My mom always said you “lose” your child once they start school. You’re not always there to steer your child through life decisions after you kiss them goodbye and send them off. You hope they play with the kids you know who are nice, but we also know that’s not always the case.
This often makes me wonder if it’s a good idea to help choose your child’s friends? As adults we pick our own friends all the time. And our kids do too. But as parents, is it possible to pick and choose your kids’ friends? By doing so, could we help them navigate around the ones we think might cause hardship? Should we even try? And if so, are we just asking for trouble?
In the first five or six years of our child’s life, we’re usually the “friend picker” for our child whether we realize it or not. As new moms we hang out with our “new mom friends” who have babies the same ages as ours. Our kids tend to grow up with our friends’ kids – sometimes taking vacations and trips together – so by the time they’re walking and talking with each other – they’re already fast friends.
Then we choose a preschool. Lots of times that choice is dependent on where our friends send their children. But if that’s not the case, we often organize play dates with the children of other preschool moms we’ve befriended, and not necessarily the same “Johnny” or “Susie” our child happens to play with every day in class.
Or we coordinate summer camps, sleep-overs, weekends, pool memberships, after-school activities, Girl and Boy Scout troops, etc, with our friends and their kids. Again, all with people we choose to be with, and not necessarily who our kids choose to be with.
Of course a lot of this happens naturally, especially when our kids are really young. But it’s not always so easy have this control once our children reach elementary school.
In my children’s short time at school, I have already seen the emergence of cliques, “mean kids,” and at times have heard about hurtful incidents. I’m guilty as charged when it comes to disagreeing to play dates if my motherly instinct tells me the outcome may not be good. And I sometimes find myself continuing to steer my children in what I think is the “right direction” for friends, even though I know I can’t continue to do this.
Of course we all want our children to be kind and respectful to everyone, and to have as many friends as possible. But can we go so far as choosing their friends? Does that even work? And if so, is that a good thing?