17 Truths and Tips for Friendships After 17
Nothing has filled me with dread and heart-clutching fear like my children making bad choices in playmates. I have glowed to see them love struck and starry eyed in the throes of budding friendships from pre-school to high school, and I have cried myself to sleep when their hearts have been broken and tossed aside. I have cringed as they got bullied, and worse, as they did the bullying. No part of early parenting is more uncomfortable.
On the other hand, as my children have stepped into adulthood, nothing has been more of a comfort than seeing them build true, cherished friendships.
The childhood lessons of sharing and fair play endure, but mature relationships call for more. As children begin to spread their wings and think of their futures, relationships have new nuances and pressure points.
Like so much we teach our kids, knowing they know the way allows us to sleep better at night. Here are some things I hope my children have heard me say a hundred times.
1. The quality of your friends can define the quality of your life. Choose well.
It has been said that difference between the person you are today and the person you will be years from now will be determined by the people you spend your time with. It’s irrefutable. Friends matter. They can take you places you would never find on your own, or they can hold you back from the life you deserve.
2. Take your turn being a good influence.
Choose friends that lift you up, but don’t make one person do all the heavy lifting. In a true friendship, each person looks for ways to be the inspiration, encouragement and the designated driver.
3. Learn to apologize.
Relationships don’t come with erasers, but you have something close: apologies. Few things honor and heal a relationship like a genuine, “I’m sorry.”
4. Forgive quickly.
Time lost holding grudges is time truly lost. But that’s not the worst part. Storing or feeding a grievance too long makes it feel at home. Once it unpacks, a grievance morphs into resentment, grows extra arms, eats all your favorite cereal, and never cuts its fingernails. Before you know it, you’re housing a forgiveness-resistant gobble monster that is almost impossible to throw out.
Make sure you mean it. A true apology expresses responsibility, regret, and an interest in making things better. With practice, you will learn how to erase hurt and bad feelings quickly, and how to go back for a second pass, if you need to – without rubbing an ugly hole in the page.
5. Live. And let live.
Live well. Live large. Live out loud. Live each challenge as if it is a way to prove that you are alive. Live each moment as if there are no do-overs. And then, if you want to, do them over. Some days, it will seem like God gave you so much energy and ability, that one mere body cannot do them justice in a 24-hour day. Some days, it will take all you have, just to sit in a chair and exist. Some days, sitting in a chair will be all you need to feel true joy.
And some days, the fullness of your own life will not be enough. And you will want to help someone else live hers. Don’t.
6. That said, friends don’t let friends:
• drive drunk
• text while driving
• get discount body art
7. A friend who is mad at you for taking her car keys is better than a dead friend.
8. Don’t wait to be invited.
Look back at the times you’ve gone out to the movies, to coffee or a night on the town. Who did the asking? At least half the time, it should be you.
9. When your best friend’s boyfriend breaks up with her, resist the urge to comfort her by cursing him. They will probably get back together tomorrow.
10. Choose your battles.
The fewer the better. Life is not war.
11. If you want to shorten an argument, break into a FRENCH accent. Or a bad British accent. Or any accent, for that matter.
12. Look people in the eye.
You’ll discover that this is hard to do while looking at your phone.
No, but really. LISTEN.
14. If your friend can’t tell you’re listening, you’re probably not.
15. Pick up the tab sometimes.
Starting out is a unique time in life. Money is tight, and that won’t change for a while. But don’t be that person who always shows up for the free tickets and never reciprocates. Every once in a while, pick up the tab for coffee or snacks.
16. Keep tabs on your favorite things.
Be generous. Share your new shoes with your sister. Loan those perfect earrings to your best friend for her job interview. Offer your favorite Spanx to your roommate, as she heads out the door for her Match.com date.
But remember to remember who has what. And gently secure its return before too much time goes by. It would be sad to lose a perfectly good friendship over a missing pair of yoga pants.
17. Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder.
Maybe for a little while, absence helps you forget the irritating annoyances of a person. Loneliness might allow you to romanticize the way things were or might be again. And a little absence can be a nice break, which we all need – even from wonderful things like chocolate, coffee, and good friends. But don’t be fooled into thinking that being apart brings people closer together. Being apart puts people apart.
Some of this article is excerpted from the book DO YOUR LAUNDRY OR YOU’LL DIE ALONE: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening, written and illustrated by Becky Blades. It’s a sweet, sassy training manual for our favorite adults and the friends who love them. Preview the book HERE.