The Art Of Choosing Your Kids’ Friends—Covertly
The gentle nudging of a mindful parent.
Now that I am a mom, I find that I often look back at my childhood and consider the kind of girl I was, and then I think to myself, “Boy, were my parents lucky.”
I was a really good girl. I stayed far away from the three evils: drugs, alcohol, teen age pregnancy. I wasn’t perfect; I was a hot-tempered drama queen. But I was good enough in the way that matters most to parents. The kind of good that frees them from an overabundance of agita, heartbreak, or pain.
I spent my school age years getting fairly good grades, avoiding trouble, and aligning myself with the types of girls who preferred imaginary romances with the boys on the cover of Bop magazine to dangerous rendezvous with the punks smoking in the boys bathroom. We were the girls that giggled about the latest development on General Hospital; not the ones who spray painted our hair purple while listening to Ozzy Osborne. At our truly craziest, we might sneak peach Schnapps out onto someone’s roof or cigarettes from the au pair.
My parents never had to suffer the types of calls that parents dread getting—from the principal, the police, or the E.R.
I’m not looking for thanks or pats on the back; just a wee bit of karma. Let me be so lucky, now that I am a parent, to avoid the agita, heartbreak, and pain my parents avoided when I was a kid.
I haven’t had to worry about it too much so far, as my oldest is only eight. But suddenly in the past few months he seems to be approaching the years in which the influences of his sphere impacts who he is becoming as a person. I see it in his ‘tude; in his choices; in his new fondness for the word, “s***.”
My oldest is an independent thinker, and typically a leader among his peers. But he also is the type of kid who precariously balances with one foot in the land of good citizenship and the other in the sea of defiance. He really wants to please…but he is also impulsive at times, daring at others, and really likes to push boundaries. I wonder what would happen if one of his friends jumped off the proverbial Brooklyn Bridge—he might follow, especially if there was candy at the bottom.
For my oldest, the key to his staying out of “juvy” could solely depend on the types of kids he surrounds himself with. This has turned me into a hover mother—I’ve started leaning outside the door of my son’s bedroom (folding laundry of course!) to eavesdrop on his conversations with friends, carefully noting which of his friends whine; which ones use curse words; which ones name call.
My husband complains that this borders on invasion of privacy. I counter that it’s preventative care. He’s eight!
In addition to the snooping, I’m also doing my best to provide him with a foundation of understanding; of the power of making good choices; what qualities to look for in a friend; of trust; responsibility; loyalty. And when I do this, I also think back to my childhood and wonder, How much of my “goodness” can I take credit for and how much should be attributed to mindful parenting (on the part of my own parents)? A quietly hovering mother? A gently nudging father?
It’s hard to know for sure. But something tells me that I was just as lucky to have my parents—involved and casually meddling—as they were to have me.