Too often kids are told platitudes like, “If your friends can’t accept you for who you are, they aren’t really your true friends.” Hang on a minute there, let’s not be too hasty eliminating potential friends. Maybe some of your classmates aren’t the platonic ideal of a “true friend,” but you’re not exactly living in an enchanted realm of friendship in which endless streams of fun-loving peers are all clamoring to embark with you on a magical journey to friendship island. Maybe a “true friend” wouldn’t ever talk about you behind your back or sleep with your girlfriend, but if you limited yourself to “true friends” you’d maybe have two real friends over the course of your entire childhood. So you can either become some sort of highly-principled friendship martyr who spends most of his time by himself enumerating the many reasons you can’t be friends with your classmates, or you can swallow your pride and befriend a few people who occasionally cause you psychological harm. This is the real world, not the Babysitter’s Club.
To put this another way (and please feel free to share this with your children): if your friends aren’t always there when you need them, it’s because that’s their prerogative and sometimes they have other shit to do. They’re your friends, not your AA sponsors. Sometimes this is your fault; perhaps they shouldn’t accept you for who you are because who you are is irritating and makes others feel uncomfortable. But more often it’s purely a function of arithmetic. When you’re a young child, your friends are really just random miscreants who happen to share coincident geometry, often localized in a tiny broke-ass little classroom of 30 snotty little children. 15 of these changelings are going to be the opposite gender and thus ill-suited for true long-term friendship. Another three or four are going to be compulsive liars, bullies, tyrants, psychopaths. A solid two or three are going to be under-diagnosed special needs children who still wear diapers, or who still should be wearing diapers based on how often they seem to shit their pants. By the time you get to a workable group of potential friends, you’re down to a meager handful of motley little children. Assuming this slim remainder doesn’t preemptively reject you (definitely not a guarantee), are you really going to be all that concerned if they’re a little judgmental or sometimes publicly humiliate you? Your friends aren’t always going to have your back; sometimes they’ll even stab you in it — sometimes literally with a sharpened pencil. That doesn’t mean they’re not your friends, it just means that the world is complicated than Thomas the Tank Engine led you to believe. Welcome to kindergarten, bitch.