Remember that song we sang as kids? “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” Does that mean our new friends are silver and our old ones are gold? Or maybe it’s the other way around. How about platinum friends? I’ve definitely got a few platinum friends and probably some bronze, copper, nickel, tin and aluminum friends too. The point is – making and keeping friends at any age has it’s challenges and triumphs. We assume making new friends gets easier with age, but honestly I believe it gets harder. You add kids into the mix and your life is no longer your own. You’re lucky if you can squeeze in a lunch date or a girls night out. At some point you realize it’s okay because your true friends are there for you no matter what. Even if you haven’t talked with them in months, you can call them and pick up right where you left off.
I was recently at a lunch with some ladies of all ages and it was fascinating to hear how each of us had friendship challenges. Many of us were moms, some older, some younger. But the common thread was no matter how old we get, we still have to navigate the nuances of making new friends, keeping old friends and actually letting some friends go. I had to break the news to my middle-school-aged daughter, who sadly has been the recipient of some mean girl situations, that even when she’s my age, mean girl stuff still happens. Just because I’m in my forties doesn’t mean I have it all figured out. And neither do my friends. But as with most of our life experiences, we can learn and teach our kids through them. Here are my own teachable friend moments, which I hope resonate with you and encourage you.
- Be the kind of friend you want to have in your own life. Or as the saying goes, treat others how you want to be treated. Even Jesus tells us in Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” I know I can be a better friend, and quite honestly, I can be a better friend starting right here in my own home to my husband and kids.
- Don’t take it personally. Ouch. This is the hardest lesson for me to learn because I tend to take everything personal. I’ve had to unlearn this, especially with friends and those I’ve thought were friends. We have to extend grace because we don’t always know what’s going on behind the scenes — Remember, it’s not always about you.
- Don’t over extend yourself with too many friends. I’m a sociable person and involved with a variety of groups. It’s a great thing, but if I’m not careful I’ll run myself ragged trying to plug in everywhere. We can’t be close friends with everyone and it’s okay. It’s like a circle with several outer circles. You have your best friend(s) in the center, then your great friends, then your good friends and then acquaintances. Even that might be too many people for most people.
- Four quarters are better than 100 pennies. Love this nugget of truth my friend Stephanie shared with me. It’s easier and often more meaningful to keep up with a few close friends than trying to keep up with 100. Share this one with your kids when they’re feeling bummed about being left out by a supposed good friend. Or when your child seems content to have just one close friend and you tend to have many. Less is more.
- Friendships go through seasons – just like we do. Our lives are made up of seasons – single, newly married, married with no kids, married with young kids, married with old kids, empty-nesters, senior citizens. All these seasons of life carry with them all sorts of friendships. The friends I had when I was single in New York City are different than the friends I had when as a brand new mom. And now the friends I have in Tampa as a mom with four kids are different than the friends I had in college or even high school. But if we’re lucky, we keep friends from all seasons of life – the gold ones, the silver ones and every metal one in between.
- Learn to say sorry. If you offend your friend, apologize and show empathy. It’s inevitable we will hurt and get our feelings hurt in friendships. We’re only human. How you handle it when it happens is what is important. If you’re in it for the long haul, do the work to stay friends and communicate how you feel and listen to how they feel. It’s easier said than done. Sometimes it’s easier not to say anything, not to be uncomfortable and to move on to other friends. But who benefits? – no one. On the other hand, if you’ve tried to communicate and the friend isn’t interested, learn to let them go and move on. Life is too short and too full as parents to be bogged down with someone who doesn’t want or know how to be a friend.
- Cultivate your friendships. Relationships grow stronger when we give them our time and attention. Sometimes though we’re in the throws of parenthood and we can’t squeak out the time we’d like to be a good friend. In these cases, even a quick phone call to say hello, or a text to say you’re thinking about them is a good start. When we give our time and energy to something, good things come out of it.
- Manage your expectations. One friend can’t be your all-in-all. Your spouse might come close, but realize your friends can’t meet your every need, and therefore don’t put those expectations on them. Actually don’t put those expectations on anyone, not even your spouse. Only the one who created us can meet our every need and God know us the deepest. When it comes to friends, we each offer something different and unique to one another. I have one longtime friend who I know when I call her, she will make me belly laugh about the hardships of motherhood. I have another friend who when we get together for coffee, she knows how to go deep into the heart of spiritual things which matter. And another friend who keeps it light and fun. Know your friends’ capabilities and keep your expectations real.
Friendships are a gift and I’m blessed to have some fabulous women in my life. Thank you to ALL my friends over all the seasons of my life. I love each of you more than you know.