154. Friendship

I can’t think of anything better than friendship. For some people, a friend is one special person, and if there are too many more than one, the friendship starts to seem thinner. For others, the more, the merrier. There are people who feel that they can speak about just about anything with one or two special friends, and others who have mental friendship yellow pages: if there’s job trouble, call Eleanor. For advice about children, call Seth. And so on. If you ask children what a friend is, you can get a variety of answers. A friend can be someone who comes over to play a lot. It can be someone who makes you laugh. It can be someone who pays attention to you when everyone else is ignoring you. I could go on and on with this, but I’m not working for Hallmark. I’ve had many conferences with parents who were concerned about their children’s
friendships. Some worried that their children didn’t have any friends. Others questioned whether the friends their children did have were good or bad influences. For many of these parents, and for me, school was, to a great degree, a place to learn how to relate with people – to explore friendship. That doesn’t mean dispensing with academic concerns; it means being aware of children, too.
The social world of school is always there. When children are deeply involved in a study of the Middle East, that’s not all they’re thinking about. Pat is wondering whether Lou likes him/her. With young children, romantic feelings may not be concerns, but they may. Whether or not they are, the Middle East may not be getting as much attention as we adults may sometimes think.
So Jim hopes that Jed will be in the group that studies Saudi Arabia. That’s the group Jim is in. But Joe had better not be in that group, because Joe lives next door to Jed, and Jim won’t stand a chance of spending any time with Jed if Joe is there. To us adults, this usually isn’t the point. They’re supposed to be thinking about Saudi Arabia. But the social world is there, and ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.
I think it is appropriate to spend some time in school, and some time at home, thinking and talking about friendship. We’re trying to help children learn how to live their lives. Some lucky people make and keep friends easily right from the start. But most don’t.

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