Thursday, June 17, 2010

"You like me, right now, you like me!"

While not nearly as momentous as my 300th post, I just noticed my counter rolled over and stopped on 20,000 hits. I know I don't rack up the hits as much as some other bloggers, but it's kinda amazing to me that on 20,000 different occasions people have stopped by this little corner of the e-world.

For the record, the 20,000th visitor came by here all the way from Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. Shout OUT! to my brothers and sisters from the north. (Fist bump!) OK, they're both sisters, but the feelings are the same.

Thank you all for your time and patience. I may not be posting as often as I once did, but it's not because I don't love you anymore. I just have a much more involved job now and a lot less time for blogging.

Anyway, to keep this from being a complete navel-gazing post, take a look at this article from today's NYT. That's fine, I'll wait. The gist of the article is this: The kids who got picked on in school 'cause no one had their back, and who're now all grown up and working as school counselors and psychologists now believe it's a bad thing for kids to have “best friends.” And I quote:
“I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults — teachers and counselors — we try to encourage them not to do that,” said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis. “We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends.

“Parents sometimes say Johnny needs that one special friend,” she continued. “We say he doesn’t need a best friend.”

Or this worthless drivel from a psychologist at a NYC private school:
“When two children discover a special bond between them, we honor that bond, provided that neither child overtly or covertly excludes or rejects others,” said Jan Mooney, a psychologist at the Town School, a nursery through eighth grade private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “However, the bottom line is that if we find a best friend pairing to be destructive to either child, or to others in the classroom, we will not hesitate to separate children and to work with the children and their parents to ensure healthier relationships in the future.”

What garbage. Oh, and this crap from a summer camp is even better:
As the calendar moves into summer, efforts to manage friendships don’t stop with the closing of school. In recent years Timber Lake Camp, a co-ed sleep-away camp in Phoenicia, N.Y., has started employing “friendship coaches” to work with campers to help every child become friends with everyone else. If two children seem to be too focused on each other, the camp will make sure to put them on different sports teams, seat them at different ends of the dining table or, perhaps, have a counselor invite one of them to participate in an activity with another child whom they haven’t yet gotten to know.

“I don’t think it’s particularly healthy for a child to rely on one friend,” said Jay Jacobs, the camp’s director. “If something goes awry, it can be devastating. It also limits a child’s ability to explore other options in the world.”

Seriously, do you think anyone signed Christine or Jan or Jay's yearbooks? OK, maybe that's the kind of situation these morons are trying to avoid for their charges but, seriously? Friendship coaches? WTF is up with that noise?

I went to a large public high school. It was uber competitive, uber stratified and pretty much everyone was in one clique or another. I, believe it or not, was not in one of the popular ones. Yes, yes, it's true, I was not always the strapping vision of robust manhood I am today. I'm not saying it was Lord of the Flies in my school, but there was the usual pecking order of athletes/cheerleaders on top, down to the burners. I was probably somewhere in the middle a ROTC/band geek/theater geek. Neither here nor there. Nothing to see, all copies of year books have been destroyed. Move along.

You know what though? Two of the guys I met back then, one the last week of eighth grade and the other when we started ninth grade, they are still my absolute best friends today. When the shit hits the fan, I know they'll be there for me and I'll be there for them. I've been in both their weddings and they'll both be in mine.

When you aren't strong enough to stand up for yourself, or have been knocked down so many times you can't count, you're friends are there to hold you up if necessary.

People say family is the most important thing. Well, that may be true for most people (I'm also lucky enough to have a great family, but that's a topic for another time), you don't get to pick your family. What happens if, and I know people for whom this is true, you don't like your family? What happens if they're assholes? Who do you turn to when the skies are cloudy and the storm's a coming?

Your best friend, that's who. The person you've chosen and who's chosen you.

Yeah, sure, it's nice for these kids to have a big group of people who like them - or who don't particularly hate them reason. But can they count on any one of these "friends" when they need to sneak out of the house? Or sneak back in? Or call for a ride home because they're too wasted to drive? Or who'll physically kick their ass to the ground, take their keys and keep them from driving drunk? Who'll take the ugly one? Or who'll say, "I know you love her man/girl, but are you absolutely sure you want to marry her/him?"

The bonds of best friendship aren't loosely woven through play dates and coaching. They're forged in the fires of shared experience of joy and sorrow.

In the comments tell me about your best friend, or tell me I'm totally wrong and all the kiddies should learn to get along with everyone so no one's feelings get hurt.


Lemon Gloria said...

I think this strategy doesn't take the personalities of individual kids into account. There are the extroverted kids who are probably fine running around and being friends with everyone, and there are the kids who would really struggle without one or two best friends. It just assumes that everyone is the same and everyone clicks with everyone else equally.

magnolia said...

ooh, i saw this story this morning and it spiked the holy hell out of my blood pressure. leaving aside the serious violation of one of my cardinal rules of life - you don't have the right to tell me how to live my social life - how creepy is this whole trend of adults trying to engineer kids' lives like this? it's like the people running schools, camps, etc. these days have decided that future generations are their own personal game of "the sims" or something.

my dad teaches around here, and he's always telling me how the other teachers are, for lack of a better term, all up in the kids' business. it sketches him out. me too. i think people don't realize what they're doing here. they're cheating kids out of the chance to forge vitally important relationships. but they're also forcing their own tired views of the world on people who should be allowed to go form their own.

/rant. :)

A said...

Hello, stranger! Thanks for the shout-out. I read the exact same article, and (surprise!) thought EXACTLY the same thing.

FoggyDew said...

LG - If they're not all the same then how are they supposed to teach them? It'll be chaos!

mags - rant on, I say. The amount of involvement many parents have in their kids' lives today really scares me.

A - Howdy you! It's been a while. Do parents do this stuff up north? Or is there more of a sense of rugged individualism?