My five-year-old daughter came home from school the other day with a friendship letter. It was from a girl two years above her in school, which read “Dear E, you are my second best friend. love R.”
When I first read the note my heart sunk. I felt so rejected on behalf of my daughter. Surprisingly the contents of the note didn’t worry my daughter. She is often writing and receiving little notes from her school friends. This letter exchange was a symbol of their emerging friendship. The note meant more than what the words said at face value. It didn’t say you are my second best friend, it really meant you are a valued friend amongst my circle of friends.
In the seconds that followed my mind was racing a millions miles an hour. How should I respond? For how I respond would have a huge impact on my daughter. I sensed that she would form her own opinion of this note based on my reaction. I had to make a quick decision. Should I share my disappointment with my daughter or let her make up her own mind about what this note had to say? I’m glad I chose to say nothing and waited.
My daughter loved the note. She cherished that note and kept it in her box of treasures. The most important message in the note was knowing she was a friend. My daughter has since received a second note from this girl saying the exact same thing! I still felt uneasy reading this second note. As an adult I see different messages in the note. But my interpretation is not important.
I delight in watching my daughters form friendships at school. Observing the way they choose to interact with others in their age group. Even at this young age I am amazed to see children already showing signs of being conciliatory; being able to negotiate with one another; those who follow the lead of others; and those who are self-confident and do their own thing regardless of others.
Childhood friendships are by and large experimental. There is lots of give and take. Sometimes children only know how to take’ in friendships. At other times they can be timid and give in without challenge. There are a small few who can defend their rights assertively without hurting others.
Friends are of utmost importance to us all. Our closest friends allow us to be ourselves. We can share a joke and not fear being chastised for being improper. Trusted friends allow us to express ourselves in wacky ways, we can share life’s joys as well as life’s sadder moments.
For my children I can help direct their experience to be a positive one. However, there are times when I must remember to let my daughters explore the world of friendships in their own way.