Two Cool: A boy’s best friend draws him and his mom a little closer
by Susan Besze Wallace
My third-grade son has a best friend. A best friend!
They share goofiness. A passion for reading. Today I learned they both had similar paper cuts, both made the honor roll and have created a special handshake.
I couldn’t roll my eyes because they were welling up with tears.
I know I’m his mom, but my Zach is more than likeable. He’s an awesome mix of sporty and academic. He lives with joy, curiosity and manners. But he’s only stuck his toes into the friend pool and never plunged. Those of you with kids who switch “besties” like T-shirts are probably thinking that’s a good thing. And it is good to be discerning. That influence is too important not to be scrutinized – by both of us.
It’s just taken a while for Zach to get comfortable in his own skin. He’s prone to worrying about what others think, and as far as taking interpersonal risks — no way. With Connor, he can now be as dorky as can be, and be accepted.
My son and I have had some interesting, Connor-born talks about what friendship is and isn’t, and why he feels so drawn to this buddy. We talked about smothering your pals. I remember wanting to “fit” so badly it hurt, albeit not as early as third grade. I grew up having no brothers, and thinking the opposite sex was off limits for friendship. I had one friend who started to dress like me. Creepy, I know. The conversations radiating from this new friendship alone make me want to hug the little guy. (Which I’m way too cool to do, of course.) However, I am revisiting my old tendencies, and even a few wounds.
My parents were never good friends with my friends’ parents. I didn’t know they could be. Zach told me the other day he liked that Connor’s mom and I were friends too. “It’s like we’re a square, all of us,” he said. Connected and safe, I said only to myself. His mom is eschewing gifts at his birthday party this year in favor of a book exchange for everyone invited. Yes, I’m feeling good about this connection.
Zach and I have talked about a sort of “friendship recipe,” the ingredients that make strong friendships. He came up with things like kindness and loyalty, loving school, and, yes, a strong affection for Legos. I’m sure the recipe will evolve. And I’m sure at some point a friend will disappoint him. All part of caring enough to risk.
This Thanksgiving, Connor is at the top of my thankful list.
Susan Besze Wallace is a writer based in Northern Virginia, where she and husband Todd, her best friend, raise Zach, 8; Luke, 5; and A.J., 4.
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." (Proverbs 17:17).