Friendships are extremely important. They make a lifelong impact on us and shape who we are and who we become, and they start early on in life. My daughter has been in the friendship making stage for a little over a year now (so, clearly she's a seasoned pro), but I still worry about her every day, especially as a new mom and especially as she continues to go out into the world and make new relationships with different people. My mind worries and wonders and as I watch her befriend someone on the playground, I can't help but think the things every new mom thinks when she watches her kid make friends. Will she make the right decisions? Will her friends hurt her, or help her? Will they be positive influences, or negative ones. Guys, my daughter is a toddler and, yes, I'm already worried.
When I watched my daughter interact with other kids for the first time, I'll admit that I was worried. Excited, but worried. I didn't want her to hurt the other kid by accident and I didn't want the other parent to take offense to anything she did or potentially said. I was also excited for her to make a new friend and start being more independent and hoped that this interaction would end in smiles, instead of tears.
I also was brought back to my childhood with my first set of close friends and began to think about the future and what my daughter's memories of her friends might be like. Whether your friendships last your whole life or for just a short amount of time, you're impacted by the people who bring into your life and, well, I want my daughter to be positively impacted. So, as I watch my daughter make new friends, there are many thoughts that run through my head, including the following:
"I Hope This Goes Well"
We've taught them all we can and we can continue to try to teach them but when it's time to sit back and watch them start to navigate the world on their own, we pray really hard that they remember all we've attempted to instill in them, even if it's something simple like, "Don't hit other people," or, "You need to share."
I mean, I can't be standing next to my daughter 24/7 when she goes to school or plays at the playground or makes friends. This is my opportunity to sit back and lightly supervise, but letting go of complete control and trusting that things will turn out alright is, you know, hard.
"This Kid Better Be Nice"
We may have taught our kids, but we haven't taught our kids' friends. We have to sit back and trust that their parents did a good job raising them and that they won't hurt out child or get our child in trouble, leading them down a bad path. We can't pick our children's friends for them. We can only hope and pray they choose wisely and that we have helped teach them how to choose friends well.
"This Is So Exciting!"
It's another milestone you look forward to. I mean, your kid is growing up and fostering relationships and building connections and this means they're evolving into complex human beings.
This also means you get a few moments to yourself which, you know, is pretty awesome.
"Who Are That Kid's Parents?"
We all parent differently, which is a wonderful thing but can also be somewhat of a scary thing. You don't know what your kids' friends are being taught, or who is doing the teaching. It's not a good idea to judge, obviously, but when it comes to your children you want to know who will potentially be influencing them.
"Wait, Does This Mean I Have To Make Friends, Too?"
The down side of your kid being social is that, well, you will probably have to be social, too. Sometimes this is wonderful, because who doesn't like interacting with other people and making friends. Other times, well, you don't want to talk to anyone ever and people are the worst and you just want to sit alone for a few seconds without being interrupted. Sigh.
"Yeah, I Should Befriend The Other Kid's Parents"
Well, if they're going to be friends for a while, I should at least be familiar with the other kid's parents, right? I mean, our children may be doing parties and gymnastics and ballet and soccer together. We'll be seeing a lot of each other. Why not form a friendship out of it for myself? We already have in common that we have kids this age.
"Oh, Please Don't Hit Anyone..."
Toddlers tend to hit, because they're toddlers and they haven't learned how to communicate or correctly process their emotions. They get frustrated and, in absence of the right communication skills, they hit. It's not OK, though, and something every parent (hopefully) tries to teach their kid to stop.
So, when your kid hits someone on the playground, it can't help but feel like an indication of your own parenting. In other words, it's embarrassing (not to mention, mean) and you don't want it to happen at all for a number of legitimate reasons.
"...And Please Don't Throw Anything"
I know we taught you that throwing is OK, when you have something like a baseball or a football, but throwing toys at other people is never OK. It's confusing yes, and just another lesson about social conduct that will, probably, take some time to sink in.
Again, it's pretty normal for toddlers to throw (especially if they're upset) but it doesn't make it any less embarrassing or unacceptable.
"OMG They're Sharing! They're Actually Sharing!"
When you see your kid, and another kid, getting along and playing kindly and no one is crying or getting upset, it kind of feels surreal. Like, "Wow, they're actually being friends and connecting and this is so emotional."
"Will They Be Best Friends Forever?"
This could be the start of a brand new, wonderful, lifelong friendship. Right? Like, they're going to be best buds and go off to college together and live next door for the remainder of their days?! OK, it's a stretch, but it's exciting.
"My Kid Is Growing Up So Fast"
Wasn't my child just learning how to sit up? Maybe even roll over? Wait, didn't I just give birth? Now she's off into the world, making friends and needing me less and less and less. Wow.
"I Remember My Childhood Friends"
Oh, nostalgia. Watching my daughter play with other kids makes me think back to my first childhood friends and all the crazy adventures we used to have: jumping into the neighbor's yard and then back across to chase the dog, running through the sprinklers and summertime popsicles on the porch, ballet and gymnastics and parties. I hope she has much fun and makes as many wonderful memories as I did.