I just returned last night from seeing six of our grandchildren. As always, it warms my heart and I am smiling now just thinking about it. It was SO cute to see the 2-year-old cousins – one boy, one girl – play together. They are quite a pair! As is common with children their age they are WIDE OPEN. They started by “cooking” , wearing aprons and bringing me samples to “taste.” They soon moved to jumping on the bed, throwing stuffed animals, and went on to performing with a play microphone. They were not concerned with “girls play” or “boys play” ….they just want to play. It is refreshing to see children play with abandon and joy. They aren’t bothered with “gender appropriate play” if there is such a thing. Children only become aware of such issues when adults express their concerns.
It bothered me so much when our children were small and some well-meaning person would say to our daughters “Do you have a boyfriend? ” or “Who is your boyfriend?” If the answer was “no” (as it should be with young children) it might seem to the child that there was a deficiency, that she should have a boyfriend. Family members may even pick someone out for a child’s special attention and manufacture a relationship that a small child is not ready for, nor does he/she want. We tried to emphasize being friends. That meant that we encouraged our children’s relationships with other children regardless of that child’s sex. We tried to minimize singling out a friend as a “boyfriend”, “girlfriend” or “best friend” ( BFF now?) instead focusing on being FRIENDS. When one child is designated a “best friend” that instantly demotes all other friends to a lesser role. Encouraging healthy friendships is an important responsibility of parents.
John 15:15 (NIV)
- Friends are welcoming Jesus does NOT have a “BFF” – we ALL are His friends if we are called by His name – Christian.
- Friends share Jesus does not say – “If you don’t give that to me – you can’t come to my birthday party!”
- Friends are loyal, no matter what Jesus does not abandon us …. even when someone new becomes a Christian
- Friends tell the truth Jesus is the way, the TRUTH, and the life, He shares everything from His Father with us
- Friends forgive Jesus forgives all our sins, even when we have disappointed Him …again
- Friends are inclusive, not exclusive Jesus had friends who were males (Peter, John) and females (Mary, Martha)
Encouraging healthy friendships that incorporate the above traits will allow our children to develop lifelong skills that will not only be a blessing, but will also emulate Christ. When one of our daughters was planning her wedding, we talked about who (besides her BEAUTIFUL sisters) she wanted in her wedding as bridesmaids. “Well, Jonathan and David are the closest friends I have had for the longest time.”
Well, those young men would not have looked so good in the bridesmaid dresses, but they did look very nice in suits as ushers! The fact was, they had been dear friends since childhood and being in each other’s weddings reflected that relationship. Their friendship has evolved to include all their spouses, though now they are separated by distance.
Friends enrich our lives in so many ways and helping our children to value true friendship is a wonderful legacy to pass on.