A few weeks ago, my child came home and announced that he had a new friend. He started by saying that his classmate Nick, (name changed to protect the innocent), was now his friend. Nick had informed my son that his parents, (Nick’s parents), told him that he had to be friends with my son! My son Luke then said, “Okay.” He was not happy about this new development because Nick was not fun to be around. Nick was immature and ate his boogers. Luke just preferred to not play with Nick because playing with him felt a lot like babysitting.
To make matters worse, he noticed that every day before school, Nick’s parents were asking Luke questions and standing close to him whenever he played with Nick. It all started with a simple, “Hey can you show Nick how to play handball?” These conversations changed to an increasingly firm, “You need to go easy on Nick because he doesn’t know how to play very well.” Every morning, Luke could expect to be FORCED to play with Nick and Nick’s dad. The mornings were followed by requests and questions of all types generated by Nick’s dad toward Luke.
Luke was starting to get stressed by the situation. It even came to a point when my son started asking to stay home instead of going to school. He hated his mornings because of this “new friendship.” He started feeling like he needed to give the right answers and say the right things to this stranger who followed him every time he played with Nick. Luke began to have regular stomach aches and was going to the nurse’s office to come home. Having a stranger putting pressure on him to be friends with someone he did not necessarily get along with, certainly stressed Luke out. Morning drop offs were not fun anymore. School was not fun anymore. He began to resent Nick and his Nick’s dad. Luke started hiding and avoiding both Nick and Nick’s Dad. Soon he started lying to Nick’s dad just to get him off his back.
At home, I started to take mental notes of Luke’s unhappiness. He often shared his day and it was followed by, “I had to play with Nick, again. His dad asked me what kind of video games I like.” “Mom, that dad is weird.” said Luke. RED ALERT, RED ALERT!??! I made it a point to visit the school playground the next morning to see what was happening.
At school the next day, I stood close by and witnessed for myself the Nick’s helicopter parents. The worst part of the whole thing was that the minute I walked away from my son, Nick’s Dad moved forward and started with the questions. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and just let that slide.
But after a few days of witnessing this strange behavior, I asked my son to stop playing with Nick. The attempts to coerce our son to be friends with another child became brazen. I felt that Nick’s parents’ intentions were selfish and intimidating.
I typically average 1 to 2 hours a day on my son’s campus. From morning playground monitoring, classroom and library volunteering, PTA board meetings and after school program volunteering; not once have Nick’s parents approached me nor my husband to introduce themselves and attempt to establish an adult relationship.
I felt like I needed to reach out to the parents, so I did via email. I wrote Nick’s mom asking to explain the Q & A that was happening every morning. She replied in a laissez-faire manner with a simple statement claiming that they are involved parents just making sure Nick was okay. With a quick response, I asked Nick’s mom to please let the children’s relationship grow naturally without their intervention. I have not heard back from Nick’s parents. I don’t expect they will respond. It is unfortunate that parents who love their son so much can commit such a horrible mistake. If only someone could help them understand that their son is smart, kind and capable enough to make his own friendships. I will pray for them in the meantime.
Children naturally will play with one another because they aren’t born with fear and malice. It is the adults in a child’s life who teach them fear and shape these young minds into the people they become as adults. Forcing a child into a relationship they don’t enjoy is an injustice to both children. On one hand, you are dishonoring the feelings of your own child, teaching them that their feelings and concerns don’t matter in life. By doing so, you are teaching your child to keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves with no positive outlet, potentially resulting in devastating problems in the teen and early adult years of life. For the other child, they aren’t being taught how to develop relationships or how to be a true friend. Those children grow up into adulthood not understanding how to talk through feelings, how to give unconditionally, or how to compromise when disagreements occur. Relationship building must be gently guided so the children can learn what great looks like without repeating mistakes us adults have experienced. It is like stacking blocks, slowly building, creating towers of relationships and learning what keeps the towers standing and what breaks them down.
Written by: Anonymous
Submit your own True Confession here.