Kids & Friendships

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Little kids are so vulnerable and open … much of the time life happens TO them and they are simply along for the ride. But when it comes to little kids and friendship, at a certain point, just about when a child is zeroing-in on 10-years-old, it’s time for them to know how to pick their friends.

What’s a friend? I asked my 9-year-old. He tried to answer that, swinging his feet, perched on a kitchen chair while I chopped an onion nearby.

“Um, someone who doesn’t tell on you.”

“Yeah, I’d agree with that,” Chop, chop.  Friends take care of each other … what else?”

“Um ….. someone …. who …. likes to play sports?”

“Well, I mean, yeah,” Chop, chop. But let’s talk about why YOU might like someone.”

“Oh … um …ummmmmmm …… because he’s funny?”

“Oh, yeah! You LOVE to laugh and cut up and have a good time, so I agree that for YOU a good friend is someone who enjoys that YOU enjoy having fun and jokes and stuff. And maybe he does too, but he doesn’t have to.”

“He doesn’t?”

“No. If he’s your friend, it’s OK with him that you love to laugh and have fun but he doesn’t HAVE to be just like you. He can be really different from that and THAT’S all right with you. It’s just that you’d want him to enjoy and like your sense of humor, you know?”

“Oh.”

“You know what, honey?”

“What?” Still swinging the legs, looking at his lap, listening.

“A good friend is someone who wants you to be happy. Someone who will not hurt you on purpose and someone who is just soooo easy to hang out with that you can talk about stuff really easily.”

“Ok, Mom.”

He was done. And he went to brush his teeth before heading off to school for the day. The backstory on this: A boy at school had told him that he didn’t believe he had a “shock pen,” and that if he discovered he had told a lie he was going to tell the principal and he was going to have to go and see the principal. In the world of a 9-year-old, that’s huge. My boy had thought that he was going to go and sit in the principal’s office to be scolded. My boy thought that maybe THIS boy was a friend, so I had to clarify.

“Even if you don’t have a “shock pen,” whatever that is, he didn’t have to scare you. Real friends don’t do that … But real friends also tell each other the truth. It works both ways, for both friends, you see?”

“Yeah. OK MOM!”

“Wait — Do you have a shock pen?”

“Umm … no. But he was acting all big about this airsoft guns and I didn’t like it!”

“Ok, buddy. But stick to the truth so you don’t get yourself mixed up in lies.”

“Ok.” And off he went.

But not before I could give him a big hug at the front door.

I looked him in his rich, blue eyes and said, “You’re a great guy! And anybody’d be lucky to have YOU for a friend!”

Susan Day is editor-in-chief of Cincinnati Family Magazine and a mother of four.

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