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Should You Choose Your Children’s Friends?

The behavior of my son’s new friend was not in accordance with the set of standards to which I hold my own kids.  In addition to the friend’s unfavorable behavior, it also seemed like – and I don’t want to misdirect any pointed fingers here without cause, so I’ll say ‘seemed like’ – this friend’s ill-mannered ways were prompting my son to act in ways he previously hadn’t. Witnessing this during multiple encounters, I reacted in a way that surprised and saddened me: I sent the friend home and told my son they couldn’t play together anymore.  Although this approach felt like the easiest and most direct, it did not feel like the most peaceful or open-minded path.  I also wasn’t convinced I was setting a great example for my children.

So I deliberated, silently. I questioned his actions and my own.  While caught in doubt, I also tried to be there for my son who fluctuated between angry and heartbroken.  So I stepped out of my mental torment and my son’s by folding. I had the friend over again and let my son go spend time at his house.  And things kept happening.  Items would get broken intentionally smashed to smithereens and grand alibis created to protect the not-so-innocent. Beloved toys of my daughter’s would disappear and elaborate hunts in search of “the culprit” and the toy would ensue. Motorized play vehicles were driven while standing up, illegally through the streets, and with nary a helmet to be found, while parents sprinted sweating behind, yelling about safety guidelines.  Again I threw up my hands while my son professed his brotherly love, begging me to see him.

After the last banishing, I attempted an alternate approach: a sit-down conversation with my son, his friend, and his friend’s mom.  I explained my (many) concerns and my need for the adherence to ground rules for safe and honest exchange.  Everyone agreed and took off smiling.  The rules stood alone, in the street, without anyone to claim them, then quickly vanished like the remnants of our conversation.

It’s been months since my son and his friend have communed and I find their lack of relationship almost as painful as the time they did spend together.  I am reminded of this frequently because we are neighbors.  When I see his friend, I look into his eyes and see openness and honesty.  In his presence, I feel a thinking, feeling human being who holds my gaze.  When the boys join, their intentions shift.

Yet the decision about their relationship feels as if it should not be mine alone.   I find myself getting carried by doubt, telling myself his friend longs for attention and by cutting off their relationship I’m reinforcing his feelings of not being connected. My thoughts instruct me to lead by example instead of using punishment as a tool for learning.  And above all, I know in my heart that it’s good for my son to work through ill-intended behavior on his own without me helicoptering. A lifelong effort of choosing his playmates benefits neither of us.


Does behavior equal bad person? Buddhism would emit a resounding ‘no’ and make the argument that we make bad decisions, act in harmful ways, but at heart we are all basically good. Tired, taxed and stressed mom likes this concept very much while sitting in meditation class but gets wholly overwhelmed trying to live this teaching at home. So tired and taxed mom is sending out a hug to all friends of varying behavior preferences, sons, and all beings, while resigning reminding myself to rest in don’t know mind. One thing I do know for sure is that I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. ~Karma Mamma

The best part of blogging is meeting you! Connect and say hi; here in the comments section, on Facebook, on Twitter, or on my blog, KarmaMamma.

Top photo courtesy of http://www.yummymummyclub.ca

Lower image Keith Haring reproduction, courtesy of http://www.contemporaryartdaily.com

 

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