“Mommy, do I have to have a BFF?” – CurlyQ
I can’t tell you how many times over the past couple of years that I have been asked that question. It is usually posed after a birthday party or an event where her girlfriends tend to pair off with their closest pal – not her. Occasionally the question is asked after a particularly tough day on the school playground at recess.
My answer is usually pretty consistent and open-ended, “Sweetheart – you don’t have to have just one best friend. You can have any number of GOOD friends. ”
And each time she asks I’m brought back to that stage in my own childhood. I was pretty shy at her age and really only had one good friend when I started going to school. She wasn’t shy at all and had lots of friends, and I would get sad and feel left out and lonely sometimes, not knowing whether or not I was as important to her as she was to me. I was a bit of a thinker.
But I try not to share my personal experiences with my daughter unless the moment warrants an example. I do this because she is so very different from me and I am thankfully aware of that fact.
CurlyQ is a very friendly child. She doesn’t meet a stranger. She is creative and cute and outgoing. She adapts easily to situations and has fun wherever she goes. She’s also very confident and likes to be in charge. OK. Maybe we have that in common.
She has several close friends, but I’m not sure about the whole BFF thing. She has one friend that she considers a BFF because they really are good friends AND they have a secret handshake and she’s “never had a secret handshake with anyone else before.” She has several other friends that she enjoys spending time with, but I still see how one-sided those friendships are.
So as CurlyQ is about to begin second grade, I know that she is entering a part of her life where her play dates will be less and less orchestrated by me and more than likely to come in the request form. She’ll be asking me tough questions like, “Can ‘so and so’ come over to play/sleepover? Why can’t I go over to ‘so and so’s’ house? Why do you have to know ‘so and so’s’ parents before I can play with them? Can you just drop me off without coming in?”
She is starting to choose who she likes to spend time with.
And I’m good with that. Thrilled even. Because I trust her judgment and her character.
But the BFF thing is still gnawing at me a little. There is so much pressure on young girls to have a BFF. There are clothing lines dedicated to it. TV shows about it. Books and games touting the idea that every single girl needs to have one very special BFF.
So I did what any good mom would do on the topic.
I polled my Facebook friends about their opinion on BFF’s.
And, as expected, they had some great answers. Here are a few highlights:
- “G once told me that all her friends are her very best friends because ‘they are all the best,’ so it doesn’t have to be a ranking term. But, I think there is a possibility of exclusion and hurt feelings that parents have be aware of and be ready to help our kids deal with if they come up.”
- “That’s a tough one. As great as the feeling is to have a BFF, I am always afraid someone is going to get left out and feelings will get hurt. I try to encourage M to have lots of GREAT friends hoping everyone will be included. That being said, it is pretty special knowing you have someone who can share anything with and you have that very close connection with.”
- “Girls are so fickle. One day your friends are being mean to you and next you are all happily playing. Mine don’t have one exclusive friend, they have several. And I encourage more than one… I don’t tell them who to be friends with. I ask them how they feel when they are with that person. Do you feel good about yourself after? I think it’s good to have those close relationships, but I think the BFF might change through the years.”
- “As many as you can have, get ’em. Friends will shift and change with age. I have discovered in adulthood who my true BFF’s were growing up, because they still love me now, even over many, many, many miles. And the best part? I’m still making them! But truthfully, it can be nearly impossible to make friends with people who only have a BFF mentality.”
A few themes ran through the wise posts I received in response to my question. And it made me feel a little bit better about what I was already doing with my own little girl.
I plan to keep the conversation open with my daughter about friendship. I’m going to encourage deep friendships with people that she enjoys being around and that make her feel good about herself. I’m also going to remind her not to let her friendship with someone hurt others. But most importantly I am going to listen. And be there with the chocolate when she’s been hurt by a friend.
“Mommy, who is your BFF?” – CurlyQ
My answer is always the same. Her Daddy is truly my BFF. And a handful of girlfriends that have stuck by my side through thick and thin through many, many years – including my aforementioned “first” friend. These are people that I can pick right back up with no matter how much time has passed. And I didn’t realize that until I became an adult, and neither will she.
I know that my little girl has some heartache in store as she navigates the channels of friendship and begins to make connections with people that she wants to spend time with. She has already had her feelings hurt a little and dealt with rejection. And I can do little to prevent it from happening. I am proud of the friendships she is making – and the friend that she is to others.
And I’m so thankful that I am not alone as I navigate the choppy territory of girls and friendship. I guess it will prep us for what lies ahead with those same girls when they discover boys.