My daughters were in some ways, atypical from most kids when they were growing up. We wanted them to be kids and not allow society to grow them up quickly. We placed limits on what they watched on tv and how often they played video games and encouraged them to use their creative minds. They read, created, played. When they were outside, they found adventures waiting for them. They climbed trees, played in the mud, wrote stories, made cookies and used their imaginations. What made their adventures that much greater was their friendship. I still remind them to this day, "Your best friend will always be the one that has stuck by you from the very beginning and that friend is your sister".
When it was time for them to make friends on their own, I worried how it would affect them. Would they find friends that appreciated their loving spirits and their quirky personalities? Would their friends really "get" their jokes? How about their fears? Would their friends reach out?
Letting go was hard but I knew that it was time. I sent Ev'Yan to school with a beautifully, (at least I thought so) handmade t-shirt. I had embellished it with decorative jewels, ribbon and paint. What a cutie she was walking into the classroom on her first day. As I stood outside the classroom waiting for class to end, I anticipated hearing about her new friendships and adventures made that day. Instead, she calmly walked out of the classroom with the ribbons untied in her hair and her t-shirt destroyed. All of the ribbons, paint and jewels were gone.
I waited until we were in the car before asking her, "What happened to your shirt?"
She shrugged her shoulders and said, "I guess they all fell off."
I knew that there was somehow, more to the story that she wasn't telling. The truth came out when her teacher called. She said, "Ev'Yan had a hard time sitting still in circle time today. She wouldn't pay attention. I think maybe it was because she was busy pulling off the things on her shirt, giving them to the kids nearby."
My heart sunk. After I hung up the phone, I called her to sit with me. "Ev'Yan, the teacher said that you pulled off the ribbons, paint and jewels on your shirt and gave them to the kids during circle time. Is that true?"
She looked at me, eyes huge. "Well, I didn't want to but then a boy asked for one of the jewels. I gave him one 'cause I wanted him to be my friend. Then, another girl asked for one, so I gave her one. Before I knew it, my shirt wasn't pretty anymore."
She had sacrificed something she liked and that I had worked hard to create, because she wanted friends. Where had I gone wrong in teaching her about friendships? I reflected on what I told her about friendships that day. "In order to have friends, you must be friendly. Friends are like the jewels on your shirt. You treasure them because of who they are on the inside, not what they are on the outside. When you have a true friend, you'll know for sure that that friend will always be there for you, no matter if you're having a good day or a bad one."
Years later, I see that little girl in me, wanting to give what I have to make friends. Here in Oregon, I'm happier than I've ever been, but I'm friendless. I'm not quite ready to pull the jewels off of my shirt though. I realize that I can reach out and give out smiles, (their free) or lend a hand or pray for someone that needs it. I bake a mean chocolate chip cookie too. When the time comes, I'm certain, I'll find the precious treasure that friendship brings.
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