When our kids are younger, as mothers, we have a lot of control over who their friends are. In fact, we have the ultimate control over who their friends are. We’re in charge of playdates, and choosing which activities they will participate in. And we adjust as needed.
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I’m guessing we’ve all been in situations where we’ve made a playdate with an acquaintance, hoping not only will our kids be best friends, but maybe we’ll meet a best friend, too…only to discover we have nothing in common with the mother, or things seem a little “off” and our intuition is telling us to get out before the crazy train leaves the station.
Fortunately, when my daughter was younger, I was lucky enough to meet some amazing moms from her dance class or from mutual friends. But then things changed, her interest in dance waned, she started kindergarten and we met a whole new group of kids and moms, many of whom lived down the street.
As she got older, she was making new friends and she was exercising her right to choose friends based on her interests—not mine—for herself. She made good choices most of the time, but there were a couple I didn’t understand. I had to remember: they made her happy and she enjoyed their company, so I went with it.
One such friend did not live in our neighborhood, so they didn’t hang out much outside of school, but were in the same class together for several years in a row. My daughter and I were moving out-of-state after my divorce and she wanted this friend to spend the night before we moved. My intuition was telling me no, but I knew they didn’t see each other often outside of school, and we were moving, so I agreed.
After school, I took both girls to the swimming pool and on the two-minute drive back to our house, the friend caused $1,200 worth of damage to the interior of my car. I didn’t want to burden my daughter with my anxieties—single mother, working part-time, moving out-of-state to start over—so I expressed my displeasure in the situation, but continued to let the sleepover happen.
I made some phone calls and a visit down the street to talk to several of my best friends about what happened that night, seeking rational advice on how to handle the situation. One friend, who happens to be an insurance agent, informed me that the parents could file a homeowner’s claim and it would pay for the damage without affecting their rate.
I was on the fence about telling the parents in the first place, because I hate having hard conversations, especially when I have no idea what the reaction will be. I also realize sometimes things like this happen and it’s the cost of having friends over—but this was a substantial amount of money.
In the end, I decided I would absolutely want to know if my daughter had done the same thing, so I had to talk to the parents. When the dad came to pick up his daughter the next day, I explained what happened, started crying when I told him my situation, told him he could file a homeowner’s claim and showed him the damage.
He didn’t apologize, didn’t offer to help and left with his daughter—never to be heard from again.
When I had to have a discussion with my daughter about why her friend wouldn’t return her phone calls, she didn’t understand. My daughter had done nothing wrong. I tried to be diplomatic and honest, telling her the parents probably didn’t want their daughter to be friends with her anymore. It had nothing to do with her, and more to do with them because they knew not helping to pay for the damage was wrong.
This happened well over a year ago, I finally got my car fixed and have contemplated sending the parents the receipt. I’ve decided I just need to let it go, which is easier for me than my daughter. A couple weeks ago, I saw she had sent a text to the friend, asking how she was doing and could she please text back? The friend never texted back, and it breaks my heart for my daughter.
A hard lesson for her about friendship, and a lesson for myself to always trust my intuition.