At 7 a.m., I opened the door and there they were, standing on my porch like an army of angels, wrapping me in their wings and ushering me off to heaven. Ida went straight to the art, carefully readying each piece for the journey. Tina came with chicken and salad and fruit and jugs of water and juice, so we wouldn’t be hungry while we worked. Akilah tended to my child, made sure she regarded her new room for what it was: a fresh and exciting start. Victoria was on my phone from a whole ‘nother part of the country, making sure that all she’d put into place for me—keys to my new apartment, new furniture—was ready and waiting for me. And Karen dressed me in white and yellow and pulled Florida Water and sage and sweetgrass and a flower of Jericho from her bag, and she prayed with me and over me and blessed every surface of my new house. My new life.

I will never, ever forget how my girls—my hearts—showed up for me on this monumental day—the day I officially left my 20-year marriage and moved out on my own. These women, along with my girls Selassie and Joyce, who couldn’t physically be there but helped in immeasurable ways that day and beyond—are my rocks. They hold my secrets. They tell me the truth. They encourage, advise, tap me on my shoulder, make me laugh, listen. Love.  With full hearts.

With full hearts.

Theirs is the kind of friendship I witnessed my mother have with her own friends—the women whom I called “aunty,” despite that we didn’t share the same blood. Sarah, Lena, Cynthia, Annette, Tina—each of them were a constant presence in my mother’s life, and, in turn, mine. Weekends would come and there would be bowling and Pokeno, chitterlings in the pot and southern lemon pound cake on the table, Sunday School and church. They really loved one another—had each other’s backs—and I was so lucky to witness it all.

That part is important. Because my mother’s friendships modelled for me how I should build my own—how important it was to have quality friendships that stand the test of time, circumstance, distance and relationships and bring out the very best in all involved.

It’s this that I was thinking about recently after sitting in on a Responsibility.org summit talk by retired American soccer midfielder Julie Foundy, a two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist. In her talk, she spoke passionately about her squad—how important it was for her and her teammates to have each other’s backs both on the field and off. It’s important, she added, to know exactly who lifts you up.

And isn’t this what we all need—what we want for our babies? For them to be surrounded by people who have their backs? For sure, showing our children how to build solid, healthy friendships puts them in a position to be looked after and to be responsible to those who are truly worthy that responsibility. This is good for the heart.

Building these kinds of bonds takes work, finesse, time. A bit of commonality, sure, but also a commitment to finding, giving to and truly appreciating those friends and who we are in each others’ lives. After all, it’s no small feat to be a good friend, even and especially when times get hard.

I’m so proud that my homegirls are a firm example of friendship in my daughters’ lives; always, Mari and Lila are there, witnessing the shenanigans and tomfoolery, yes (listen, my girls and I like to have fun, okay?), but also how my friends show up for me and how I show up, too, for them. Seeing us fellowship with one another has been a window for my girls—a clear-eyed view on how to be a friend to someone and what to expect in true friendships. Just like my friends and I mean each other well, my daughters, know, too, how to choose friends who are an intellectual, emotional, behavioral match.

I’m grateful that my daughters got to see my friends really be there for me when I started my new journey. That they’ve seen us laugh together, dance together, party together, cry together, figure things out together, pray together. Fly together. I know they have the road map to forge meaningful friendships with a dope squad of their own. Victoria, Tina, Selassie, Ida, Karen, Joyce, Akilah, Angela, Mitzi and Marion: I thank God for you.  

As the U.S. women’s team squads up to go for the big win in the World Cup, I’m encouraging each of us moms to #talkearly to our babies about the importance of friendships, how to build a solid squad and all the ways that having quality friends gives us the power to make good decisions and hold each other accountable when it comes to sticky situations, like peer pressure and difficult choices. Need some help with that talk? Visit the Responsibility.org site for conversation starters and resources to help you bring out the natural leadership skills in your kid. It’s so worth it.

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I’m a proud #TalkEarly blogging ambassador and I’ve been compensated for this post, but trust and believe, these opinions are my own. You know I’d have it no other way.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

2 Comments

  1. Amen! Amen! Amen!

  2. Awesome story… smiling then crying (tears of joy) then smiling again.

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