The one cool thing about getting older is you give less fucks. I really could care less about what someone thinks about me. Unless it’s someone I actually like, then, of course, I’d prefer that person like me back. All of a sudden I’m in middle school again… I’m the girl in the Gap overalls my Mom got on sale at the outlet stores. See me? Right there… Yup. I vividly remember how hard it was to make friends, form relationships, and feel like I fit in. We lived in a completely different world then. All of my friends lived near me. I rode my bike everywhere, I walked to school.
Now, fast forward what seems like a hundred years and here we are.
Adults with little joiners of our own. And we are watching them forge relationships. Ones that, sometimes unfortunately, we need to be a huge part of. Our children’s childhood friendships come with extra “built in” friends for us. The friend’s parents, sometimes even their siblings befriend our other children. And then you’re not only dealing with you own family dynamic, but you’re forced to blend and mold that to accommodate other families and their dynamics. It’s a balancing act that can sometimes seem like a never-ending siege of power struggles and alpha dogs.
So here is the paradox. What happens when you dislike your kid’s friend? Or worse, the friend’s parents?
Now you’re thrown into social situations with people you would normally distance yourself from. Crazy, right-wing bigot? No thanks, I’m good. Religious, preachy zealot? I gave at the office.
But your kid likes their kid. So now you have to maintain a personal relationship with someone you would normally cross the street to avoid.
I’m just starting to feel the pressure with my oldest child. He has school friends, religious school friends, soccer team friends, and we live in an area that requires plans be made, and followed up with, that’s right, you guessed it, the parents.
I can’t remember the last text message or phone conversation I had that didn’t involve me making plans with an adult I met through my child, so he could play with their child. Ultimately, it is my son’s decision when choosing friends. I only hope that his father and I have given him the proper tools to choose wisely.
I must say, lately, I’ve been pretty lucky. My son seems to be able to sense crazy pretty quickly so he’s figured out the parents and/or children he doesn’t want to be around on his own. Which is AWESOME. Thanks buddy. But this same cycle is already starting with the middle guy, and soon the baby will have friends too. And although I enjoy having a diverse tapestry of relationships in my life I would like to have some personal responsibility about the people I want to weave in.
So although, I really don’t give a fuck about people’s perception of me anymore, I care deeply about how people perceive my children based on my actions. I don’t want to be “that parent”.
The one that people cross the street to avoid.