I used to joke that the most important gift my children could get from my husband was his metabolism. He’s the kind of person who can eat a loaded Chipotle burrito and a piece of chocolate cake and then be hungry—and skinny—two hours later. Why wouldn’t I want my children to have that?
But there’s something even more important than low BMI that I want my kids to get from their Dad: the ability to foster friendship over the course of many, many years.
My husband’s best friends are guys he went to high school and college with. When we travel home to see his folks, we spend hours on the highways of L.A., traveling to and fro to see the men who have meant so much to my husband all his life. He holds his friends close and has for more than 25 years.
I haven’t done that—not because I didn’t want to, but I didn’t know how. I still don’t, actually. I have friends from earlier points in my life that I “see” on social media, but I don’t reach out to them personally. By the time I realized that other people kept in touch beyond liking the pictures of each other’s cute babies and puppies, it felt like it was too late. I didn’t have the skills to reach back and reconnect. Too much time had passed.
How could I possibly instruct my son on making lifelong friends in kindergarten, when I could barely name a single kid from my own class?
I never learned how to hold on to friends even when I was moving on to a new phase.
People say it’s a “guy thing” to keep friends forever, but I see women I went to high school with vacationing together. I marvel at their girls’ weekends in Vegas and Napa Valley. Their children are growing up together; they are the godparents for each other’s kids. I wonder how they accomplished this intimacy that eludes me.
My siblings have this skill is spades. My brother’s best friend is a guy he went to kindergarten with. My sister’s bridesmaids were her high school friends. I, on the other hand, didn’t invite a single high school friend to my wedding. Only one college friend made the cut, and that was in spite of how bad I am at staying in touch.
It’s not like I had a bad time in high school or college. In that eight-year span of my life, I always had friends, was involved in student government and activities like theatre and service projects. I wasn’t a wallflower, but I couldn’t hold on to the relationships. They slipped out of my hands when I moved to the next phase.
Today, my kids are forming friendships that are meaningful to them. I set up their playdates and socialize with the parents of their BFFs. I do my part to ensure that they have strong social attachments. But I can’t teach them how to hold on to these friends. I have no idea how my daughter should proceed so that her wedding party is filled with the faces of the little girls she’s already met in grammar school. And how could I possibly instruct my son on making lifelong friends in kindergarten, when I could barely name a single kid from my own class?
I don’t know how to coach them in the fine art of “making new friends and keeping the old.” This is one area where they’re going to have to take their cues from Daddy because Mommy has no clue.