My then-4 year old announced proudly from the back row of the minivan, “I have lots of friends, but I don’t need any of them!”
We were discussing my still-6 year old’s efforts to make new friends at summer camp. The older sister was stoic. She’d “almost made a friend” that day, but that almost-friend ran in to a full-on-friend midday so the new friendship fizzled. She’d try again tomorrow, with a new friend prospect, and her stated strategy was to be herself and “find a friend that likes math games as much as [she] does.”
It was equal parts heart-breaking and heart-warming to hear her process her feelings about friendship out loud. Her sister’s response, eschewing all need for friends carried the same balance in my heart. I was proud of her independence but I was also quick to tell her she was wrong. As wrong as you can be about anything. Like as wrong as a same-day-only free ticket to an all you can eat sushi, store-bought hummus, unpasteurized soft cheese and Champagne tasting buffet for a first-time, 12 weeks pregnant lady. (I say first-time, because…well, I would have taken the ticket the second and third times around).
She surely didn’t need a lot of friends, but I guaranteed her that she did in fact need some–or at least one.
Friends, I told her, are a necessity. Everyone comes to a point (or a thousand points) in life, when a friend is the difference between being tossed overboard and clear sailing. Friends can carry you over a bridge when you are frozen with fear of falling, or wake you up when you’re unconscious in a sorrow or shame-induced zombie slumber–these are the kind of points in life when friends come in handy. And those points will come, no matter how self-sufficient you are.
My mom would tell me that no one comes in to the world alone, and no one makes it through this world completely alone. Boy, was she right. She had an incredible tribe of true friends that were with her until she wasn’t here anymore, and they are still with my sister and me today. Cheering us on from afar and sharing memories of the tremendous friend they had in her, just when we need them most.
Still, I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t always been a great friend. My internal Rolodex is filled with the names of people I’ve let down or was otherwise just a crappy friend to–but luckily, most of them have forgiven me. Why? Because that’s what friends do.
This past weekend I got to spend 60 hours with some of my dearest friends. These ladies, including my spectacular once-little sister, have righted ships for me and light-as-a-feather-stiff-as-a-boarded me over Grand Canyons of hard times. They’ve been right when I was wrong more times than I’d like to admit, and I love them. I need them. We all need people like them.
Yesterday, the kids and I were discussing what we’ll do now that our sweet dog is gone. Of course, they want a new puppy–or a Siberian lynx right away. We were talking about how way before they were in my life, my constant friend was that fluffy pup Hudson, and how we’d probably wait to replace her because I was going to be sad for a while.
My now-5 year old put her hand on my back and said, “Don’t be sad mama, we’re your friends now.”
Her big sister then said, “Yup, we’re your friends. But my sister is really my best friend so you need a different one.”
“That’s right,” said the 5 year old. “She’s my best friend. Friends are the best kind of people in your life. And you need a new animal to be your best friend…maybe we can get a lynx? They’re very good at catching critters and I think I saw a mouse in the basement the other day.”
We went on to talk about all the ways our friends help us in our lives and how we can help them.
Putting the potential rodent problem aside, my heart swelled bigger than my gut after those 60 hours of ice cream and beer with my very own perfect pals. Six months after that post-summer camp drive-time pow wow about the need for friends, and more importantly the right friends, both girls seemed to understand the true importance of friends.
My girls would make it through this world, because they had each other. And I would make it through with my very own sisterly side-kick and a whole band of other friends that I, truly, could not live [the life I want] without.