I have been extremely lucky to make close friendships with many fellow Mamas. I am part of a neighborhood texting circle of Moms where we share recipes, plan dinners out, joke about frustrating Mommy issues, and warn one another about any impending storms. In a neighborhood that uses well water and has an abundance of towering, decades-old trees, inclement weather is actually an important issue to keep ahead of. If you have ever had a twelve-day power outage with no ability to flush toilets you would totally understand the concern. I also have lifelong friends who live far away but with whom I can call, or meet up with and immediately carry on easily, like we have never been apart. I have been lucky enough to gain an amazing assortment of friends that I have met through my children whose friends have Moms that I truly like. Recently, I have been privileged to add a beautiful group of co-workers to my Momma menagerie, by returning to work in education. In general, I have numerous friendships with women who are honest, smart, caring & fun. This camaraderie among my fellow Moms often makes navigating Motherhood a little bit easier. I always have remained steadfast in my belief that “it takes a village” to raise children. My Mama friends are indisputably MY VILLAGE.
Recently, I have not been confident that friendship can endure parenthood. The first hint of this began almost 16 years ago when I had my first child and many friends without children didn’t quite “get” what I was experiencing and why I couldn’t always call or get together. The invites to get together slowed to an almost screeching halt. Eventually, the phone calls ceased altogether. Many years later, issues would arise with one of my closest friends when our parenting styles didn’t align. Things would become further complicated when our children developed in completely divergent ways, despite being born about one week apart. My friend did not always understand or agree with my parenting decisions because she wasn’t dealing with the uncertainty of navigating a possible developmental disability. We survived (mostly), but it was rough, and things still have never fully returned to the level of closeness that we once had.
As my children became older, the issues would become larger and more difficult to surmount, because they grew into their own individual beings with their own thoughts that didn’t always align with mine. I am always striving to educate my kids on how to be rational in their relationships and how to always attempt to convey kindness. It just does not always work out how I would like. My kids are not just tiny extensions of me. This frustrates me but I need to accept that. My kids are their own independent (AND EXTREMELY STRONG-WILLED) creatures and despite how inconvenient it may be, they are going to ultimately make their own decisions. My attempts to intervene and steer my kids in a better direction will not always be heeded. They will mess up. They will make poor decisions. They will hurt others. Friendships might end.
I may not like when my kids find themselves in friendship dilemmas and I would do anything to make it all better, but I need to sometimes stay out of it and respect their wishes to attempt or reject resolution on their own. Still, it is difficult to sit by and silently watch the impending car wreck. Why can’t I just look the other way and why do I feel as if I too have also been in the car wreck? It is tough for me to let things go. It is even possible that I grieve the loss of my children’s friendships more than they do. Selfishly, I also hope that my children’s interpersonal issues don’t negatively impact my friendships with the other Moms but that might be inevitable. Eventually, you expect that even the kindest and most committed of people will tire of being the “bigger” person if it is perceived that their child is on the receiving end of any hurt. It does not matter if your child says that they “didn’t mean it,” or if they claim to not fully understand the situation or events unfolding. Hurt is hurt. Regardless, it still is upsetting when someone won’t give your child another chance, even though you understand that they messed up. Messing up is part of what kids do. Maybe give them some grace? I ponder that question but if my child was on the receiving end of the hurt I am not sure that I would be so full of grace, so I find myself in a bit of a conundrum.
Learning to navigate social interaction and life, in general, is a difficult balance, and kids often suck miserably at it all. The guilt over issues that transpire among my kiddos and their friends will always corrode my insides and perhaps, that is my own problem to work through. Do I let go of the guilt? Did I drive the car to that previously mentioned car wreck? Maybe problems among the kids were never really the defining issue. Sometimes friendships just end. Nobody to blame. No hard feelings. People just move in different directions. No hard feelings, but still………undeniably upsetting.
Jenn Miele Leslie lives in Woodbridge, CT with her husband, three kids ages 8, 10 and 15 and two bulldogs who likes to fart and snore. Originally from Long Island, N.Y. (yes, that IS how you say it – if you’re from there you just understand) she misses being able to find a decent bagel or breakfast sandwich. Once an Art Therapist specializing in working with adults with various developmental disabilities, Jenn now spends her time shuttling her minions to: school; playdates; dance classes and competitions; occupational therapy; coding classes; and what feels like a million additional places, on a daily basis. In her occasional down time, Jenn enjoys photography, painting and an iTunes playlist that boasts way too many 90’s alternative songs.