I don’t often write about my children here, but I wanted to share this. My son has Autism and a range of other conditions that impact his maturity, capability, intellect and social skills. He is nearly 11 years old at the time of writing this piece and this is his 7th year at the same primary school including kindy. In all of the previous 6 years he has not had much social success.
I never really thought it bothered him, as he seemed content to play alone and stick to his routines in playtime etc…. This year however my son made a friend! As a matter of fact, he made a few. The absolute joy on his face as they spend time together makes my heart feel so full. The excitement as he anticipates their arrival for play dates is like nothing else. If I could bottle this feeling, I’d be a very rich woman.
My daughter is more of a social butterfly, eagerly befriending every child she meets with equal joy and wonder. She is in her element when she is surrounded by her friends and has even asked to start her own friendship collage. I have always known friends would be a big and important part of her life, and being a girl, yes some of the friendship dramas have already started! Still, I never worry too much about her as she is such a social queen.
I did worry about my son though, because of his challenges, and because he spent so long in a social environment and didn’t seem to make friends easily, if at all. Now that he has made friends, I can see him blossoming. I don’t just mean socially either. His grades have improved, his motivation has improved, his self esteem and confidence have improved, and his behaviour and attitude have improved too!
It really highlights to me how much friendship and social inclusion improves our health, happiness and well being! It is easier to make and maintain friendships at school age, I recognise this! Perhaps that is why older generations often reflect on school days as the happiest of their lives? Because they had friends, and they had time, and limited responsibilities! When my kids are with their friends, they are playing!
As I reflect on my own friendships, when I am with my own friends, I am also playing. Not as literally as my children certainly, but I am taking a moment away from responsibilities, chores, errands, and doing something that nourishes me and my soul. This is true even if we do nothing at all, or if we spend the whole time venting and discussing said responsibilities, chores and errands etc…. Time with our friends represents time that is our own. We do have less time as adults, so it is even more important that we make friendships a priority if we wish to feel happy.
My mother recently commented that my husband seems content with just him and I, no friends really required. I would agree with this actually, he has always seemed contented. However, when he made a few friends in his previous workplace, I saw improvements in his mood, motivation and levels of stress. When we went to some social events with these friends, I saw a jovial boyish side to him that I hadn’t really seen before, which only made my love for him grow stronger.
Similarly, when he left that workplace for another, he became more sullen, not enjoying going to work anymore and somewhat restless. Although he still kept in touch with his best work mate, it wasn’t the same at work without friends! Thankfully he is able to transfer back to his old place of work soon, and the excitement he feels about this is just as palpable as the excitement my children feel before a sleep over or birthday party!!! Sure, he has experienced success, been promoted, earns a good wage and has a happy lifestyle with us….. but friendship was the key to really making him happy.
I am not suggesting friendship is all that matters. Maybe if you hate your job, you will still hate it even if you like the people that work there with you. You probably wont be happy until all the pieces fit. Friendships can’t save you from bad relationships, financial stress or many of life’s other tragedies, but it definitely helps!
To Quote Steve Maraboli, the Author of Life, The Truth, And Being Free “Happiness is not the absence of problems; it is the ability to deal with them.” What helps us deal with problems, is feeling confident, capable, valued, supported, cared for and not alone. Can we be content without friendships? Yes, I guess we can, but too much contentedness tends to lead to us just feeling a bit numb really. Friendships are the icing on the proverbial cake. The time we carve out for ourselves to self nourish, explore, learn, grow and play.
By making time for our friends, we are actually making time for ourselves, and making ourselves happy.
Your Best Friend ForNever