Things I Wish My Mom Had Told Me

Me and my first “best friend” circa 1979 at the Memphis Zoo.

Me and my first “best friend” circa 1979 at the Memphis Zoo.

Though I am quite certain no mother ever could have done an overall better job than mine did, even my wise, precious little Mama left a few things out along the way. Some I suspect she avoided because they’re embarrassing. Others I think we just never got around to. Or maybe she did, and in my hurry to live a moment some other way, I missed that bit of wisdom. She did try to tell me that one multiple times: “We won’t always be around…” The depth of truth of some things takes catastrophic events to understand.

I have been thinking for a while that I wanted to do a series of posts on these little nuggets that I’ve come across over the years—things I’d tell a daughter or son if I had one. A few of them are fairly personal and some a bit embarrassing, and since I don’t have children, I suppose a part of me feels like it’s silly to think I have any real wisdom to impart or that anyone would even be interested in what I have to say. So I’ve avoided it, which should have been the hint I needed that I should go ahead with the series. Regardless, my nephew’s wife recently told me she was writing a guide for her daughters, and it sounded a lot like the kind of things that would go in my “Things I Wish My Mom Had Told Me” posts. That was the last nudge I needed.

In the interest of not insulting anyone or sending them running in disgust just yet, I’ll avoid the more “colorful” topics for now, and I’ll just expound upon this little tidbit:

We have different friends for different phases in our lives. Some we will grow apart from. Others we will grow closer to. No shame lies in that, and it does not devalue those friends or you. Occasionally, when you’re lucky, a friend or two will join you for multiple seasons.

In elementary school, we were less like a class of friends than a family of kids with multiple sets of parents. We lived in houses dotted over farm land and grew up playing in corn fields and figuring out whose mom was going to be able to drive us all to ball games. In a lot of ways it was a co-op for child rearing. We were just as likely to get a swat on the rear from a friend’s mom as our own. Even today these people often feel more like siblings than friends. But we have grown apart. There are entire lives lived between the people we were when we last knew each other and now. To some degree, it still bothers me that I don’t keep up with them the way I feel like I should, but realizing that we are all different people in different phases of life now eases that guilt a bit.

I had a set of friends in college, a set in professional school, and I have accumulated friends as an adult. Even adulthood has its phases, though, and with them, some friends have come and gone. Others have stayed—through the blubbering, snot-bubbling crying moments and the pee-your-pants hysterical ones, through the times when I wasn’t particularly kind and was particularly selfish, through the times I disappointed them and even. for some, after a few years of my falling off the radar.

I’m old enough now that I think the ones who are still hanging around are stuck with me until I’m too senile to remember them or I keel over dead, whichever comes first. Sure that means more to me than could ever be put into words, but that doesn’t negate the immense value of the people who came and went along the way. Those friends are a part of who I am today. They are inextricably woven into the fiber of my being. They were who and what I needed at just the right time, and for that I am infinitely thankful.

Similarly, I am not suitable for all people all the time, I will also have seasons of usefulness, and when that season is gone for someone, I must bid them a happy farewell and look ahead to the next season.

This realization that allowing a friend to move on to their next phase is perfectly admissible and even expected was liberating for me. When I embraced it, I was able to be thankful for the time I had and quit trying to make something work in a time when it wasn’t meant to, and it kept me from getting my own feelings hurt a few times, too, as my season of purpose passed in another’s life.

I kind of think that this one of those lessons that Mama tried to tell me along the way but that I was too busy to hear. I never doubted that she was a friend for every phase and season.


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