We were at a new playground over the weekend, and D was attempting to play with some girls about his own age. One of them got really mad and said, "We're not playing with you". He had no idea what they were talking about, so he looked a little confused for a few minutes Fortunately, not much later, a little boy his age wandered over. D said, "Hey!" and they proceeded to chase each other in circles and play hide and seek and generally get sweaty and dirty over the next hour.
There was very little conversation or imaginative play going on with the boys, but they had a blast and burned off a ton of energy. At a young elementary age, most boys are pretty open to new relationships. Older elementary boys may exclude the girls, because of the cootie factor, but young boys haven't often learned the art of exclusion and meanness.
Unfortunately, I think these playground tendencies can often carry over into adulthood. As women, we can often take things a little too seriously. We can easily feel excluded or judged, instead of just finding someone else to talk to. Many of the men I know have very little conversation with their friends, but whether they've been apart for a few weeks or years, even without talking, they just say "Hey!" and go back to being friends exactly the same way as they did before.
So, what can we learn from these guy friendships?
- Openness. Rather than excluding a potential friend, just be open to them while you're with them. It doesn't mean you have to call them later or become best buddies or even have a long conversation, you can just sit and be together positively.
- Forgiveness. Some friends may have a bad day, or a bad year, or just be unavailable for a time. Rather than getting upset or feeling left out, try to let it go. Unless a friend has purposefully done something to hurt you, try to be a little more understanding when a friend needs some time off or seems to exclude you.
- Hobbies. Many guys are involved in sports related activities. Sometimes, all we need is a buddy to walk with, or someone to attend a concert or movie with. Find friends that fit in different areas of your life. If you both practice openness and forgiveness, it shouldn't really matter if you only have time for each other a few times a month, or if you don't have long conversations every week. As healthy adults, we should have different levels of friendships, maybe some of these hobby friends will become your best friend forever one day.
- Kindness. Despite being a lost art, we need to focus on kindness in all of our relationships. Not the "bless her heart" type of kindness, but rather the true empathy and understanding of a preschooler. Sharing, thanking someone, and changing the environment when necessary. Sarcasm has its place with certain people, but some friends won't be okay with it, and that needs to be okay as well.