Friendship, Loving
Comments 5

Raising Our Friends, Raising Ourselves

Nailed it. Cartoon by Mark Stivers

I spent the majority of the week visiting with Captain America, an old friend who just settled with her family in the midwest.  The last time I saw her daughter, now an articulate three and a half year old with waist length hair, she was a bald, drooling toddler.  This told me we had to hit the accelerator button on several years’ worth of our usual soul searching and girl talk.  Three nights would be barely enough. Well, who needs to sleep, right?   Give me a tall pitcher of water and a comfy place to lounge and I am good to go for several hours!  There was a lot to share and even more to ponder.  Goals to be made, disappointments to get over, new perceptions made clear and lots and lots of laughs in between.

Captain America and I met in college.  We spent many a long night on the phone talking about big dreams for our future careers, dancing in discos while intending to be home by curfew, lecturing each other about getting sexier panties or tossing out commemorative t-shirts, and crying on each others’ shoulders when one of our many youthful romances went awry.

Our circles of friends (save for a valuable few) and things that excited us were not quite the same:  Dragon boating versus crafting; having the hots for athletes versus mathletes;  hush puppies versus heels … you get the picture.  Like sisters, our core values were practically the same, but we were different enough to keep things interesting.  Like mothers, we both feel a little bit responsible for each others’ well being and current choices, especially now that we are older and (think) we are wiser.  In the same way we continue to put the finishing touches on raising our adult selves where our parents left off, aren’t we, to some extent,  taking part in raising our adult friends?

William Haefeli cartoon via Conde Nast

How many times have you heard or said any of these words:

“Wear more sunscreen!”

“What about your business idea?  You should finally do it so you can start working from home!”

“Take that doughnut out of your mouth!”

“It’s not a luxury, it’s a manicure.”

“Let’s go for a run together, it’ll be FUN!”

“You just need to communicate with a love language that he can appreciate!”

“Your parents have always been so sweet, I would call them more if I were you.”

“I don’t like you hanging out so much with your new ‘friend’….  there’s something not right about her.”

When having heart to heart catch ups with a gal pal, we aren’t merely sharing stories and giving/ receiving advice, are we?  If we are honest with ourselves, there are some cases when we want our friends to actually follow our advice, not just take our two cents into consideration.   I know I am guilty of listening intently to friends go on about their reoccurring road blocks, and the whole time am thinking,  You keep self sabotaging, you need to just do it this way, uhhhh- listen to me for god’s sake, girl, you know I am always right when it comes to this.  This is certainly all coming from a place of love.  It must be the nurturing, maternal instinct in us.  Maybe we are all mother bears protecting our cubs.  Or maybe we’re just control freaks and need everything to be done just. this. way.  Any of the above probably apply.

Perhaps since one of the essential functions of friendship is providing support, and we have years of emotional investment behind us, do we feel a responsibility to keep our friends on track?  We all know how we fall into our old family roles when we spend time with our parents or siblings.  No matter how we resist, we slip right back in.  Do we similarly fall into our assigned characters with our dearest friends?  Do we become the sister, the mother, or the daughter?

The sister pulls no punches.  She has no issue stating that hairstyle makes your face look weird or that it’s time to do something about your posture.  The daughter stomps around about how something didn’t work out and it’s just so unfair that this always happens to her.  The mother either has an arsenal of well timed quips, or is constantly sad for you and thinks you are incapable of taking care of yourself.  When you tell her just how fabulous things are, she already knows from your nervous tick and your overcompensating smile that you are about to fall apart.  The daughter then gets defensive and cries when the mother points this out.  The sister will just call you a bitch.

Like parenting, you never stop thinking of words of wisdom or guidance for your child.  Unlike parenting, friends can jump in and out of the mother, daughter, and sister roles if required and still keep the friendship in tact, not crossing any lines the way some moms who want to be your ‘girlfriend’ unfortunately do.  Nonetheless, it’s a fine dance raising a friend.  Are we encouraging or discouraging?  Do we push or do we enable?

We will always want to take care of our friends, and they will always want to take care of us.

How do you best raise your own friends?   Do you have some who continue raising you?


  1. I too have been contemplating the idea and meaning of friendship. Just picked up “Friendkeeping” by Julie Klam. I loved how you broke it down into three responses, mother, sister and daughter. I can see how those rolls play out in the various friendships I have and had. At times it is just so hard but pushing through that makes the friendship even stronger. Great insight in this post!

  2. I think we support each other more than advice. There are definitely situations where I feel I'm not saying the right thing because what else can I say? But those are totally inconsequential times.

    Luckily I don't have any raising right now. I don't know how I'd take it! So I try the live and let live approach. But dang it's hard when you see a friend picking the SAME type of guy over and over and over and it not working out.

    Glad you had a fun trip!!

    • Definitely! Thank you so much for this comment! Good friends constantly challenge who we are and we keep each other grounded during the journey. Without engagement in our lives with friends, I believe parts of us are not able to be realized. Thanks so much for stopping by!!!

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