When your kid and his friend break up, what do you do?
Here’s how it starts.
Me to my 10-year-old: Joe’s coming over Thursday.
Him: Head shake. Nope. Not happening.
Uh-oh, here it comes. It’s that transitional moment where a line is drawn and you no longer get any say in your child’s friendships.
What was it this time? The kid was annoying, or mean, or babyish. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. At some point, your kid starts deciding who he likes and who he doesn’t and it’s not up to you. Which is only a problem if you’re friends – good friends – with that kid’s mom.
Joe’s mom and I met when the boys were in preschool and we promptly fell in love. Like me, she’s into shopping and reading and we talk on the phone every week. We give each other advice and share stories about the boys and depend on each other for lifts and sleepovers and camp cabin mates. So this new reality was going to affect us, too.
I dreaded calling to undo that playdate. So first, I tried cajoling my kid. Aw come on, you guys are buddies, you’ll get over it. Just try one more time. When the kid stood firm, with his You can’t make me, I tried insisting (Oh, yes I can!). What was I going to do? Lock them in a room together? I tried everything – threatening, bribing, begging. Nothing worked.
The last resort was picking up the phone. Awk-ward.
In the past, when my kid would cry that another was bossy or clingy, we moms took action. We’d get on the phone and powwow and we’d straighten them out pronto. Now the boys were too old for us to butt in. They had to learn to manage their relationships, albeit kindly, all by themselves. I could support and coach from the sidelines, but getting into the fray with my friend – the who did what to whom, the he said, he said – was going to be counterproductive. They were past that.
Maybe I should just I could lie and say my kid was busy, I thought. God knows, there’s enough hockey to keep him occupied every night, all night. But my friend is no dummy. She might fall for that line this week, or next, but fourteen Thursdays from now was stretching it. There was no choice but to come clean.
The fact is, eventually kids start claiming their friendships as their own, and we moms have to deal with each other if we want our own friendships to stay intact. So I made the call, and together, my friend and I agreed that:
Sometimes in friendships, it’s time for a break.
The kids’ friendship is theirs, not ours.
As long as there is no meanness, there’s no right or wrong.
The kids have to be kind to each other but we can’t force more.
They may come back to each other at some point, and that would be great, but our friendship doesn’t hinge on it.
We have to maintain our bond without them.
I’m happy to report that I hung up relieved, and feeling closer to my friend than ever. Sometimes, letting your kids take the next step in their friendships is all you need to take the next step in yours.