five lessons we can learn from early childhood friendships

Many of us remember our first childhood friend. That little boy or girl we met outside on the playground, walking home from school, or next door. You saw each other for the first time, and it just clicked. A friendship blossomed, and after a while neither of you could remember a time you didn't know each other. We were too young to know it at the time, but the lessons we'd learn from these first friendships would last a life time. Here are five you may have learned.

me and my friend_edited-1{my little friend, me, and my favorite dress}

1. There’s joy in being together. There’s something about feeling happy just being with another person. No pressure to impress or be liked. This is what many of our first childhood friendships may have felt like. As children, before life experience kicks in, we are as much of ourselves as we can be— no chips on our shoulder and no hang ups. We approach friendships with a sincerity and unguardedness we may never have again. By the time we reach adulthood, our perception of others is filtered through the insecurities we’ve acquired along the way and many of our friendships may lack a deeper-level connection. But if we can draw upon those childhood friendships, we may remember how peaceful it is to be ourselves and embrace another person, quirks and all.

2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I had a difficult time with this one as a child. I remember crying my eyes out because my best friend, Tracy, no longer wanted to be my friend. Instead, she found a new friend, Melissa, who told all sort of lies about me to get Tracy to “dump” me and be with her. Sounds so third grade doesn’t it? Often children have a hard time understanding how to maneuver through relationship difficulties. It is during this crucial time we learn that it is okay to have more than one friend. We also learn the differences between acquaintances, good friends, and so forth. Sometimes as adults, we face problematic relationships that aren’t all that much different than the ones we experienced as children. We may have a tendency to invest in one group of friends at the exclusion of another, and then battle feelings of loneliness when that group of friends is no longer available to us. Or we may incorrectly assign someone to the good friend position when their behaviors show otherwise. It is during these moments that we must remember, it's okay to spread the love, and it doesn't have to be spread equally.

3. They may not be there forever. As children it's hard to consider the future. I never imagined myself as a thirty-something year-old woman with a husband and children. I felt like being young was all there was. Similarly as children, sometimes we can be so closely connected with others, we couldn’t imagine what life would be like without them. And when they are gone, we are heartbroken. As life experience teaches us people may only come into our lives for a season, and when they are gone, it means their purpose in our lives, at least in the way we know it, has ended. This realization doesn’t make it any easier, however, and we must work to reconsider who we are and what our lives will be like without them.

4. Stay loyal to what you believe. It was such a satisfying feeling to know our childhood friends had our back. When they saw someone fussing with us, they were there ready to defend us. Never mind they weren’t really sure what the issue was about— they were just loyal. You were their friend, and that’s all they needed to know. As adults, sometimes we lose that level of loyalty. I don't just mean to people, but to what we believe. Sometimes we become unsure and lose our loyalty to our values, dreams, and hopes. But perhaps we can be like little kids again, and stay steadfast to what we believe, never mind who fusses with us.

5. It’s not always going to be your turn to shine. Along with having childhood friendships comes the challenge of sharing—sharing toys, sharing  the limelight, sharing friends, you name it. We learn early on that our friends may have something we want. And the challenge becomes how we respond when we don't get it. Maybe our friend is getting all the attention, our has something we've been wanting for a while. Did we sulk and act mean to our friends when we felt left out or slighted, did we just buck it up and feel happy for them, or a little of both? However we responded, it was life lesson, and one that we have likely had to deal with over and over again. Hopefully we learned it earlier rather than later that there are moments when it will be someone else's turn to shine, and it doesn't diminish our value, or take away who we are or who we are capable of becoming. ♥

What are some childhood lessons you've learned that you still use today?