As parents a lot of the time we think of ourselves as the ones that have the answers to our children’s problems. Our children frequently look to us for answers about simple things like why the sky is blue, and why Billy picks his nose in her class. As we get older I think we forget that we still have a lot to learn, and things would be a lot easier if we were more like our children. As adults we over analyze things, run scenarios over and over in our head, worry, worry, worry, hold grudges, and take things personally more than we should.
Lately I’ve started a new practice, which is trying to see things through the eyes of my youngster. Although I still think I’ve got it figured out most of the time, and dole out some pretty good advice to my child, if I might say so myself, I’ve started looking to her for answers as well. With this way of thinking, I have been able to see things not only through her eyes, but help her problem solve situations that she might encounter as well. Through this practice I have been able to show her that not only is she capable of making her own decisions, but I also greatly value her opinion when it comes to matters in my own life. She has proven to be wise beyond her years and really a pleasure to have a conversation with. Her experience in life is experience enough, and gives her the ability to boil things down to the simplest of scenarios.
Although I don’t question her with problems out of her scope, or trouble her with things that children shouldn’t be thinking about, I have enlisted her help occasionally, and recently when dealing with a friendship as an adult.
I had a friend that I have been friends with for well over 10 years. Our friendship has had its ups and downs but we have maintained contact through it all. Sometimes we would see each other a couple times a week, and other times we wouldn’t hear from each other for a month. Then a month turned into two, three, four and so on. At times I felt like perhaps we were just growing apart, moving on from each other as friends and that maybe we just have nothing in common anymore.
We get older, and jobs and family take precedence but when phone calls would be ignored and emails unanswered, honestly I felt a little more than bummed out. It’s hard to admit, but it’s harder to make friends when you are older and even harder to lose them. When I would send an email and not get a reply in six months, I definitely had feelings of resentment. When I would suggest we grab a cup of coffee together and catch up he couldn’t quite make it anymore. I felt like I was trying my best to be a good friend, but getting no reward in return so I to let contact slip as well and we had not spoken in months.
Growing older, it’s hard to admit how necessary it is for us to have friendships outside of our home life and those relationships with our work and children. We get caught up in things that take precedence, and things that need immediate attention, while we forget to care for ourselves. I think that it is very necessary to have some time to let off a little steam with a friend so you can be more present with your family when you are with them.
After months of no contact, I received an email from my friend. It was short and sweet. He just wanted to know what I was up to and was saying hello. At first I wondered where he had been. I was glad to hear from him and thought of him often but also wondered why he had not returned my phone calls in the past weeks. He certainly wasn’t the only friend I had, just one of the oldest and that’s what made it different. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to reply, as I was tired of the ups and downs. A few days passed and I still thought about the email and wondered what my old friend was up to. This is when I enlisted the help of my daughter.
I told her the situation honestly and asked her what she thought. I told her that my feelings were hurt and that I wasn’t sure if I should even maintain a friendship with him at all. She very matter-of-factly gave her opinion and it was so honest and pure I could only heed her advice.
“Dad, he was your good friend, and you like spending time with him so write him back and see if he wants to hang out with you “.
I told her that I was upset at him for ignoring me and hurt when he didn’t return my phone calls.
“Dad “she said. “Why would he hurt your feelings if he is the one who sent you the email, it has been a long time so maybe he wants to be a good friend now “.
She was exactly right, as adults it can be very hard for us to practice what we preach, especially forgiveness. His place as a friend wasn’t gone, just different. I don’t have to completely cut him out, just hold on to the ride the wave of a changing friendship. I’d still like to say hello every so often, but at a different pace. It’s simple really and it’s sad to think it takes a child’s eyes to see how simple it truly is. As children we are quicker to forgive and forget and get on with the “playing with toys “. She was exactly right, I shouldn’t let my resentment and hurt feelings hold me back from maintaining a friendship that is over 10 years long, even if it now is just an occasional cup of coffee. It didn’t have to be all or nothing.
I let her know later that I followed her advice and my old friend and I had coffee together. We enjoyed a conversation and it felt like no time had even passed. I found out that he had been going through a rough patch in life and had withdrawn from almost everyone and everything until he got it figured out. The scenario of a bitter friend ignoring me was more in my head than anything and I really had no reason to be upset at all. My daughter was proud of herself but more so, I was proud of her. She truly is wise beyond her years and I am not too proud as an adult to say I’m thankful to follow the advice of a seven-year-old. She plays with friends much more than I do, and with her experience comes wisdom.
Maybe we all could take a little of that seven-year-old advice. Be quick to forgive, say you’re sorry, say your “please and thank you’s”, share your toys, and always welcome in someone that wants to be friends.