“The companions of our childhood always possess a certain power over our minds which hardly any later friend can obtain.” ― Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
DO YOU REMEMBER your very first best friend? Of course you do. Next to your family, the first close friend you had when you were young likely had a great influence on your life in some way. And, if you are fortunate, that friend is still a part of your life.
I’ll never forget Cathy, my best friend from age four until I was ten, when I left the neighborhood to travel with my mother during sixth grade. I met her the day we moved into the house on Yew street (she lived two doors down on the street perpendicular to mine). I walked right up to her as she was playing in her yard and asked her if she would be my friend. She said yes and we were friends. That’s how little kids operate — no guile or fear or embarrassment. Ask for what you want:
“Do you want to be my friend?”
From then on, Cathy and I were inseparable both in and outside of school. We told each other our deepest secrets, had sleepovers, learned about differences in families and religions from each other, and provided emotional support for each other during times of stress at home.
When we are young, we form strong attachments to our close friends, and these friendships often become the standard to which we measure our subsequent friendships. Research shows that these early relationships help us to develop social and emotional skills and a sense of belonging. They provide emotional support, and they are part of where we learn empathy and how to appreciate others’ points of view.
Paul Schwartz, a professor of psychology and child behavioral expert wrote, in an article for Hudson Valley Parent, “More than half the children referred for emotional behavior problems have no friends or find difficulty interacting with peers. . . .Compared to children who lack friends, children with ‘good’ friends have higher self-esteem, act more socially, can cope with life stresses and transitions, and are also less victimized by peers.”
I know people who have maintained friendships with their “besties” for their entire lives, and for whom those friendships remain an important part of their lives.
In my case, when my family returned from our travels a full year later, I was heartbroken to find I’d been replaced by another girl who had become Cathy’s bestie. And then, shortly after our return my family moved to another city and I lost contact with Cathy. Friendships need nurturing: that was the lesson I learned.
What was your best friend like, and what were the lessons you learned from him or her about friendship?
- Who was your first first best friend? What was he or she like and how did you meet?
- Is your best friend still in your life? What factors influenced whether or not your friendship remains?
- Did you have an easy or difficult time making friends when you were young? How did this play out in your life as you grew older?
- What are the biggest lessons you learned from your relationship with your best friend?
- If you could go back in time, what might you do differently in your relationships with your friend?
- Describe your favorite memory with your friend.
- Describe your worst memory that involves your friend.
- What characteristics did you share with your best friend? Do your adult friends share any of those characteristics? If so, which ones?
- Looking back, what was most valuable or important to you about your childhood friendship?
- Write a scene that depicts a typical interaction between you and your best friend.