Readers — Here’s a lovely guest post responding to The New York Times article from last week, “A Best Friend? You Must Be Kidding,” by Hilary Stout. The article was all about “friendship coaches” and teaching our kids the “right” way to be friends. Blecch. Enjoy the counterpoint. L.
Dear Free Range Kids: NJ Mom here. After reading the New York Times friendship article, I went on such a rant that Lenore asked me to pull myself together and write something up.
The article concerns the latest bizarre twist to the seemingly never-ending micromanaging of middle/upper middle class children. In a nutshell: You can’t have a best friend anymore, it might hurt someone’s feelings. Instead, to avoid exclusivity, cliques, and bullying, children should be friends with a bunch of kids, with no one person being more special than another.
OMG. Can’t we just leave these poor children alone, even for just a minute? Can’t we just let them be mean, or nice, or scared, or bored, or sad or angry or even not a “success” at school? Can’t we, as the adults, simply guide them on their journey to adulthood, instead of preventing them from feeling any pain–ever?
As my mother says, “I sure wouldn’t want to be a mother in this day and age.” She’s right. The pretty straightforward job of childrearing has become so, so…messy and convoluted. And it is just too damn much work.
All my children have to do is open their eyes in the morning, and they have more of everything than do millions and millions of other children, from potable water to two parents who love and enjoy them. We as parents, teachers, “childrearing experts,” and school administrators must let go of this delusion that we can fix everything for our children. They already have everything they need and can manage very well without us constantly messing with the minutia of their lives.
I do hope it’s obvious that I’m not advocating the absence of parenting. I’m simply saying that adults should guide and support the children in their care, not interfere to such a degree that real life passes them by.
To end this post, I decided to go to some true experts on kids and friendship, my 11 year-old daughter and her 13 year-old friend. I asked: Do you think it’s ok to have a best friend? “Yeah, sure, why not?” Might it hurt your other friends’ feelings if you are best friends with just one person? “Sometimes, but usually no, because you’re still friends with the other friends.” Do you think that having just one best friend can create cliques and then maybe even bullying? “No, bullying is when one person punches another person. It also happens because parents didn’t teach them any better.”
And there you have it. — NJ Mom