real life

"I don't like my son's new friend or his family."

It’s hard to know when to step in as a parent.

Earlier this year, my son started preschool. Up until that point he was always at home with me. So his friendships have always been orchestrated largely by me; friends of friends, mother’s group and play dates with people I have met along the way.

Like a lot of parents, I saw him starting preschool as an important stage of development; not only educationally but also socially. Given that he had not been in daycare before, I wanted him to learn how to interact with other children without me being there and develop skills to form his own friendships.

And it’s happened. The only problem is that I’m not sure I approve of the child he has become friendly with.

"They seem to get along so well but I don't know whether I should be discouraging the friendship." Image: Istock

The community I live in is fairly small. Add to that the involvement of mothers pages on Facebook and you get to know information about people pretty quickly.

My first contact with the mother of this child was way back in the early days of parenting, when both her and I were blearily zombies on no sleep. She showed up to the local early childhood centre while I was there getting advice for breastfeeding. From what I could gather she was erratic and chaotic. She seemed to be well known at the centre and after she left, the staff's comments led me to the conclusion that she was possibly suffering from a mental illness and or addiction.

I would see her around town, always frantic, always highly agitated. A few times I made an effort to say hello to her in passing. I thought she looked like every other struggling new mother out there and could use a friendly smile. She took that as an open invitation to stop me (and even followed me to the car one day) to dump her problems, many of which were detailed and dramatic and none of which I felt qualified to respond to.

Financial concerns, relationship problems, mothering dilemmas, her partner's drug use and work commitments (of which I could never get a clear answer on what exactly she did). It seemed there wasn't an avenue of her life which wasn't under pressure.

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It was clear that this woman needed proper help.

"Should I interfere with my son's friendships?" Image: iStock.

I felt sorry for her. I suggested she seek extra help but her nature seemed to just want to tell me her issues but not address them with the relevant parties.

After a while I didn't see her around any more. I assumed she must have left the area and I knew from one of our bizarre interactions that she had family down South so presumed she may have moved to be closer to support networks.

The day my son came home and told me of his new friend I was delighted. I could see the beaming smile on his face as he recalled the fun he shared with this boy. Over the weeks though the information filtering home began to sound all too familiar. My son would make comments about his friend's family such as "his mummy and daddy sleep in the kitchen sometimes, that's funny". It sounded odd but as four years olds tend to do, sometimes the facts get a little muddy in transit.

When I saw his friend's mother one day at the preschool gate the penny dropped.

So now I'm stuck. I'm thrilled that my son has developed a friendship of his own and I know that a child doesn't get to choose their parents but I also know that his family is not the kind I would want my children around.

What should I do?

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