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“Choose Your Friends Wisely”

April 8, 2009

My mother gave me a lot of good advice while I was growing up.  But I think one of the best things she ever told my sisters and I (repeatedly) was to choose our friends wisely.  In our case, it was a skill we had many opportunities to practice.  My father was in the Coast Guard (Go Coasties!) so we moved around a lot while I was growing up.  As a result, my sisters and I became quite adept at making new friends. 

 There were a few missteps here and there, but generally we all were wise enough to cultivate friendships with other kids who shared the values Mom and Dad were busy teaching us.  Instead of falling into friendship, we pursued it thoughtfully, which sometimes meant letting an unhealthy one fall by the wayside.  I can think of a number of kids over the years that I could have easily struck up a friendship with, yet decided it was in my best interest not to.  The handful of times that I did hang around with a kid who I knew was trouble weren’t very fun anyway.  I was uncomfortable and too paranoid about the parental disciplinary catastrophe that was surely lurking around the corner to enjoy my half-hearted stab at rebellion.   

Mom and Dad also had an active role in the development of our friendships.  They personally knew each of our friends’ parents.  In fact, we were not even allowed into anyone’s house unless Mom or Dad had met their parents first.  When kids came over to our house, they were expected to behave respectfully and to live by our family rules, and Mom and Dad did not hesitate to step in and set one of them straight if necessary.  This had the dual effect of us girls vetting potential friends based on whether or not they’d pass muster at home, and potential friends deciding whether or not they wanted to spend time with a kid who had such “strict” parents.  It’s interesting to look back and realize that none of the kids who entered our home resented that.  In fact, our parents were universally loved and respected by all of our friends, and over the years, our home was considered a happy haven by quite a few kids who came from families where love, stability and mutual respect were in short supply.

Mom and Dad weren’t at all interested in being the neighborhood cool parents.  They weren’t interested in being our best friends, either, and often said so.  (“You’ll have plenty of friends in life, but you only have one mother and one father.”)  They set high standards for our choices and behavior, and more importantly helped us learn to set those standards for ourselves as we matured and began to navigate life more and more on our own. 

In researching my next post (due to publish next Tuesday) I came across numerous sources that all agree:  kids really do value their parents’ input, and that guidance has a big impact on the choices kids make.  I am proud to be living proof of that fact, and, thanks to my parents, still enjoying the mutual benefits of good friends who are positive influences.

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