"Oh, if I could hear myself when I say
Oh, love is bigger than anything in it's way..."
It was like every teen friendship movie we've ever seen, except played out in grade school. The part where mutual friend X stops hanging out with group Y and starts hanging out more with group Z, based on whatever reasons friend X has.
Such is the circle of the modern free-society life. And that's fine, because the Mama (what I affectionately call my wife) and I have been through it; many of us have. But we also don't want our girls to sacrifice one friendship for another, especially during these preteen years when overlapping relationships can sour and lines are drawn, and all regardless of what we think as the parents and who they should be friends with (as long as it's not destructive relationship). Where the peer pressure overwhelms many of us and forces us to choose -- or unfortunately we're selected out by the very friends we thought we had and the groups we thought we belonged to -- or we self-select altogether.
In this case, friend X is Beatrice, our oldest, who like me her father has an empathic heart and friendly disposition that makes her accessible to girls and boys of many backgrounds. Again, it's easier as a kid to have multiple friendships, learning to trust and respect others based on shared likes versus dividing each other based on gender, race or varied interests and beliefs. It's bad enough how some men end up treating women later in life (i.e., devaluing them, harassing them, bullying each other, assaulting them, etc.), as well as how women end up treating women (and/or all of the above). It becomes a complex destructive mess leaving painful scars and potentially years of therapy in its wake depending on the severity. (Read this article and this article for painful reminders of our adult realities.)
So friend X is Beatrice and let's call group Y the puppy club and group Z the kitten club (the names aren't really the important part, although it is important to note that they were clubs they formed and they're all girls except for one boy in the puppy club). Beatrice played everyday during recess and lunch with her friends in the puppy club, and then one day the kitten club was formed, but not everyone from the puppy club was invited to join the kitten club. Not for any particular articulated reason except for just because that's who they wanted.
Beatrice loved playing in both clubs, but started spending more time with the kitten club. Then the puppy club's feelings were hurt.
That's when the puppy club wrote Beatrice a note. A very heartwarming note saying they missed her and wanted her to play again in their club, but not at the expense of the other club. They didn't ask her to be exclusive, just to play with them again sometimes.
So we encouraged Beatrice to think about it and respond to the puppy club, thoughtfully. And that's what she did. She told them she missed them as well and wanted to play, but that she also wanted to play with the kitten club.
The puppy club recommended having a movie night to rekindle their friendship. And that's just what they did. Plus, no puppies or kittens were harmed in the making of this reconciliation and the playing continues. They don't all agree all the time on what they want to do and talk about. Their friendship transcends the differences and these are important life lessons to learn. We're also so proud that Beatrice received an empathy award from school recently.
That's why it's always a good reminder to review some powerful Kidpower lessons, ones that are all about better communication with those important to us. Here are three keys ones from a list of five:
1. Think Before You Speak
Staying mindful about what you say and do can prevent a host of communication problems. If you are feeling so upset that you lash out at someone in a disrespectful way, this can cause damage to the relationship – in the same way that a rock will cause damage if it is thrown through a window. A clean apology with no explanations or justifications will often repair the damage – but it causes less stress and hurt for everyone if you can avoid the damage in the first place.
2. Respect the Other Person’s Point of View
People are different, and seeing things differently is normal. Communicating respect for another person’s point of view does not mean that you are agreeing with it. For example, you might say, “I really respect your point of view, but this is an area where we are going to need to agree to disagree, because I believe differently than you do.” When people feel that you respect their perspectives and feelings, they are more likely to treat your feelings and perspective with respect.
3. Keep Your Heart Connection
When you are important to someone, you have a lot of power and need to use that power wisely. This means that, no matter how much someone’s behavior has frustrated or upset you, you need to separate the behavior from your caring and compassion. None of us are perfect, and all of us make mistakes of different kinds.
Yes, for now their friendship transcends the differences and hopefully will continue to do so. But as the puppy and kitten clubs turn into dogs and cats, transcending the differences gets a lot harder. Our views changes, our beliefs change, our lives change and our friends change, too. Sometimes we just can't come back from friendship setbacks, no matter the reasons.