Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I’ll never forget the day “Becky” told me I was her tenth best friend. She was so smelly and bossy; but we were friends out of habit. She was expecting another friend to come over later that day, and told me that the other girl was her first best friend, but that I was a close second. Then she amended her first statement. “No, wait, that would be Katie, and then Carly, and then…” until she declared me as number ten in importance. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was too hurt to respond.
We went outside and began playing hide-and-seek outside. Her new bike was standing in the driveway. When it was my turn to hide, I knocked down her bike, got on my own, and pedaled away. She continued to look for me.
Her mother called my house, crying, a half-hour later. “We can’t find Lisa!” she said. (That was my childhood nickname, a little-known derivative of the alternative spelling Elisabeth.)
“She’s right here,” my mother said, perplexed. She looked over at me. I looked like the cat who had eaten the canary.
She hung up and got from me the full story. Out poured all my feelings as to how I had been repeatedly abused emotionally by Becky. Other telephone calls would be received from Becky’s family in the upcoming weeks. My behavior had been shocking, after I had seemed such a meek and quiet one for so long. Her mother wanted to “work it out”. My mother said, “I think my daughter has made up her mind.”
I was willing to forgive, but not forget. Her past behavior was indicative of a character I was no longer willing to associate with. I knew I deserved better. And I would much rather spend my afternoons alone than in her company.
As I watch our children make and break friendships, I am careful not to tell them with whom they should or should not associate. This is easy to do now, as they are presently attending a Catholic school where all the kids come from fairly good homes. We do often sit and talk about their friends, analyzing their virtues and faults, as I gently try to steer them towards hanging out with the ones who display more of the first than the second. For the most part I have been pleased with their choices.
The hard part is watching their little hearts get broken when someone speaks cruelly to them. “And I thought she was my friend!” Then come all the platitudes about how someone who could treat them poorly was never a true friend to begin with, and isn’t worth all the heartache, but I know it doesn’t take the pain away. We are helpless to take it away, nor should we. It is one of the arenas in which all we can do is listen.