parent opinion

"She says and does nothing": My friend and I are clashing over an incident between our kids.

When I was pregnant with my first child one constant worry - amongst about 10,000 - was how my friendships would change when I became a mother. 

I really wanted to make sure my friends, particularly those without children, still felt important and valued in my life. In the past I’d felt forgotten by new parent friends, and I was really aware I didn’t want to do this.  

Of course the minute I had my first son I was so busy, tired and overwhelmed that I could barely keep my baby and myself alive, let alone my friendships. So, unfortunately some friendships drifted away forever, others changed but survived, and I made new friends for this new stage of life. 

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I’m a bit further down the road in my parenting journey now - I have a six-year-old and a two-year-old, and the majority of my friends have children too. 

And the friendship dilemma I’m grappling with now is something I had never even considered: clashing parenting styles and parenting values.  

I know this sounds like a made-up problem, like I just need to park my judgement of my friends’ parenting and accept that they parent the way they parent, we parent the way we do... let it go. 

Unfortunately it’s not that simple. 

Almost seven years into this parenting lark I still have absolutely no idea what to do when a friend’s child hits my child, my friend sees it happen, but she says and does nothing.

I am similarly perplexed when she consistently threatens her child saying ‘if you push again, we’re leaving’ and their child continues to push my child, but there is no follow through, no consequences, no leaving.

Of course I could step in, and often do. I gently reprimand my friend’s child and defend my own (and vice-versa when it’s my child of course). I do this because even though it’s incredibly difficult, I am the advocate for my young children; they need to know that I will call out bad behaviour in them, and in others. 

But I cannot overstate how awkward this is, and how my protective parental instincts rise within me and I actually want to scream at my friend to stop their child from harming mine.

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I do understand that children test boundaries with their peers, and they often have no idea how their behaviour impacts on other people. Believe me, I have firsthand experience. 

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My older son was a raging hair-puller from about 18 months to two years of age. It was awful, particularly because he was too young to understand what he was doing. But the minute another human’s hair was within reach, he would yank it. 

My husband and I had to become actual helicopter parents: on playdates we would literally stand over him and watch for when his hand took on a grasping shape and we would grab it to stop the inevitable hair-tug. My sister and her son came to stay for a few days and my poor nephew had to wear a hat 24-7 to stop my son wrenching the hair from his head. 

It’s pretty funny in retrospect, but at the time it wasn’t. It was six months of me watching my child like a hawk so he didn’t hurt other children. But in my parenting manual this is my job as his mother. 

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I know that some people reading this will think I am pedantic, a cosseting parent. I can accept that, but I’m mothering in the way I think is best.

I also know that many parents don’t view their role this way and subscribe to the permissive parenting philosophy - natural consequences will happen and the child will learn, and they are entitled to use the parenting philosophy that they feel is best. I just won’t be around them for a few years. 

I seriously have made this call, and have stepped back from friendships because of these parenting clashes.

I’ll sneak the occasional coffee with just my friend, but avoid catch-ups with our kids in tow. I know it sounds extreme, and it makes me sad of course, but in this season of my life raising my children is my major focus. 

I really hope that as time passes and our children grow up these differences fade and these friendships can rekindle. 

Feature Image: Getty.