Maybe I’ve picked a slightly more emotive title for this post than it actually deserves, I do only have toddlers at the moment who haven’t quite grasped the full concept of what friendship actually is. They are learning though, and that is what this is about.
The other day Youngest openly declared “You are my best friend, Dad”. It was a heart melting moment and had been completely unprompted. Eldest picked up on the positive reaction that his brother got from saying that and wanted a piece of it too, so stated “you are my best friend too”.
I voiced my concern Daddy wasn’t anybody’s best friend and was informed by Eldest that he was the dog’s best friend. Lucky Daddy.
I didn’t even begin to consider that they really knew what ‘best friend’ actually meant, but it was nice that they said it. Eldest did probably say it just to get a positive reaction out of me, but Youngest? He’s always been the more manipulative of the two of them, he knows just the right buttons to push. What were his motivations, or was he really just being nice?
On the face of it it seemed like he was just being nice that time, he has since made the same declaration a couple more times again with no clear motivation, so maybe I am doing something right. Or, maybe he’s saying it to attempt to upset Daddy. Some people will say that a child of 2.5 years will not have the emotional awareness to perform this kind of manipulation, but they do not know my son. He’s the kind of person who will do something he knows he’s not meant to, turn around and grin at you. He has a reputation of being a wind-up merchant, and he does it exceedingly well, he does things specifically to get you to escalate the situation first giving him the perfect reason to respond in kind.
He has also shown me that he can take his friendship away when he doesn’t approve of something I’ve done. Yesterday he put on his over-the-top grumpy face, perfectly represented by this cat:
He then categorically stated “I don’t like you Dad” because I had dared to tell him to do something which he didn’t want to do (but really needed to).
He was after a reaction, wanting me to get upset, but I didn’t give him it. I replied with “That’s ok, you don’t have to like me. My job isn’t to make you like me, it is to keep you safe, and I’ll do that even if you don’t like me”.
He retracted the statement, said he did like me after all and added Daddy into the list of people that he likes. He also did what I had asked him to do.
Maybe him using his friendship as a way of attempting to manipulate us this early means he’ll become one of those children who tries to control the playground by telling his friends that they need to do what he says or he “won’t be your friend anymore”.
Hopefully he’ll realise that friendship isn’t about making people do things for you. Hopefully by us showing him that regardless of what he says and does to us, we will unconditionally love him and keep him safe, he’ll realise that good relationships aren’t about control, they’re about being there and supporting people when they need you (and even when they don’t).
Through all this something he said that I hadn’t expected was “I like [Eldest’s name], he is my friend”. He likes his brother. Through all the squabbling, bad sharing, pushing and shouting he still considers him a friend, someone who he enjoys spending time with. There wasn’t any manipulation involved in what he said, just observing them when they’re communicating properly and therefore playing nicely we can see that this is completely true.
That just emphasises to me how right it was that they were kept together, that they are brothers, and, perhaps more importantly, they are friends. Maybe he does know what a friend is after all, maybe his best friend is really his brother.