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.
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.