The following post is from Scott McClatchy, husband, father, musician, and friend to many.
One of the strangest things about being a parent is that there are so many things that I never imagined that would ever concern me have now become part of my everyday life. Like explaining to a six-year old boy what exactly does it means to be a friend.
One of the toughest hurdles to cross in this daily conversation is that not all parents believe in the same thing. So, as I tell my son one thing, he inevitably will respond with an example of how one of his school buddies acts the exact opposite. When I tell my son to try to make ‘good choices’ – like sharing your toys, he’ll remind me that when he shares his toys, he will sometimes never see them again. So now the conversation takes a left turn into the idea that being a good friend also means respecting other people’s property, and he will bring up examples of all the kids who don’t. Soon the conversation has splintered into so many different ideas of what being a friend means, that it leads my son to retreat to his toy room for some well deserved play time Though, in retrospect, I should be proud of my son’s courtroom presentation of his case … I just wish I knew more about the Kindergarten legal system.
So I try to fall back on the Golden Rule; if you really want to be a good friend – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Sadly, scriptures don’t go over well with most kids under the age of thirty-five, so I try to break it down for him.
‘Being a good friend means that you should try to always make sure your friends are happy.’ And, to my son’s credit, he usually does tell me that he often does let his buddies choose what games to play or pick what sport to attempt. And, happily, I have watched him do this on the playground. But I’ll tell my son that not all kids want to play together … and that’s OK! I’ll tell him that someone who might not want to play with you today, or be your friend today – well, they might want to tomorrow, so don’t ever stop asking. But, most importantly, when someone doesn’t want to play with you, or be your friend, try to understand that you still are a really great kid. And, somewhere in the park or playground, there’s another little boy or girl just waiting to play with you.
And it’s at these times when I can explain to him, and I very often get to see it happen, that ‘being a friend’ can be nothing more than walking up to another child and saying “Hi, want to play?”