parents

The politics of making parent friends.

My son has been accepted to a new school. It’s a heartbreaking decision as to whether to send him as I love his current school.

When discussing it with some friends I kept coming back to one core point.

What if I don’t like the other Mums? What if they are stuck up? What if they don’t “get” me like the Mums at his current school do?

One of my oldest friends looked at me squarely as we were tossing around possibilities.

“Why does that even matter?” she asked me.

“I don’t remember your Mum and Angela Robinson’s mother hanging out back in the early 80’s and it never stopped you and Angela being friends.”

There’s this phase of motherhood, when you never see anyone. And then comes the “new friends” onslaught. Video: Elle Walker. 

She was right, of course. (Old friends always are.) But the fears about breaking into a new playground gang remain.

Oh, it’s not my son – he will be fine. He’s a popular kind of laid-back kid.

It’s MY playground gang I’m worried about.

I don’t remember when it became necessary to be friends with our kids’ friends’ parents?

But somewhere in the last generation we deemed it necessary to micro-manage every aspect of our children’s lives. Even who their friends are.

Playground politics is enough of a mind-fuck as it is.

Once your kids start school, all control is lost…

When your kids are little. It’s easy. You are set. Their friends are the friends of your friends.

You have control.

Playdates are fun because you get to hang out with who you want. Weekends at the beach are just like they used to be with the old gang (except this time involve enough STUFF to backpack around Europe for a year).

Their kids, your kids. The Mums fondly smile as the Dads show off their nappy-changing skills. It is like ‘Friends with babies’. Happy days.

But once they hit the big old world of school all that control is taken from you. These kids you have spawned get minds and personalities of their own. Interests of their own, likes and dislikes of their own.

And EEEKKKK, friends of their own.

Suddenly those weekend BBQs become thing of the past as you ferry child after child to sport and playdates and birthday parties, and the onus is now on you to make friends with these parents.

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But should you have to?

Spending your weekend on the sidelines, do you have to talk to the other parents?
Yes. Yes, you do. 

Only a generation ago mums didn’t feel this intense need to be a part of things, to be involved.

When I was a kid my mother had her own friends and us kids had ours.

There weren’t class dinners, or class picnics, no Mums nights out or Dad golfing days. There were no father-son camps or mother-daughter dinners.

There was just school and homework and hanging out with the other kids in my street on our bikes.

I called my friend’s parents Mr and Mrs McLean. Not Jean and Mal.

My mum was happy enough if she just had Mrs Mclean’s phone number to arrange when to pick me up.

We had never heard the term “play date”, and all that was scheduled was Saturday morning netball or ballet.

What if they’re all “Dance Moms”?

You have to wonder what changed in a generation? Is it that we are all so busy these days we strive to ingratiate ourselves in our children’s lives as much as possible to show we care?

Or is it about paranoia and trust, the feeling of needing to know every person who our children come into contact with in order to feel safe about what they are doing?

Psychologists think it is all a part of the phenomenon of helicopter parenting.

Statistics show that even though mothers are working outside the home more hours now than at any time in previous generations they spend more time with their children than in any other previous generation.

We ferry them around from activity to activity, smothering them, proving to our children just how involved we are.

I’m not sure we are doing ourselves any favours. By the time your child goes through primary school they’ve had seven different classes and possibly seven different sets of friends. That’s a whole lot of parents with a whole host of personalities to negotiate.

I’m still deciding about the school but what I am vowing to do is to strip away my feelings about my peer groups and instead concentrate the decision on my son’s feelings and peer groups. Because after all that’s what parenting is about isn’t it?

Do you feel the need to be friends with our kids’ friends’ parents?

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