When I was a young, naive girl with toddlers firmly affixed to each one of my then-skinny hips, I thought the concept of fostering friendships for my progenies would be a simple one. In my addled little brain, I thought that if I liked a mom it would stand to reason that my kids would like her offspring. For years, I fell victim to the obligatory play date setups, parental ruse and expected my twins to just "deal with it" --after all, I had a new friend to play with.
Over the years, as I gained exposure to more and more types of moms, sports, cliques and personality flaws (my own and others), I learned that we parents often set ourselves (and our kids) up for relationship failure by fostering friendships in this manner. In fact, I can give you three powerful off the cuff examples of precisely how we do it.1. The Anti-friend - I remember one relationship where the mother (my friend) and I had a falling out over something completely unrelated to our children. While I refused to take our pithy argument out on the kids, she wasn't interested in playing along -or playing nice. She forbade her child from playing with mine. She even went so far as to make snide comments about my kids while I was within earshot. In the end, my kids suffered, lost a friend, and wound up with hurt feelings all because of a self-centered grown-up.
2. The "Move Away" - One friend had a daughter who regularly played with my kids until we moved. When we were neighbors, it was easy to maintain that relationship. When we moved to the other side of town, it wasn't as cut and dried. Over the years, we've lost touch, and the kids lost another friend fostered by adult complications.
3. The Cliques - I have seen examples of this in every sport from soccer to cheerleading. There is always a clique or two of moms who get along and who's daughters play together…exclusively. These girls learn to omit the others, just like their mothers exclude other moms. Once more, the kids suffer at the hands of so-called grown people.
Of Course, I Had to Learn Something
It wasn't until I watched my now 17-year-old twins look up their friends from elementary school on Facebook that I realized how important it is to stay out of your child's friendships. They need to learn how to make, foster and care for their own relationships with our guidance, not our insistence. We need to put our kids first, not our desire to play with our friends, plop the kids in a room and simply expect them to get along because we say so.
I have said many times before that I have learned more about parenting through my mistakes than I have my triumphs. My only hope for other parents out there is that they can learn from my mistakes and make that knowledge their own triumph.
Are you game, or are you stuck in the parent trap?
Shauna Zamarripa is a blogger, columnist and upcoming book author. When she isn't figuring out the costs of college for her twins or griping about her preteen on Facebook, she enjoys life to the fullest and loves on her girls more than "pickled pigs feet" --to the moon and back.