Books like Life’s Little Instruction Book or All You Needed to Know You Learned in Kindergarten are great stocking stuffers and gifts for graduates outside your bloodline. But for my child, I’m stockpiling words of advice that I’m going to unload on him when he’s old enough to listen and appreciate receiving it. Like, say, when he’s 40. Joking aside, profound advice doled out by authors reflecting on regrets is nice and all, but I am going to slap some straight-up applicable advice on my kid starting with which friends he should collect as an adult.
That’s right, I said collect. It’s a cold, harsh word that implies a level of carelessness. But au contraire! Had I known then what I know now I would have pursued a collection of friends with the same fervor and meticulousness that Thomas Crown sought fine art. Forming a well-rounded, supportive network of friends is like creating a masterpiece. And if you are blessed to have put together the perfect blend of personalities and professional talents…well…it’s a beautiful thing.
There is no doubt that a strong network of friends is needed during the most difficult times in life (divorce, a loved one’s death, etc.). But my advice to my son is to not only look at catastrophic events as the “difficult times,” but also to keep in mind some of the day-to-day challenges he may encounter. THAT’S when a diverse group of friends with dynamic personalities and skill sets can come in handy. THAT’S when he will learn the entirely different meaning this mom gives to the phrase “friends with benefits.”
Put your dreaming cap on for a moment and ask yourself… “If the development of friendships was something that could be planned or approached purposefully, who would I recommend that my child befriend?” I’m not talking about the friend who is there for you with a shoulder to cry on, or the one who gets your butt out of bed to exercise every morning. I’m talking about friends whose professional roles or life’s passions would help your child with every day challenges.
Here are a few on my list:
- Electrician – My husband is very handy. He’s finished basements in two of our houses and basically built our first house (with the help of my dad – see #4). But electricity is nothing to mess with which he proved years ago. He was trying to change a light switch. Thinking it would be a quick, uncomplicated change, he didn’t turn off the electricity. What followed was an electric shock that traveled through his body, exiting through his chest before reaching his heart. How do I know this? Because it left a burn mark on his skin. Right in the middle of his chest. If you are my mother-in-law who is reading this, I’m sorry, but he didn’t want you to know because he didn’t want you to worry. However, being that it’s a few years later, the statute of limitations has run out. This episode now falls into the category of “the stupid stuff done when younger” and is available for ridicule.
- Plumber – In this case, it’s worth having a friend with benefits who doesn’t mind being in the wet spot. Piecing together new pipes underneath a bathroom sink may be a DIY project, but when it comes to pipes leaking in the ceiling or walls, it’s best to have a friend who doesn’t need to pause a YouTube video between action steps.
- Mechanic – Gears, gaskets and gauges are not in my wheelhouse. So my message to my son will be: “If you’re unsuccessful finding a friend who is a mechanic, get an AAA membership. Someday, you may need roadside assistance. It could be for a tow. Or, it could be to replace a flat tire… that you got as a result of hitting a curb…after failing to dodge a mailbox… that you accidentally clipped during a momentary lapse of judgment when you decided to pick up an Elton John CD on the passenger side floor. Whether or not this scenario happened is neither here nor there, son. We’re not talking about me. This is about you. I’m just sayin’ it’s a possibility.” (By the way, the momentary lapse in judgment applies both to picking up something on the passenger-side floor as well as the Elton John CD.)
- Carpenter –My dad is a carpenter. I’ve benefited first-hand from his skills and my beautiful dining room built-in cabinets are one example. But let’s be honest, it’s important to have a carpenter friend because when the zombie apocalypse happens, we will all want someone who can build walls, not apps. #ZombiesforReal
- Heating and cooling technician – This is a “twofer.” Not because it’s a friend who knows about heating AND cooling. It’s because this technician can help keep the house climate on track AND provide hours of ample entertainment. My husband and I became friends with a heating and cooling guy later in life. While he’s already shared his handy work to help us with a new furnace, it’s his stories about climbing around in others people’s basements and attics that keep us in stitches. Well, except for that one story about finding the dead guy. Laughing at that was just inappropriate. I’m sure he didn’t plan to be found while in the bathroom. Ahem.
- I.T. expert – While it would be nice if rebooting could fix all of the technical problems in the world, it doesn’t. That’s why you need this friend. But don’t just squander this relationship on seeking computer advice. More often than not, this friend is a great go-to source for research on the latest gadgets, appliances, etc.
- Doctor or Prescribing Provider – When my son was born, I was envious of my friends with babies who had a doctor in their neighborhood. While I would share stories about sitting in after-hour clinics to get help for my son’s ear infections, they would tell tales of trotting across the street to get a prescription. Before anyone says, “now, that ain’t right,” it should be a requirement that they first spend a night or two trying to rock to bed a screaming child that has been propped up in a car seat to help prevent the child’s throbbing ear pain.
- Lawyer – This one doesn’t need much explanation. A friend who can interpret contracts, help lower points lost from speeding tickets and send threats on lawyer letterhead to scare unethical landlords or service folks can be a good thing. Did I say help lower points from speeding tickets?
- Financial planner – It’s good to have a friend who is a successful financial planner. If the person is a close, trusted friend, there’s the option to do what he or she does when it comes to investments. Keep in mind, this advice only stands if the person isn’t living in a van down by the river.
When I’ve posed this question to friends, other suggestions for the list that I’ve received are hair stylist/barber, personal trainer and landscaper (designer and “do”-er). I’m sure there are others that I have been remiss to list. If you think so, I welcome your suggestions in the comments below. I’m always willing to add to the advice I have to offer. Just ask my son.
Now, one last point I’d like to make before I end this ramble. I realize that this approach to building friendships could be perceived as manipulative or position me as a cold-hearted and calculative mother who puts her son’s needs above all others. But let me clarify something. I will remind my son that if he is fortunate to have a “friend with benefits” he is NEVER to take advantage of that person’s skills at the risk of abusing the relationship. No. That wouldn’t be right. I will advise that he should just remind his buddy that he wouldn’t take advantage of him/her. And then immediately thank that person for being the type of friend who would offer to help without him even having to even ask. 😉