Written by Amy Purintun
You can pick your friends. You can pick your nose. But, you can’t pick your friend’s nose.
My husband and I have said that to our kids forever to get a smile or a giggle out of them. When they were little it was a way to get them to stop picking their OWN nose. Now that the nose-picking issue is no longer a worry (most of the time), I think of that little phrase as I watch my children pick their friends.
Life was much easier for this momma when I was in control of their social lives. I could decide who they would spend time with, when it could happen, and where. I could easily “check out” the parents of the new friend and make sure that everything was safe. Somehow the security of screening the friends felt like I was able to keep my kids from getting hurt by mean people.
Now? Well, those days have long since passed. With my youngest I still have a small bit of ability to monitor who she is with, but with my older two? Not so much. I know high school is the place where kids are supposed to grow up and start stretching their wings. In fact, that’s what we WANT as parents. But, it is still a process. At times a painful process. Lessons have to be learned, and when mom has to watch from the sidelines – that is tough!
My daughters each have a large circle of friends that they are in and out of on a regular basis. They each have a couple of “bffs” that are always around, but then there are the names that float in and out and I can’t even begin to keep up all the time. Honestly, I don’t even try. I’m friends with several of the mothers of the other girls, and it is easiest for us moms to let the girls do their thing and we do ours. The moms stay out of whatever is going on between the daughters. Now, don’t get the idea that the girls are mean, or bad, or icky – just normal girl stuff. Mild drama is what I would call it, I guess. Girls can definitely be mean, but so far any interaction with mean girls has been very limited.
My older daughter had a special “guy friend” that I wrote about here. It was a learning experience for not only her, but my husband and I as well. Since she was not yet 16, there was a lot of “group activities” that happened – always with an adult presence.
The, um, boyfriend eventually was dismissed with minimal drama, and we are currently enjoying a boyfriend free season. But, when that “relationship” came to an end, there were some moments of awkwardness that she had to experience in regards to seeing him at different school events and how they interacted. It took a bit of time to achieve a new normal. She had to endure some snarky comments coming from him as he salvaged his pride, and I had to learn to listen to the stories as they came home without getting emotionally involved. The boyfriend-girlfriend beginning-ending thing is tough!
Now that she is 16, I’m sure it will be only a matter of time, and some young man will get to come enjoy supper with the family. I have told both of my girls that waiting to date until they are older (like after they are married – to someone their dad picks out – ha!) would be easier, but I’m not sure that they seem to buy into that theory.
There are also the friendships that are the easy friends. With my son, our firstborn, it was his group of guys that he would go and do “stuff” with – like paintball, or laser tag. Just a group of guy friends that would get together and go do “guy stuff”. He wasn’t out all the time, and a part of me was hoping that he would go and do more.
At some point that seemed too soon for me, our boy became friends with a girl. A specific girl. A GIRL-FRIEND. Whoa!! That was a new thing for me. Suddenly, any extra time that he had, he was spending it with her. Jealous much, mom? Yeah. I was. I wasn’t ready for a pretty-young-thing to take full control of all his time. And thoughts. But, it happened.
We knew the girl’s family. Had known them for some time in fact. That wasn’t the issue at all. Honestly, I was enjoying the fact that he had a “someone special” to go and do things with together. (and, it made his having a job much more important in order to have the extra cash…) My momma’s heart was tender for the “what if.” What if they break up? I wasn’t naive enough to think that this would be the ONLY girl he ever dated. So, I knew that at some point there would be a heartache that I couldn’t fix. The owie that this mom had no band-aid for, no magic kiss, and no way to prevent.
In some ways it was like watching my baby learn to walk or run all over again – knowing that a fall was inevitable. And, the fall eventually happened. I won’t sugar coat it, it wasn’t fun for anyone. I guess the plus side was that he was still at home, and not in some faraway place to experience his first heart-break all alone. I learned as a mom to be supportive, but not to become overly protective. As much as I wanted to gather him up into my arms and sit and rock in our favorite chair – that wasn’t the answer he needed. Or even wanted. He had to heal on his own, in his own time, his own way. Now that he is off to college and I have NO IDEA what he is doing…. I look back at those times he was at home, and relax in the memory.
The friendship thing is a tough one for moms of older kids. We want our kids to have friends. Good friends. Safe friends. And, we moms have to learn to trust our kids’ judgment that they will have the ability to choose friends that meet all those criteria. WITHOUT us getting involved as their social directors. At a pace that they determine. Another one of the lessons I have learned is that sometimes the kids that I think my kids should spend time making friends with aren’t really the kind of kid that is the best influence after all. I just have to sit back and let them lead. That’s tough! But, in the end the lessons are good for everyone. I am so thankful that I have MY friends to support me through all of this learning that I am doing. My prayer is that my kids will develop friendships that are lifelong blessings to them, too.