My 13-year-old is struggling with a particular label right now. She can’t decide who her best friend is, or even who her primary friend group is, and it’s upsetting her.
She’s involved in a lot of different activities, and she makes acquaintances easily. She was born with a naturally good-natured personality that people like to be around. When she’s around, there tend to be smiles and laughter, whether you’re 13 or a few generations older.
She brings so much joy to so many people when she’s happy, which is why it’s so hard to see her suffer when she’s alone. She feels pressure to label someone her “best friend.”
In popular culture, we’re bombarded with stories of lifelong buddies. There’s a belief that one arbitrary pal from your childhood can be your sounding board for the rest of your life, helping you reconnect with your roots and cheering you on to become the best version of yourself.
I hate to see her feel so much anxiety about whether she should feel more friendly with the crew she’s had for a few years, her volleyball teammates, her basketball teammates or whatever group seems to be handy at the time.
I’m so little help to her. Many friendships can be fleeting. I’ve always had friends, whether in elementary, high school, college or the working world. So many of those faded a bit when we didn’t have a daily excuse to hang out.
My best friend from high school and I usually exchange a Facebook message or two a year, saying how we ought to get together now that we’re both living within half an hour of each other when that wasn’t true for most of our 20s and 30s. Whenever I return to Georgia, I’ll reconnect for a beer with a college buddy who convinced me to move there for a few years. I still have lunch occasionally with a former coworker at the newspaper. At least once a year, I try to meet up with another close friend who now lives in the Columbus area.
When I married my wife, my groomsmen were this all-star team of best friends from different stages in my life. Now my wife is my closest confidant.
I’ve had other constant friends throughout the years who become intensely involved or fade back a bit depending on the seasons of our lives. But does it really matter who you label as your best friend?
I’ve always been envious of our children when they were young, and I see it with our 7-year-old now. We can go to a park or a swimming pool, and she’ll find another child her age. They’ll become fast friends, doing everything together and having a blast. When we’re ready to go, I’ll ask her the name of her new pal, and she’ll usually forget. Still, she knows it’s a friend, and she’ll reconnect with them if she ever sees them there again.
We should all be so lucky that we make acquaintances so easily and can just enjoy their company.
That’s what I think about when I hear my 13-year-old’s angst about how to label her friends. Don’t worry about having a best friend. Worry about being a good friend, and the rest will work itself out over time.