I spend most of my time surrounded by ten and eleven year old kids. So I know that to children, friendship is the key to happiness.
In the world of elementary school, few things are more painful than the sinking feeling that another child doesn’t like you. Few things are more vital than the belief that the other kids accept you.
Theoretically, I earn my enormous salary for teaching math, reading, writing, science and history.
In reality, I pour at least half of my energy into helping children to navigate the stormy waters of childhood friendships.
Happy is the child who has at least one friend moving over to make room for him in the meeting circle.
I remember the pangs of those tender friendship troubles. I remember trying to get up the courage to ask my “best friend” if she was starting to like someone else better than me. Oh, the desperate pain of that fear!
When I grew up, my friendship needs were mostly met by my family. I had my children and my husband, and every other relationship was secondary. I was friendly with other mothers of young children, but those relationships centered around our kids. I enjoyed the company of my work colleagues, but only while I was at work. Once I went home, my circle closed in around me, and I was happy.
But as I am learning every day now, life is a wonderful spiral, bringing us back again and again to what we once knew. I am fifty eight years old, and my children are all grown up. My circle is no longer a tight little ring; it has opened up and wrapped itself around so many people who increasingly mean everything to me.
Now I am an older lady. I am a professional, a mother, a teacher. I don’t really have to worry about having a place to sit at morning meeting.
But you know what is really cool?
I’m still thrilled when the people I like seem to like me back. I’m still excited when my friends want to come over to my house for dinner. I still love laughing with people who understand my jokes, and eating good food with people who are happy to share a table. I still get that little bubbly giddy feeling inside when I am invited to a party.
I’m all grown up, but I’m absolutely convinced that my little students have figured it all out.
“Friendship is the key to happiness.”
Thanks to all of my friends who came this weekend to remind Paul and I that we used to be sixteen, and that we can still be just as much fun as we were back then!