“YOU DWOPPED MY FWENDS??!!!”
The other day, I committed the ultimate parent-to-a-3-year-old sin.
My son had just shoved a few mud-encrusted rocks into my hand. After a few minutes, when I thought he had moved on to other business, I tossed them back on the ground. Apparently I was wrong. These friends required immediate rescue.
The term “friend” can have so many interpretations. My littlest applies it to anything he likes. I have watched him chasing frogs and moths across the yard. “What are you doing, honey?” “Playing with my fwends!”
We teach children a very broad definition of “friend.” We encourage them to befriend stuffed animals, assigning them human characteristics and sometimes voices. (Note, this picture with the stuffed animals was entirely un-posed). Kindergarten teachers often start the day with “Good Morning Friends!” At that point in life, every child in your class is “your friend.” Not until grade 1 or 2 do you realize that maybe not everyone is worthy of your friendship, after all. And, of course, ever since a giant purple dinosaur sang “I love you, you love me,” we all know that television brings us regular doses of virtual friendship.
Then again, many of us adults do the same thing, don’t we? How many of your facebook “friends” could you call friends in real life? How many are current friends? Long-ago friends? Acquaintances? People you just met? Friends of friends? Obligatory friends? And, dear readers, in some ways, I consider you all friends. You have taken time out of your busy life to listen to what I have to say, and I appreciate that.
So, has the term “friend” lost any meaning? I don’t think so. I think this approach is a valuable tool to help teach children empathy; to introduce the world as a positive place where a friend can be found in the backyard or just next door; and to give them a sense of brotherhood with all of humanity (and beyond?).
So, my little man, if you decide that any vegetable, mineral, or animal is your friend, who am I to judge? I don’t really see a downside at this point (though I may steer you away from befriending bees or skunks).
And, I’m sorry. Next time, I will take better care of your fwends.