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Coffee Break with Liz and Kate » Headline, Liz's Rants » Liz’s rant: Cliques, bullies and bffs

Liz’s rant: Cliques, bullies and bffs

I’m betting that some of you wish I’d quit reading – or at least ranting – about some of the things I find bizarre, strange or downright stupid. Hold on to those fantasies because it’s not about to happen. After all, what fun would I be then? (It was a rhetorical question for all you who’d like to answer…) Plus which, there are things we simply need to know.

Like the fact that there is a huge push to discourage friends from having a best friend – a bff – a confidante and companion – through childhood. As most of us know, those bffs are not only a cornerstone of growing up, but an integral and sometimes get-me-through-this-day part of adulthood as well.

Which is why a recent story in The New York Times really has my dander up. Titled “A best friend? You must be kidding” the article asserts that a certain group of academics and (here we go again) we-know-better-than-you sorts have decided best friends are not the best at all. In fact, they suggest that best friends be discouraged.

They do admit that it is natural for kids to  seek close friends – that a 2009 survey points to the fact that 94 percent of those they polled have at least one close friend. Here’s where it gets pathetic. They go on to say that “the classic best-friend bond — the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school — signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.

This also goes on the assumption that bullies have real friends. I say, “name one…” And that a clique is typically two people. I say bologna.

Then there’s the input from Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis:

“I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults — teachers and counselors — we try to encourage them not to do that. “We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends.”

The article goes on to state that, “Schools insist they don’t intend to break up close friendships but rather to encourage courtesy, respect and kindness to all.”

Excuse me? It’s called the Golden Rule, people. And I would submit that those who aren’t inherently “courteous, respectful and kind” to all are likely the bullies. Heck maybe even the cliques. I’ll even go  so far to say that, yes, cliques are exclusive by virtue of what they are. But when you go around insisting that kids can not have a bff because it isn’t fair to others is perhaps the biggest crock I’ve ever heard.

I maintain, and shockingly enough, the story includes, these best-friend friendships “not only increase a child’s self-esteem and confidence, but also help children develop the skills for healthy adult relationships — everything from empathy, the ability to listen and console, to the process of arguing and making up. If children’s friendships are choreographed and sanitized by adults, the argument goes, how is a child to prepare emotionally for both the affection and rejection likely to come later in life?”

Without someone to share your thoughts – even when they’re scary or dark or happy or daring – we miss out on a fundamental part of life. We miss out on having a true friend when often times the rest of the world is decidedly not your friend.

It doesn’t mean we can’t have lots of friends. In fact, it doesn’t mean that we can’t have more than one friend who we rely on above all others. You know who those select few are in your own life. And yes, I said select few, because I select my closest friends with the greatest of care. To take it one step further (you knew I would) by insisting that to think everyone should be close friends as a collective is a dangerous concept. Because that won’t be the case, regardless of how desperately some academics and bleeding hearts want to spin it. I have no desire to have a zillion “closest friends” who aren’t really friends at all, but mere acquaintances. It’s just not the way of the world. We aren’t all the same. Some of us will connect forever. Some of us will never connect. And that’s okay, regardless of what a bunch of “I never had a real friend” people might think.

Marcel Proust had this to say about friends. And I agree:

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

I would add that those friends, those bffs we treasure with all our hearts, are few and far between. And I, for one, am fine with that.

-Liz

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