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Friends or acquaintances?

The Boy’s high school experience has officially begun. He is meeting new people, reconnecting with former classmates, and becoming friends with teammates. He is navigating where to sit on the bus, who to sit with for lunch, and how to compete for placement on the football team. 


Perhaps, it’s his personality or maybe it’s because The Boy is an only child, but he views the world in a positive light and he has the ability to fill a space with laughter, humor, and fun. He assumes that everyone he encounters is a friend and that everyone has good intentions. So, helping him to differentiate between a “friend” and an “acquaintance” is a priority as he makes his way through high school. 


Friends make life richer and more satisfying, without question. But at times it can be hard to tell whether another person is an “acquaintance” or truly a “friend.” Hopefully, The Boy has been listening when I have tried to help him distinguish between the two.  


I explain that it’s important to pay attention to the way people treat him, whether they are loyal and dependable, whether they spend time with him and show they care about him.  


I encourage The Boy to notice how he and his friends treat each other. Friends generally help and support each other more times than they can remember. They do not talk about each other behind another friend’s back or spread rumors. Friendships cannot be measured in a series of transactions but rather in laughter and keeping secrets, such as crushes, sleeping with a night light, or having a hobby that may be embarrassing. 


Real friends also have each other’s back during hard times; they are a shoulder to cry on while going through a breakup, losing a loved one, or failing the first road test for a driver’s license. If they are truly a friend they shouldn’t be there just for the fun times. A fake friend, or an acquaintance, will probably be around for birthday parties or group events, but they may find someone else’s problems are too much to deal with.  


On The Boy’s first day of school, he found himself in his underwear frantically searching the locker room for his backpack. Someone took his backpack with his phone, his school issued laptop, and all of his clothes. There were several teammates around. Some helped him search, one offered him a pair of shorts to wear home, a few told the coach, a few laughed, and several threw up their hands and offered no help. Finally, one of his teammates said, “Dude, I bet the kid you share the locker with accidentally took your backpack home. I’ll call him!” 


As we were driving to his teammate’s house to exchange the nearly identical backpacks, The Boy was extremely annoyed and fussing about people who don’t pay attention to their surroundings. I smiled as he repeated a series of questions I have asked him countless times. I was further amused by our passenger, The Boy’s friend and teammate, in the backseat, who leaned forward and asked “Well, what did you learn today?” 


 With a deep breath and a sigh, The Boy said, “Did you tell him to ask me that!?” And then, addressing us both, he said, “I learned who I can rely on and who will walk away when I need help. So, I guess I learned who my friends are on the team.” Our passenger patted him on the shoulder and said, “Yeah, me too, my guy. Me too.” 


This exchange between the boys was genuinely heartwarming and a humorous end to their first day of high school!  


It is gratifying to know that The Boy actually listens when I speak. Who knew?  



Tashia James
Tashia James is a single mother of a teenage son. Through her blog, she hopes parents find the fun in parenting even through the most unpleasant moments of raising children. Connect with her on social media or email her at [email protected]

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