Friday, 17 August 2012

Best friends

There's something so special about a best friend.

Mine is the best - the one human being in the world other than my husband who I can tell anything and everything, who will listen to me bitch and moan and agree with me, then turn around and agree with me when I say the exact opposite in our next conversation. Various best friends moved in and out of my life over the growing up years, but I didn't meet my real bestie until university. We were in residence together in our first year and partied together on occasion, but were really just friendly acquaintances moving in mostly different circles and coming from vastly different backgrounds until we somehow ended up getting an apartment together in second year sort of accidentally and by default. And immediately became the very best of best friends for life.

I don't know what I would do without her.

When we finished university and I moved out, she said it felt like we were getting divorced. After a few years of living together, it really was like cutting out a part of ourselves to have to separate and go start our real lives a couple of hours away in opposite directions. But of anyone I know, and more than anyone I know, she has remained my real best friend ever since - new friends come and go (although I'm not much for new friends - remember that Seinfeld episode? "When you're in your thirties it's very hard to make a new friend. Whatever the group is that you've got now, that's who you're going with. You're not interviewing, you're not looking at any new people, you're not interesting in seeing any applications...When I meet a guy...I'm sure you're a very nice person, you seem to have a lot of potential, but we're just not hiring right now." That's pretty much me.) I've met some lovely people through work and the kids, I still hang out with the same people from high school and through the magic of Facebook have reconnected with old friends and grown closer to a lot of old acquaintances. But my bestie is my bestie and the only one I'm sure will still be my bestie when we're old and grey and getting together for tea and Metamucil instead of cocktails.

Best friends are a much less permanent idea for kids. For little kids, the whole notion of friendship is very fluid and based on much more lenient criteria than teens and adults. You like to ride bikes and play soccer? I like to ride bikes and play soccer! Let's be best friends. Oh, wait, you sit beside me in class? You'll be my best friend!

My kids have had some wonderful besties over the years. My eldest's best friend in kindergarten was about a foot and a half taller than every other kid in the class, built like a rugby player and often mistaken for a fifth- or sixth-grader, but was the softest-spoken, sweetest little boy in the world. They used to hug good morning and good-bye every day in the yard at school. Heart-melting. The next year they were in different classes and his second-best friend moved up in the rankings because he was in my son's class. Those two could play soccer for hours without a break and when they got a fit of the giggles it seemed like they'd never stop. By the end of every slumber party they'd be finishing each other's sentences like an old married couple. I was heartbroken when we moved and only saw his old friends once or twice more before they sort of drifted away, but I had a much harder time with the idea than he did. Eldest Child is one of those easy, breezy outgoing kids who attracts friends as easily as his breathes. He met his new best friend his first day at his new school and they've been inseparable ever since. Middle Child is quite shy by comparison, but he has one little best buddy who shares his love of superheroes and Star Wars. They play together every recess. I was walking past the school during lunch hour the other day and saw them running down the big hill in the school yard, holding hands. I could have died - too cute.

Best friends are so important. A best friend gives a kid the confidence to be goofy, to try new things, to screw up. Best friends help kids develop an identity outside of Mom & Dad and brothers. Best friends teach kids about loyalty and sharing. A best friend gives a kid a port of safety in the world outside the safe harbour of home and family, a sense of belonging and acceptance. I'm so glad my kids have found themselves some best friends. And even though their best friends will probably change a dozen times before they find a real best friend for life, every one who passes through their lives will help them learn and grow and become better little people.

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