Moms know the deep value of female friendship, and the impact it has on our well-being. We all need the friend who finishes our sentences, calls us on our crap, and shows up with a latte when the day has been just too rough to handle without a hug and some caffeine. The importance of female friendships has even been shown to literally affect health and improve the quality of life for some women. But how do we learn to be a good friend — and even more importantly, how do we learn to be a best friend?
We worry about many aspects of our kids’ lives, from their education to their screen time to their friendships. Despite the fact that a truly connected pair of pals can look effortless from a distance, sustaining a close friendship can require a lot of work, even as kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics outlines some steps parents can take to help children foster strong connections, such as teaching them what qualities to look for in a friend, setting up playdates, and setting good examples with their own relationships. But sometimes, kids just click. Romper virtually sat down in conversation with three pairs of self-declared best friends and their moms to find out how they keep their friendships going, and what makes their relationships so life-giving.
Edelweiss and Olive, Age 4, Southern Idaho
These two BFFs live in the same small rural town, and their families are close as well. Their moms “do life together” on a regular basis, from camping to playdates to church. They have seen the girls develop a blossoming friendship since babyhood that Olive and Edelweiss are now just beginning to really verbalize. Though they may be young, the two girls already have big plans for the future. (Editor's note: This entire conversation is set to endless giggles.)
So, you two are best friends? When did you meet?
Edelweiss: Yeah we are!
Olive: We were too little to remember when we met.
Edelweiss: I think I was 1.
Olive: I think I was 2.
Edelweiss: No, we are both the same age so if I was 1, you were 1.
Olive: Oh, yes!
Edelweiss: It is pretty fun being a friend!
What does that mean? To be a friend?
Edelweiss: We like to play dress-up at her house.
Olive: I like to hold her cats. Ronnie and Muggles.
Edelweiss: Sometimes we switch names! She is Edelweiss and I am Olive! And we just went on a llama trip!
Olive: It’s a real life llama and we can walk them and hold them so they don’t run away. Parents and kids can hold them. The llamas carry all our stuff for camping.
Edelweiss: We just had to carry a little, just our water. They carried our tent. I slept in a tent, but Ollie slept in a fort in a little nest.
We will be friends until we die, and then friends up in heaven.
So, you guys sound like good friends. Camping and playing together. What makes someone a good friend?
Edelweiss: Well, not hurting people and being kind.
Olive: I like to be friends with Edelweiss because she be’s kind to me and I be kind to her.
Did you ever have a disagreement?
Edelweiss: One time Ollie took something from me.
Olive: Sometimes she hurts me. But I forgive her.
Edelweiss: Because I am her best friend, she forgives me.
When you think about the future, what are you excited about together?
Edelweiss: Well, I want to play in a pool again. Oh, when I am a grown-up? I want to be a mom. We are going to do shows. Me and Ollie are going to have a big farm.
So you will have shows on the farm?
Edelweiss: Well, that is a great idea we hadn’t thought of.
Olive: We will have a lot of animals on our farm.
Edelweiss: And then we will be friends until we die, and then friends up in heaven.
Lila and Abby, Age 8, Beaver, Pennsylvania
Lila and Abby hit it off immediately, according to their moms. For Abby’s mom, Naomi, this was particularly monumental since her daughter has autism spectrum disorder. As many parents of kids with disabilities know, it can be difficult to help kids connect with others. Lila has known about Abby’s diagnosis since they first met, but it hasn’t held the pair back. “Their friendship has always been based on mutual interests, and they have an amazing personality match," Naomi says. “There’s never been any facilitating with them because it was organic and natural — Lila wasn’t the kid that was helping out the autistic kid with a task or was intentionally kind to her because she had more supports. They just sprouted on their own, and it was pretty amazing to see unfold what didn’t seem to comfortably unfold for Abby with other peers.”
Lila, when asked, agreed. “I know about her autism and it doesn’t change us. Sometimes she just needs to be calm or alone and that’s OK with me. I’ll wait for her.”
How did you two meet?
Lila: We met in kindergarten. We always colored and did crafts together and stuff. That’s our favorite thing to do together.
Abby: I don’t remember how we met! But we’ve been best friends for three years now.
What are your favorite things to do together?
Lila: Definitely coloring and crafts, watching movies.
Abby: My favorite thing to do with my best friend is coloring.
Did you ever have a fight or disagreement?
Lila: No, I don’t even remember. I don’t think so.
I want to have all of it with Abby: live next to her, be artists together, be best friends always.
How has coronavirus affected your friendship?
Lila: We just couldn’t have playdates as much, which was hard. No school. We stayed at home, video chatted, texted each other, then we moved into the green phase! First we could see each other a little bit outside, then inside a little bit.
Abby: It’s getting better, the coronavirus. We don’t get to see each other as much, but we can always FaceTime. Mom, can we do that later? FaceTime Lila?
Why is she your best friend?
Lila: She’s awesome, positive, loving, kind; she's all those good things.
Abby: The nicest thing is she gets me gifts sometimes.
When you are grown-ups, what will your friendship be like? What plans do you have to do together when you are grown up?
Lila: I want to have all of it with Abby: live next to her, be artists together, be best friends always. I can’t wait till we can go to Starbucks together every morning. We can go get ice cream together too.
Abby: We can go out to dinner and desserts when we are grown-ups. We can also have an artist business together.
What is the best part about having a best friend? Even if you have other good friends, what is special about a BFF?
Lila: It’s more special with a BFF because you get a lot more hugs and laugh a lot more together.
Abby: I have so much fun with Lila. She's my BFF. She’s the best.
Aubrie and Amira, Age 12, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The oldest pair of BFFs we talked to have begun to really think introspectively about friendship as middle school begins and relationships become more complicated. As adulthood looms, many friendships are put to the test at this stage of life. One 2015 study in Psychological Science showed that only 1% of friendships formed in seventh grade were still intact at the end of high school, and that those with staying power were able to navigate differences regarding class, race, achievement, and values. For Aubrie, who is white, and Amira, who is Black, their friendship includes ongoing dialogue between them and their families about equity and social justice. Open conversations about tough topics are a must at this age.
How long have you two been friends? When did you meet?
Amira: Since kindergarten, which is eight years. We are going into seventh now.
Aubrie: We were in the same school since kindergarten, but then we had to switch because of coronavirus. It is hard, but since both schools are online, we wouldn’t see each other anyways at school. [Editor’s note: Aubrie’s parents chose a different school for the 2020-21 school year, seeking specific opportunities that would be available in the fully online format their family felt comfortable with.]
Amira: We were on the phone today even though we were on Zoom classes, muted.
What has allowed your friendship to sustain this long?
Amira: It's about how we trust each other, tell each other everything and anything, then the other person can help you through it.
Aubrie: Also Jesus. We go to the same church. We’ve been friends since kindergarten, but we started becoming really good friends in fourth grade because we started doing student ministries together. It's all online right now, but we are starting to meet in small groups soon. We see each other a lot. She practically lives in my car, we are always going somewhere, and so I guess actual social interaction is really important, not just online. And also we aren't on phones all the time when we are together.
Amira: We are actually interacting with each other. Not texting other people or anything.
How has the pandemic affected your friendship?
Aubrie: We’ve basically been quarantining at each other’s houses most of the time. If I have COVID, she has COVID... My mom doesn’t trust anyone but her mom with the whole corona situation.
What has been the biggest challenge of your friendship?
Amira: One of the challenges is other people butting into our friendship.
Aubrie: Yeah, other people in general. We are best friends but she has other friends I am not friends with.
Amira: Basically, we have no mutual friends.
Aubrie: But she blocked a lot of them recently... They are kinda fake, but now she has realized it.
Amira: One person was trying to drag me one way, and another drag me another way... Being quarantined together helped that transition happen. We haven’t seen anyone else all summer.
If they are going through something, then go through it with them. It's all about trust or your friendship will fall apart.
As you look to the future, how do you envision your friendship?
Amira: She's going to be the godmomma of my kids!
Aubrie: We are not going to be able to go to the same high school because of the program she is trying to get into for a better college. We hope we can get into the same college, but if we don’t we will stay in touch either way.
Amira: I want to go to either UCLA or Columbia University because of their writing programs. I will buy an apartment and live with you.
Aubrie: Yes! That's what my mom did with her friend in college.
So, as a pair of BFFs of different races in a time of high racial tension in your city and the country, how have you navigated that?
Amira: The other day I passed by a Black man who didn't have a shirt on and he was handcuffed in the back of a police car, and they were searching all over his car. My mom wanted to get out and say something. We were recording it, but someone pushed us out of the way so we had to leave.
Aubrie: She started texting me. I was like, “What is wrong?” She said she couldn't breathe, she was so upset. She said she was hungry, so I told her to drive past my house. I took a snack out to her, gave her a hug, and she went home. I can't be in that situation because I am not Black, so I don't understand what it feels like. I don’t think it's correct or right, but I don't understand what it's like to be scared about it because I am not Black.
Amira: But thank you for trying.
Aubrie: Yes, I try and offer comfort.
Amira: Thank you for your empathy.
You two are the oldest friends we interviewed. What advice would you give the younger girls?
Aubrie: If they are going through something, then go through it with them. It's all about trust or your friendship will fall apart.
Amira: Always have your friend’s back.