By Miss Pollyanna, 17th January 2016

The Friend Ship

A Wonderful Way to explain the Ebb and Flow of Childhood Buddies!

A Wonderful Way to explain the Ebb and Flow of Childhood Buddies!

One of the most heartbreaking things as a parent is comforting your devastated child when their friendships go pear shaped, or shipmates head off into the sunset for a new life in a new town, and sometimes even a new country… never to be seen or heard from again!

Of course we have been there and done it all before when we were children and teens ourselves (in my case more times than I care to remember!) We are still probably going through it now. I know my friends seemingly bob in and out of my life. And some even like to crash back with the stormy tide onto my shore… bringing with them a message in a bottle! Which is why I liken these childhood changes with our amigos to being a ship on the sea. This is what works for me; for us. And I share it because perhaps it’s a metaphor you can also use on one of those gloomy Friday evenings when you’re in dire need of inspiration – you so know the ones I mean! – your daughter storms in and heads for the biscuits because her usually friendly group of teenage school pals have been uncharacteristically spiteful, or your son is distraught that he will never see his best buddy again now his parents have decided to move the family to America.

Often a hug, a box of tissues and a family movie will stand you in equally good stead.


But in case you need a little extra inspiration, I present to you my tried and tested Friend Ship spiel:

The Friend Ship model is easy to understand and as kind as a cuddle, breaking friends down into nautical categories. In simplified terms it works for a 4 year old just as effectively as it works for a 14 year old; girls AND boys. Heck, I still use it now to remind myself that pals come and go; that none of it has anything to do with me, rather life is constantly shifting and changing like a sand dune. It’s normal, beautiful, ugly and painful. Sometimes all four things at once.

Anchors – If we’re lucky we’ll have three or four solid anchors who will sail with us our entire lives. These are often the friends we make at primary school – maybe even at nursery! But it’s not always the case. Sometimes we’ll meet our anchors at secondary school, college, our first work place or university. How do we know they’re anchors?  Well, quite simply, they’re always there. We can pick up with these guys where we cast off – be that the exotic port of Nassau in The Bahamas, or the slightly more mundane Felixstowe, Blighty. Occasionally our anchor friendships will get a little rusty and be in need of a little TLC. But it’s never anything much ‘cos these friends know us port side and starboard; they accept us salty sea spray and all. Anchors sail with us when seas get choppy and the ride gets rough – during these times we may even notice other ‘friends’ scrambling overboard and into life rafts… or jumping ship entirely in their friendship group droves! But not the anchors. Oh no, anchors are grounded enough to be in it for the journey. They’re there for us when we need a helping hand and feel unsteady on our sea legs. Anchors support us and lead us safely back to shore with all the reliability of a lighthouse.

Look after your anchors and they will last you a lifetime!

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Sinead Friel
Sinead Friel

Pirates – Well, ooh-arr me Hearties, you’ve got to think twice if you spot any of these fake friends on your horizon with your trusty telescope.  Common sense should re-set your compass and have you traversing the seas back to the safety of land in the blink of an eye. I best not say failing that a cannon ball. Oops. I just have.

Fair Weather Friends – Some of these guys are great at masquerading as potential anchors… but beware!  Oh, they are all lovely in their own way, but never worth ditching the rest of your on-board crew and passengers for. More often than not they will hop on for a cheeky cruise around The Med when the sun’s shining. Some might even stay longer and do a 365 day round the world kind of voyage with us. We’ll have fun and frolics with them in just about every conceivable port of call. And then one day, they’re gone. Yes, just as quickly as they hopped on, they’ll hop off. Without even as much as a Bon Voyage! Fair Weather Friends are frustrating at best. But they have served their purpose and it’s best to let them come and go with the ease of a turning tide. Often we won’t see that until several years down the nautical line when we look back and ‘Aha!‘ we get that Eureka moment. For example, some of my Fair Weather Friends led me to my husband, my career, helped me settle into a new work place, took me under their wings during tricky times. Nowadays I am much more laid back about this group. I expect them to be transient and so, I cherish the short lifespan of our companionship. And I thank them for it – because out with the old always means in with the new.

Christian Lambert Photography
Christian Lambert Photography

New Ports of Call Friends – These are the ones we meet when we join a club, start a new hobby which introduces us to new circles, move to a new location, start a new school or find a new job. They are exciting friends who tend to bring out the best in us. They almost always believe we have what it takes and initially, knowing them (at least on the water’s surface), is so exhilerating that they quickly become our new Besties. Alas, the tide changes with this lot too. Some will turn to driftwood. Others may lap occasionally at our shore. But we can be easy about that once again, for there is constantly the promise of new ports of call and more adventures awaiting with a brand new bunch of sailors.

Change of Season Friends – These board our ship as we reach our life’s milestones. Seemingly solid as rocks, they are often with us from the beginning right through to the very end of entire new voyages of discovery. We officially begin our love life… and in they flood (don’t panic I am referring to appropriately aged teens here!); we move to a new country and leave everything else we knew behind, or we have a baby (don’t panic, I am definitely referring to adults here!) and our sense of reality takes a 180 degree U-turn and with that our groupies. So much so that sometimes we even carelessly drop our poor anchors! If we can make the best of the time we have with these Change of Season Friends, knowing that romances will likely end – and with that, naturally our mutual connections; if we can remember that one day our babies will grow up, so many of us women will return to work and can no longer make the upper deck coffee mornings or baby massage classes… it makes the parting of company so much less bittersweet. Alas, I think my Change of Season Friends have been some of the hardest to let go of. And thankfully, some have let me go and made my job of clinging to their port just that little bit simpler.

So back to dry land… and hopefully dry eyes!  I guess the best advice we can give is to take care of our Anchors and as for the rest of the crew, well, hopefully they’ll be a mostly pleasant surprise…

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