Friendship is critical whether you’re a child, a teenager, or a middle-aged parent wrapped in the obligations of parenthood and the pressures of being the breadwinner for a family. Friendship is like a leash for the young. It might be counterintuitive. Many of us show concern for the young, attaching themselves to the wrong crowd. ‘Birds of a feather flock together,” we say as our adolescent charges roll their eyes. “Choose your friends wisely,” we advise. “Don’t be swayed by peer pressure,” we warn. As a parent, I’ve spent many a worrisome moment fretting about my children’s choices. My angst welling up as I debate within myself, should I intervene or let the chips fall. Regardless, children have a way of finding their errors no matter how well a parent might guide, direct, and prepare a path before them.
It is almost a stunning achievement, the masterful skill our kids use to maneuver our frantically laid guideposts, jump the fences, and get to just the specific circumstances we most assuredly wanted to prevent them from getting to. Their eyes wide and wondering as we ask in desperation, “What were you thinking?” Hopeless, at the end of our rope, totally worn down and lost, we slump.
Digging up a valuable gem from antiquity, we can find Aristotle quoting a simple but powerful proverb, “Two going together,” and writing, “what is not possible to you alone is possible to you with your friend.” The truth he depicts is a strong one. We are better together. We bind with others, and our synergy allows us to achieve and accomplish more than we ever could singularly. We thrive in a community. This is the nature of our very existence.
Friendship provides the necessary spark to ignite and drive us and balance to temper our reactive impulse decision making. Good company doesn’t always happen by accident. It requires cultivation. Our kids need to know this, so I am not suggesting moms and dads stop being vigilant about their teens. I’m just suggesting that we remember that true friendships – the real deal – the ones we choose carefully, foster, and take care of, are crucial no matter our age. Our friendships are helpful, pleasant, and precious. Let us teach our children how to foster such relationships in their own lives.