When you’re a kid, your friendships are some of the most important parts of your life. As kids, we have the time to devote to cultivating our friendships. Mainly because we have no other real responsibilities. As a kid, friends come and go for various reasons. But the childhood friends who stay, the ones we choose to keep around, are the most special. And if you manage to keep those friends through the trials of adolescence and into adulthood, cherish them.
Childhood friendships that last into adulthood are precious, because you’ve chosen to keep them. We need to celebrate those friendships.
I am incredibly lucky to still have a few chosen friends from childhood. Like any other friendship, ours ebb and flow over the years. But those childhood friends have been here for me whenever I need them, and that’s always what amazes me. We’ve known each other for over 30 years, and we’re all still a part of each other’s lives.
When I was a toddler, my mom enrolled me in dance class, and it was in that class that I met two girls who would become my best friends. Although we would occasionally drift apart during our childhoods, whenever we would reconnect, it was as if no time had passed. Our bond remained strong even when we had other people who held the title of “best friend.” Because labels and daily chats don’t matter when you understand the importance of your childhood friends.
As teens and young adults, our lives began to veer, but we still kept our word. That was when I truly began to understand the value of childhood friendships. I went off to college, the first one to really fly the coop. But I made it a point to see them or talk to them, regardless of where I was living. Because I understood how important it was that we stay friends, I became the one who made it happen. Whether that meant just reaching out to check in, or arranging a get together when we all had time. It was important to me that we stayed in each other’s lives.
I think the teens and early-20s are when childhood friendships fall apart. You’re all growing into the person you’re becoming and asserting your independence. You might realize who doesn’t fit in your life anymore or you might move away and move on.
Growing up and moving away is a test for childhood friendships. Sometimes, living close to each other is the thing that cradles your bond, and losing that geographical closeness means you also lose some of your emotional closeness. Then, you’re making new friends and having new experiences. With these new friendships, you can be a new version of yourself and no one knows any better. You’re not being held against who you were before. That’s fine, but then there are times you miss the people who you can talk about old times with.
As adults, it’s a lot harder to maintain our childhood friendships, but we try. We live very different lives and live far away from each other. We haven’t been together in probably ten years, and yet, our bonds remain strong. When one of them got married, I stood as her witness. And then when the other got married, I was supposed to be a bridesmaid, but life happened. I still feel horrible years later, but it’s never been an issue in our friendship. When I had my son, they were both super supportive, and they love him as much as they love me.
People are always in shock when we talk about how long we’ve known each other. Because we’re still pretty young, it’s hard to wrap your head around a 30-year friendship.
But when you’re in your 30s and you’ve been friends since your toddler years, that’s what happens. Choosing to continue our childhood friendships with each other feels easy, but it’s still a choice. Even with social media, it’s easy to fall off each other’s radar. But we never do. We make a decision every day to be there, even if it’s only just to check in on Facebook every couple of months.
Adulthood isn’t easy on any friendships, but especially childhood friendships. So many new people have come into your lives, creating all new bonds. Spouses, partners and children can take up all of your time and energy. Work is a necessary evil, but it doesn’t leave you with much free time. Making the time for your childhood friends gets a lot harder, especially if they live far away. It may mean planning a specific trip to see each other, or if you happen to be in their city, grabbing a quick dinner. Being together, however brief, always feels like coming home.
Maintaining your childhood friendships as an adult isn’t easy. It takes a conscious amount of effort. But it’s worth it. When you’ve been friends with someone since you were in diapers, they know you. Not the you the world gets to see, but the real you. They’ve been there to watch you learn and grow into adulthood. And they’re a part of that growth, directly or indirectly. Childhood friendships, and how you treat them, lay the groundwork for adult friendships. Because those friends teach you how to be a friend. If you’re lucky enough to still be in each other’s lives into adulthood, never ever take that gift for granted.