My youngest daughter's birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks. She had long ago decided that she wanted to go play laser tag with her friends for her birthday. I had checked out the prices and decided she could take six friends. She was really, really excited about it.
Sunday, I clicked onto the laser tag website so I could call and make the reservations. When I popped up the website, there it was in big, bold letters -- YOU MUST BE 7 YEARS OLD AND 42 INCHES TALL TO PLAY.
Now, my daughter meets both of those requirements. She's turning 8, and she's taller than the height restriction. Two of her best friends, however, haven't turned 7 yet. They both turn 7 in the next month.
As I looked at those big, bold words on the website, I worried that telling my daughter was not going to be fun. Have I mentioned before that she's a bit of a drama queen? I envisioned much weeping and gnashing of teeth before she finally came to the conclusion that her friends were more important than a game of laser tag.
Much to my pleasure and surprise, my daughter was disappointed but immediately decided that we would have to do something else so her friends could come. I did promise her that we would take her to play laser tag sometime this summer, but it really didn't take any coaxing for her to decide that she wanted all of her friends at her party.
Rather than sacrifice her friendships on the altar of selfishness, she laid down the thing she wanted most so she could have the thing that was best for everyone. We're now planning a Super Mario birthday party here at home. More work for me but something that everyone can attend.
Friendships are valuable. Good friendships are rare. We need to treat them like the precious commodity that they are and teach our children to value them as well. Knowing that there are people in this world outside your family who truly love and accept you and choose to hang out with you makes the world a much better place.
Proverbs 18:24 tells us, "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." We want to have and be the friend who sticks closer than a brother, and we want our children to have and be those friends as well. To do that, we must teach our kids to treasure their friendships.
- Lead by example. Let your kids see you making time for your friends. If they see you making choices that put others' needs ahead of your own, then they will be encouraged to do the same.
- Remind your kids of the ways that friends make life richer -- they help us, they have fun with us and they encourage us. Read Ecclesiastes 4:12 with your kids. It says, "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." Give your child a piece of yarn and ask them to break it. They can probably do it with no trouble. Next, give them two strands of yarn and have them twist the two strands together and try to break it. It will be much harder. Last, give them three strands of yarn and have them braid the strands and try to break it. They probably won't be able to break the braid. Explain that the braid is like a friendship that includes God. It can't be broken easily.
- Encourage your kids to put their friends first. When they have a friend over, institute a friends first rule. The visiting friend gets to go first in games and other activities. This simply reminds your child to put their friends' needs ahead of their own.
- Help your children figure out how to solve problems with their friends. Don't let a disagreement turn into a rift that ruins a friendship. Teach your kids that forgiving each other is part of treasuring their friendships.
When we teach our children to value their friendships, we are giving them tools to make their lives richer, fuller and happier. Friends bring joy into our lives in ways no one else can. Often they stand in for family when family is not around. Learning at an early age that friends are important and friendship requires sacrifice will put your kids on a path to having successful friendships all through their lives -- even if it means giving up something they really want right now.
I'm sure next year I'll be writing about my daughter's amazing laser tag 9th birthday party, but this year, we'll keep our party and our friends close to home.