truly worked things out. As I said before, sometimes it’s not so easy to let go of a friend…and sometimes, if the friend turns out to be a decent one (as I hope this little girl will be), you find out you don’t have to, after all. But in the long run, spending time with people who make you feel good about yourself is what counts the most. And I just hope Jayda—and my mother, too—will figure that out.

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