You found your friends through your children. Can you maintain these friendships without them?
By Kimberly Yavorski
I think you get to a certain point in your life when you realize how important it is to have true friends and to keep yourself open to making new ones. Years ago, a parent of one of my daughter’s classmates suggested we go to breakfast. I really didn’t know her at all, but agreed, thinking it would be nice to get out. We discovered we had much in common and got together regularly for some time after. Our lives got busier and eventually we lost touch, but she taught me a valuable lesson: When something clicks when you meet someone, take a chance – make a new friend. In kindergarten it is easy to walk up to someone and say “Let’s be friends.” As an adult, it is much more difficult, but possibly more important. Friends get us through the tough times and make the good times more fun.
Like many parents, I have made many friends through my kids. Arranging playdates when they were younger meant talking to other parents, which in some cases led to lasting friendships. This is common among parents and almost expected. But sometimes your child’s relationship ends. There are no guidelines to how we, as parents, should act when those relationships end. Can we remain friends with the parents of the former friend?
We aren’t generally surprised at our kids’ changes in relationship status. After all, few of our kindergarten friends are still our friends into the teen years and beyond. At this age, relationships are sometimes fleeting, as cliques form and shift. As teens become young adults, they are learning who they are and what is important, and finding like-minded people to add to their circle. Sometimes, the friends they had in childhood have moved in a different direction; they don’t dislike each other, but no longer have much in common.
As parents, we often make new friendships when our children are young and we are actively involved in their social lives. Sometimes entire families get involved. They plan activities and maybe even vacations together. In some cases, even as they get older, the children continue to spend time together, simply because both families make plans to do so.
These friendships with other parents don’t always last. It’s not necessarily because we don’t want them to; sometimes life gets in the way. While no one warns us, parents often find the teen years of parenting to be the busiest of all. The car becomes not only a method of transportation, but also a place to eat on the fly and a portable office as we wait for their activities to wrap up. Then we go home and start all over again. Then they start to drive themselves and we realize it’s been months since our last parent-to-parent conversation.
Maybe our kids have orchestrated this. We’ve gotten our orders: we are no longer welcome to sit on the sidelines and chat with other parents. Maybe there’s a good reason for this. Parents have a tendency to commiserate and sometimes to overshare. The last thing a teenager wants or needs is for mom or dad to share personal information that may trickle down to their peers and cause embarrassment. It can be difficult to convince your child that he or she is not the topic of conversation when you get together with your friend. After all, your child is used to seeing him or herself as the center of your universe. What else could you have to talk about?
This sensitivity may make a parent second-guess whether we can be friends with other parents. And then, to further complicate things, what about when they start dating? Being friends with your child’s girl/boyfriend’s parent can be awkward. If the relationship ends, will your friendship have to as well?
After doing some research into this topic, I still don’t have an answer. Much has been written about being friends with your child and being friends with your child’s boy or girlfriend. There are even a number of articles about how to cope when you dislike the parents of your child’s friends or significant other. I found a few articles on making friends with other parents on the playground and even a match site to help parents find parent friends. However, there was nothing on being friends with your child’s significant other’s parents.
There is no easy answer. On the one hand, you have a right to choose your own friends. Perhaps you can just keep these relationships separate. On the other hand, if your child is hurting, you don’t want to cause greater pain or give the impression you are against them. If your friendship with the other parent is more than your child can handle, let your friend know that you value the relationship, but you can’t spend time with her at this time, that your child needs you now. Avoid the temptation to assign blame – in all likelihood you don’t know the full story anyway. Eventually your child will move on and you can start spending time with your buddy again.
A version of this previously appeared at Parent.co