Tuesday, March 10, 2015

BFFs: Long Distance Relationships

My 9 year old son and I have something in common: We don't have many friends. I never have. In high school and again in college, I maybe had a total of 3 close girlfriends. Total. It didn't mean I wasn't popular or well liked, I think I can only give my attention and efforts to a few good friends at a time. Beck is the same way. And, like me, he is having to once again say good-bye to one of his best friends this spring due to a long distance move.

I am struggling to find comforting words of advice as he prepares to say good-bye. I want to encourage him to make an effort to keep in touch and perhaps the friendship will endure. I know he is capable of this since he maintains long distance friendships right now that will hopefully last his lifetime. The are that kind of friends. You just know it. They are friends he mentions at bedtime, worries about and gets teary eyed wondering when he will see them again. 

I have those friends too. In fact my two best friends have moved quite far away. They are friends I made at a most vulnerable point in my life, when I had my first baby, and they had theirs. We bonded over exploding diapers at fancy lunches, breast feeding at the playground, tantrum stories and other stresses that come with being a new mom. I have told them deep secrets and I know quite a few of theirs. They are friendships I have had now for almost ten years. Being apart from them for several years now, I find ourselves trying to keep in touch in a variety of ways, but always wish it were more often. Working full time is a definite factor in my inability to keep in touch as often as I would like, but I am going to make a better effort to keep in touch. I am! I really think it sets a good example for Beck & Petra of how to maintain lifelong friendships. 

I want to explain to Beck that true friends understand when some time lapses between calls and emails. A true friend will always be happy to hear you voice and you pick up right where you left off. I found a sweet list of ways to stay in touch with long distance friends on www.huffingtonpost.com  written by Gabriela Kruschewsky. Here are a just a few ways I will share with Beck that I think are right-on:

1. Send random photo messages to each other regularly. I try to do this when I can. It's hard to remember, but super easy to do. I always love being on the receiving end of a fun photo to keep up with what the other person is up to. 

2. Start something personal & private you can both share together. I did this years ago with my sisters. We started a journal that we send through snail mail. We took turns adding whatever we wanted, a photo, a poem, a drawing. It was always so exciting to get it in the mail & see what was added. It could be as simple as an email chain!

3. Try to keep up in their daily life & what's going on with them. I should move this up to the #1 spot. I'll stress to Beck that when talking to his friends, to always ask detailed questions about what they are up to. (Don't just ramble on about yourself). Asking specific questions about what sport they are doing, a trip they just took, family they just visited, can really make your friend feel closer and remind them of how much you listen & care about their personal life. 

4. Remember their family is your family. Or at least, act as though they are. For my BFFs, I keep a list in my contacts of their extended family names. Brother-in-laws, step-fathers, cousins....for when I'm talking to them it's always nice to reference their family with a name. I love when they ask  me specifically about my family and actually remember my nephew's names, Aunt Helen, or that my Irish Gram, Mary, lived next door to me all my life. 

5. Take mini trips together, even if you meet half way. This is probably the most difficult one. As an adult, busy schedules and finances come into play, but it's always such a treat when you can make it happen. I remember we used to make an annual 'girl's weekend' and it made us all so much closer and we have many fun shared memories from these trips.

6. Write an actual physical letter to them once and a while. This takes so little time, but really shows you took a moment to make them feel special. Beck still has a few notes from his long distance friend on his bulletin board. (Along with the necklace his friend sent in the envelope). Very sweet & very easy.

7. Small talk is key. This is so easily done with texting, Facebook replies, Instagram pics, and other technology we already have in our hands all day long. It only takes a few moments to say hi or comment on someone's status or photo. Waiting days for someone to reply to a text is pretty crummy. I will remind Beck to stay diligent and reply quickly.

8. Accept their new friends. This one I saw on another post, but find it super important. You can't expect your friend to put blinders on and never make another close friend again. That would be pretty selfish. It is always a bit painful to know your friends are sharing things she used to share with you, but you must remember her happiness is yours. I'll remind Beck to accept their new friends and it can only make you closer. I myself have made a few new friends here in the burbs. It doesn't mean my long distance friendships are any less important or special.