The moment I found out I was going to be a mother, I started thinking about all the lessons I wanted, needed and would inevitably teach my child. I knew the basics would be covered; how to eat, how to speak, how to count to ten and roll over and walk and tie your shoes. I knew there were bigger and arguably more essential life lessons; equality, feminism, consent, relationships. As I went down my list, I realized there were things I wanted my kid to know about losing friends, too, because the end of a friendship would be an inevitable experience my son was bound to endure.
Sadly (or, honestly, thankfully) I have experienced a few ended friendships. Some were much easier to end than others, but every single friendship that has failed to "stand the test of time" has taught me something valuable; something that I would like to teach my son, or have him learn on his own. While we like to romanticize friendships and build them up as unshakeable bonds that are above reproach, the truth is, friendships are just as flawed as any other relationship involving human beings, and they end just as frequently.
Knowing that my son will have to experience, go through, learn from and survive friendships ending, makes me both excited and somewhat sad for the impending lessons I want to teach him. I can talk to him about friendships and the best and worst parts of both, but I know that he will have to experience them for himself to really learn everything he needs to know, especially when it comes to those friendships ending. So, while I want to help him understand the following, I know that he will have to figure this all out on his own.
As a culture, we like to romanticize relationships in general, even friendships. Whether it's via television shows or movies, we're constantly being bombarded by friendships that are seemingly effortless, last forever, and hardly ever experience any arguments that last longer than a 30 minute episode or two hour flick. While entertaining and endearing, they're not necessarily realistic.
Friendships end. People change and go off in different directions and make different life choices and, sometimes, there's just no logical reason why a friendship should continue. It's OK if your friendships aren't ever-lasting or look like the media friendships we've come to celebrate.
I don't know about you, dear reader, but whenever a friendship or relationship ends, I tend to blame myself. Call me a masochist or a martyr or just dumb, but sometimes it's easier to place blame on yourself, so that you can claim you had some control over the situation, instead of throwing your hands up in the air and saying it was all just inevitable. Turns out, that isn't always the case.
Sometimes, a friendship ends and it's absolutely not your fault. Sometimes, a friendship ends because it's toxic and, honestly, ending that relationship is the absolute best thing for you and your mental health. Other times, friendships just end, and it's no one's fault. I don't want my kid to beat himself up or constantly blame himself for situations that were completely out of his control.
Then again, sometimes it absolutely is your fault, and I want my son to be humble enough to realize when he has messed up and atone for his actions. Sometimes, you just weren't a good friend and you did something that hurt someone else, and an apology is warranted before you both go your separate ways.
I've been there. I've been the reason why friendships didn't work, and I want my son to know that he's not expected to be perfect in any aspect of his life, including his relationships.
I've learned a lot about myself after the end of a friendship. I've learned how much I've changed over the course of a few years, and how those changes inevitably made me distance myself from someone I once cared about. I've learned how to handle heartbreak, because a friendship ending is never easy, even if it's necessary. I've learned what to expect (nay, demand) from a friendship, and that staying in a toxic relationship with someone simply because we've been friends for a certain amount of time, is not wise or healthy.
Yes, it's difficult to see or appreciate the lessons when you're dealing with the aftermath of a "failed" friendship, but I do hope that my son realizes that there's a silver lining and losing a friend, in the end, can actually be beneficial.
Not only do you learn about yourself, you learn about relationships. You learn that people evolve and, as a result, so do the relationships they share. You learn what it really means to be in a healthy relationship, which is never a 50/50 situation, but a constantly swinging pendulum of percentages. One person will always require a little more from the other person; it should just, in the end, balance out. You'll learn how to end relationships the right way (and the wrong way) which will come in handy on more than one occasion.
I've been through my fair share of romantic relationship breakups, and they're no fun. However, my friends are the ones to help me get through it, and relying on them definitely a makes the process much easier.
Which is why a friendship ending is exponentially more difficult than a romantic relationship ending. There's no one there to hold me up or make me feel about it, because that person is no longer part of my life. Relationships come and go, yes, but friendships are "supposed" to last forever, so when they don't your entire world seems nothing short of confusing.
Just because your friendship didn't last forever, doesn't mean that it was meaningless or "fake." Sometimes, things just don't last, but the length of a thing doesn't determine the legitimacy of a thing. I've had some life-changing friendships that, honestly, only lasted a few years. I have learned so much about myself and others because of some friendships that I no longer cherish or hold dear. I'm thankful for them, even though they're no more.
Again, the end of a friendship doesn't mean you've failed on some molecular level, and now you're doomed to experience "bad friendships" for the rest of your days. You're not a bad person just because you're no longer friends with someone. You're just, you know, a human being (and so is that someone you're no longer friends with, so be kind.)
It's impossible for any of us to assume someone will stay in our lives forever. We can make promises, of course, and we can try our best to work through any potential issues that may arise. However, and in the end, sometimes we change so much as human beings, that it no longer makes sense to stay friends with someone we no longer have things in common with, or even particularly like.
People come in and out of our lives for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, they stick around for a very long time. Other times, they are only in our life for a short period of time. Life is complicated and complex and wonderfully painful, and I want my son to know that, well, so are friendships.
I would imagine that my son will end up making friends at a relatively young age (I hope). I'm sure that the good majority of those friendships won't be ever-lasting, and he will go through some difficult friend breakups. Never, ever, do I want to undermine those moments, just because he's a "young person" and doesn't "know the real world" or some other condescending thing that adults tend to say to teenagers when they're going though something emotional.
I want my son to know that he can always come to talk to me (about anything) and I will always lend a sympathetic ear.