posted in Parenting
One of my greatest parenting challenges has been establishing and maintaining friendships that are kid-to-kid and mom-to-mom at the same time. I have not done it especially well, but I continue to learn. I am thinking about those sweet friendships that began in the early days of parenthood and mature over the course of the formative wonder years. I don’t know if what I have done is right or wrong; this is just how it’s gone for me.
As my children grew from babies into toddlerhood and beyond, their friendships with peers blossomed. My friendships with other mothers grew up and around simple (but profound) things like matchbox cars and piles of tantalizing dirt and broken bricks and a hose. The possibilities for fun seemed as endless as those lovely spring days.
I would meet other mothers at cafes on rainy mornings and we would stagger in with baby wraps and car seats with red-faced infants in them. These children would grow up together. And I, as a mother, would grow up too with these other mothers.
I had a friend once who had a son my son just loved. At 2 years old they would walk around holding hands and because this mother and I were on a path to be good friends, we read more into it than we should have. We marveled at their bond. When I cast back now I am touched at our earnestness and at how we wanted to build love connections for us all.
Then one day these children fell out. I noticed first while at a tennis clinic for toddlers. Her son appeared to be ignoring mine. He became remote. At a party, reference was made to a birthday party that had taken place for this child the day before and my son, stung, came to me to ask why he did not get to go. My stomach lurched. Because he was not invited.
I texted the mother to ask her. (Or maybe a third-party friend communicated, I honestly don’t remember). I do remember that I made far more of it than I should have done. I felt deeply (and unjustifiably) wounded that this woman had strained the social contract by which I believed we were all meant to abide. That is to say, don’t exclude — work with the community to build solidarity in a lonely world.
The flaw in this plan is that, of course, children know when they are alone in a group. They sense when mothers have orchestrated their inclusion. The lonely work of childhood is finding your group. There is no shame in the lonely until parents put it there.
I actually wish I had just let it go. I still miss hanging out with this woman who was only looking out for her child. I wish I had allowed our children to move into and out of each other’s lives in a kind of seamless, organic way.
I regret losing the friendship of this mother whose company I enjoyed a lot. She made me laugh. Looking back, I wanted to place blame on either her or (worse) on her child for not being interested in my son. That is on me. I was wrong.
Friendships shift. It happens. It has happened many times since that first experience. All through the course of a life it happens. We learn to survive.
I wish I had just allowed the party to occur and pass without much comment. She and I could have stayed friends. Maybe our boys would have become friends once more.
The years roll by and children grow up. Sometimes they fall out. Sometimes they drift. One of the hardest things I have had to learn to do is to let these children figure out how to be together when everything is changing.
It’s also hard to keep my friendships with the mothers from mirroring the twists and turns of our children. I struggle to prevent resentment from creeping up. I do the best I can to keep myself honest. These are all good kids doing the best they can, too. As mothers we can model friendships that are a bit tidal and even find the blue beauty in that.
Have your mom friendships been a casualty of kid dynamics? How do you deal?
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