Tonight I was watching Van Helsing with my dad and during a commercial break we somehow came onto the topic of friendship somehow. My dad informed me of an article in the New York Times that had several psychologists and "child rearing experts" stating that having best friends was something that should be discouraged among children.*
“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.”
Of course other, saner, psychologists object to this. Saying that a lack of best friends and close relationships will lead to a life of superficial friendships and an inability to create real friends and connections later in life.
Anecdotes from others in the story, like Robin Shreeves, spoke of the life long bond between best friends. Robin and her child hood best friend, Penny, are still friends and in fact their oldest sons are best friends.
I'm certainly not the one to talk to about lifelong bonds between best friends, but I can most definitely speak to the life changing impact a best friend can have on a person, even if that best friend is only with you for a few short years.
I met my first best friend in Kindergarten at a Christian private school in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Her name was Victoria and she sat across from me in class. We shared crayons, took naps side by side, ate lunch together and monopolized the swing sets at lunch.
I don't recall many of the other people from Kindergarten, though I'm sure I was in classes with most of them for several of the years I went to that school, but Victoria and I were inseparable. Hers was the first phone number I memorized, my first sleep over (at age 7) was at her house and when I was homeschooled in 4th grade we never lost touch.
I think I probably spent as much time at her house as I did at my own! Of course we had other friends. In 2nd grade we met a girl named Rachel and she joined our group. We often played with other people as well, but we were great together. School was great and we had each other. I was in the same class as Victoria every year in elementary school. Kindergarten through 3rd grade and we sat together in nearly every year when we had the chance. 4th grade, as I said, I was homeschool, but we stayed in touch and I still spent time at her house.
5th grade I came back to school and it seemed everything went wrong that year. Victoria and I were put in separate classes, I had to have surgery on my wrist, my teacher was a grade-A asshole, I messed up the cartilage in my foot and I had 3 girls in my class that hated me for no apparent reason. They treated me terribly and I was horribly depressed. The one thing that got me through was my friendship with Victoria. We met up at lunch and on the playground. I went to her house after school when my parents had to work late. Our friendship was wonderful for a long time, probably up until the summer before 10th grade when she started exhibiting some strange behaviors and her psychosis became too much for me to handle on top of my wavering sexuality, depression and my failing faith. I left her behind to protect myself, still it hurt me to do it. Luckily I had new friends, but I don't think I truly had another BEST friend for a long time. Don't get me wrong I had many really really good friends, but they just weren't same as Victoria. I had known her too long for just any person to fill that spot.
The point is, that one person got me through some of the hardest points in my child hood and I don't think I would be the same person now if I had only treated her like all my other casual friends in school.
A best friend is something every child should have.
Now, as for the arguments of these so called "child rearing experts" that say that Best Friends lead to cliques and bullying.
I remember bullying. Ashley, Brittany and Charisma in 5th grade put me through my fair share of it. Victoria was there to pick up the pieces. In 9th grade when I was teased for having a girlfriend, Victoria helped me through it. She never judged me.
We never bullied anyone that I can remember.
Cliques, from my memory, have very little to do with friendship. They are based on clothing, social status, Jocks, Preps, cheerleaders, and mutual hatred of the people outside the clique. Friendship breaks up cliques. I had friends from every group in 1oth grade. I ate lunch with the drama kids, cut class (once okay) with the goths, spent the morning before school with the nerds and traded fashion tips with the emo kids. Friendship, real true friendship, has a way of inviting you into every clique except for the ones that you really can't stand. In high school (for me) that was the jocks, the cheerleaders, the religious nuts and the bullies. I knew a few people from every group though.
Now the one thing I found the most amusing about this article, was the fact that the one and only example that had that was Pro for the "no best friend" idea was a set of fraternal twins. How they think this applies to anyone other than twins I do not know.
I've know a couple of sets of twins. They don't need best friends at school, because they have grown up with their best friend from day one. Sure they sometimes fight, but what best friends don't? Twins have a completely different social growth from anyone who is born by themselves. If I had a twin I probably wouldn't have needed and wanted Victoria around so much.
Hey NYTimes, give me a call when you can twist your theory to suit your facts instead of your facts to suit your theories. Holmes would have bitch slapped you for that one.
You can call me an alarmist, call me a right wing nutjob, call me a moron for all I care, but I have a theory about what this idea is being pushed by so many "experts".
If you grow up with only superficial friendships, spend all your time forced into large groups in order to "better socialize" with others then you will never have someone that you completely trust to talk to. If you can't trust the people you have discussions with, how will you ever discuss subversive topics? I don't tell superficial acquaintances (in real life anyway) my opinion on the government and the ridiculous congress and president we currently have. Nor do I know anyone else who does. Except for, perhaps, writers and Glen Beck and other T.V. personalities.
If you only learn to "group think", like these psychologists seem to want, then you will never learn to think original thoughts and that...that is the one thing most dangerous to a corrupt government. When it's people start to THINK and discuss and REALIZE what's wrong with society and their government, that is when revolutions start.
*The End Of The Best Friend - NYTimes June 16th, 2010