I stumbled upon “I’ll Be You and You Be Me” by Ruth Krauss at a library some months ago. I was looking for something, some books for my children on friendships and friends to better understand and give a voice to my three-year old’s quest for wonderful “friends” of her own! “Oh, mommy! Will they be my friend?” she often asks in anticipation of seeing new children in public.
While fully aware that friends do matter, even to small children, her intense need for friends who called themselves “her friend,” at first, concerned me. “Will she someday be dependent?” “Why can’t she just play by herself” I would ask. I did this because I can be neurotic about such things but also because deep down inside I was afraid of how she would handle the rejections that would likely ensue should she always begin interaction with requests for friendships. “What if they say “no”? I would cringe from the sidelines, hearing her requests in my adult ears as pleadings to be liked. Oblivious to my discomfort, however, she would continue and in her continuing to ask the very humble question “Will you be my friend?” through some responses of “no” and even more of “yes, I learned something about friendships.
We can all experience joy and pain alone, yes. But to become a friend is to allow yourself to step outside of yourself and experience the same joys and pain with another. And in doing that, those experiences feel differently. The pain is shared, and, thus, hurts less. The joys– of victories, jumping, playing–are multiplied!
You become in this sense, related, like kin, like sisters or brothers. To have a friend is to have someone who you love so much that you are able to see yourself in them. Friendship is then a celebrate of that melded reflection of you and them and both you and them. And while not everyone will be our friend, we should continue on, like my three-year old, in expectation that someone will.
“I’ll be You and You Be Me” is a tribute, a love to imagination and friendship and what happens when children imagine themselves as friends. The above illustrations are some of my favorites so I had to share. Happy Friday, friends.