We Are Both Right

Our Two Cents: When Kids Outgrow Their Friends

Do these boys have to be friends for convenience? © homer_seav @ stock.xchng

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

My best friend “Daisy” and I each have a son who is 10. We live around the block from one another, the boys go to the same school and are in many of the same activities. Daisy and I help each other out often. We both work part-time outside of the home and have come to depend on one another when we are in a bind childcare-wise — she’ll pick my son “George” up after school and mind him until I get home, I’ll drive her son “Fred” to baseball practice, etc. It’s a good, informal arrangement and has served us very well over the years.

The problem? My son doesn’t like her son. It wasn’t always this way — little kids seem to make friends with everybody — but as they’ve gotten older, Fred and George have made their own friends and cultivated their own interests. Fine. But they just don’t get along.

I’ve been trying to find other people for George to go home with, but I don’t think Daisy realizes that the boys aren’t best buddies and is hurt that I’m seemingly avoiding her. What do I do?

–Friends No More

Suzanne:

While that’s certainly an awkward situation to be in, I think that some honest communication all around would make it more comfortable for everyone. First, would it be so terrible if you could each still depend upon one other for childcare like you used to — maybe not as frequently — but once in a while?

If you’re not absolutely opposed to that, then you should start by having a conversation with your son. Explain that sometimes friends grow apart and even though he and Fred aren’t the best of friends any more, maybe there’s some common ground they can find for the hour that they are together. Tell him that you lost your good friend from fifth grade — all because she didn’t share your obsession with the boys of NKOTB — and that you regret it to this day. He’ll roll his eyes. But remind him that at least Fred hates Justin Bieber as much as he does.

Then, your next move should be to call Daisy. And don’t kid yourself — she may very well have noticed the disconnect between the boys herself. Just ask if she’s seen any changes between them and mention that when they’re at your house, they just don’t seem to be interested in the same things anymore. Be ready for her to say that everything seems perfectly fine, or that she really relies upon the arrangement to get by.

At that point, it’s your call — either make the best of it or be prepared to watch the relationship unravel.

Amanda:

Does your son George like going to baseball practice and after-school activities? Is he happy to not have to go home to an empty house when the school day is done? I’m guessing the answer is yes. And therein lies your answer.

Things can stay the way they are.

Yes, I understand as kids get older they sometimes outgrow friends from when they were super-small. But the reality is, it sounds like you and Daisy both need this arrangement in order to make certain things work. So George has a decision to make — does he want to continue to participate in programs and sports teams he likes to do with the stipulation that he gets to and from these events with someone who isn’t his favorite person, or does he want to sit them out altogether?

It’s not like he has to spend every second he’s at baseball practice  with Fred, they are just getting there the same way. As I remember, there are a lot kids on a team right?

And as for going someplace after school, for me that’s a no-brainer. Until you feel comfortable with him staying home alone (and it’s legally OK for him to do so), he needs to stay with an adult until you are home from work. If you are able to secure care that involves people other than Fred and Daisy, fine. But until you can (if you even choose to) feel no guilt about sending George to their home. I’m assuming at Daisy’s he’s well-cared for, fed and not forced to do manual labor. And like the activities, he doesn’t have to spend every minute he’s there with Fred. He can do his homework, read a book or find something else to entertain himself.

Lay it all out on the table. Address his concerns, but let him know where you are coming from too. That even if he isn’t a fan of the situation, life isn’t always fair and this is what you need to do in order to make your crazy schedules work. If it’s possible and not too much of a hassle, try to find another form of transportation for George — but realize you could be leaving Daisy out in the cold if she is depending on you to bring Fred places. Remind him that even if he and Fred don’t get along, he still needs to be kind to him and treat Daisy with the utmost respect. People can grow apart and still manage to behave civilly to one another.

Then you need to have a talk with Daisy. Chances are, if George has expressed displeasure and you’ve noticed the tension, she has too. But it might be she doesn’t want to say anything because she knows you guys have a good thing going and she doesn’t want to lose it either. Maybe the pair of you can brainstorm. Was there a specific incident that caused the boys to stop getting along or are they simply growing apart?

It’s definitely sad when a child outgrows a friend they’ve had for a long time, but it’s a reality of life. How you help your child handle it will set a tone that will accompany them into adulthood.

**************************

What do you think? Should “Friends No More” find alternative care and rides for George or should he have to stick it out? Has your child ever outgrown a friend?

If you’ve got a problem that needs pondering and you need some outside perspective, send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com.