Sit in a room full of parents, and you're probably going to see a lot of hand wringing, and hear a lot of worrywarts. And now I'm going to give y'all something to really worry about. There comes a day when your kid is going to start making her own friends. Be afraid, be very afraid.
Trust me. We're there. We're at the point where the kiddo is in first grade and hanging on the monkey bars with all sorts of riff raff. Or so it feels.
The class list reads like a huge pile of unknowns. Of her classmates, I would say I know the parents of exactly two kids well. A few more are acquaintances. And then there are the ones I know but can't stand, but the majority I could trip over in the supermarket, and I wouldn't have the foggiest.
It's put me in the not-so-comfy position of being the mean mom who has to put her foot down on her first grader's friends. I'm the first to admit I'm limiting her. But I haven't yet figured out how to call her potential playmate's mom and say, "So, would you have a problem if I came over and inspected your house and got a list of any known criminals who might drop by so that we can get these two crazy kids together sometime?"
So when she comes home and asks for a playdate with Susie Q, I've tired of trying to explain to the 6-year-old that I don't know Susie Q's mom, so it isn't going to work out. Instead, I've begun suggesting alternate playmates. What about Chase? Or Will? Or that one little girl in your class whose mom I went to high school with and therefore I can say with some authority is not a total whackadoodledo?
Yes, I tell her who to be friends with. And I hate myself a little more every time I do it. What kind of mom sets her kid up to be exclusionary? To form a clique?
But every time I start to get down on myself, the sane mom voice in the back of my head reminds me that we live in a rural community where plenty of people have guns in their homes, but not everyone actually locks them up. It tells me that the sex offender registry only accounts for the creeps who have been caught. It reminds that ours is a state where the "fenced in pool" requirement can mean there's a huge water hazard in the middle of a fenced-in-yard, and the 6-year-old is still refusing to actually learn to swim.
I'm not afraid of my kid making her own bosom buddies because I can't stand the idea that one day she won't be writing me notes that say "I love you, you are my best friend." Well, OK, maybe a little bit. But the real reason I'm still picking my kid's friends is one I'm not embarrassed to share: I want to keep her safe.
How do you make sure your kids' friends are "safe" options?
Image via PV KS/Flickr