Growing up, did you put your friends’ parents on pedestals? They way they cut crusts was so much cleaner; they knew how to French braid; they allowed cable!
My best friend’s mom had a closet that I still dream about. It was full of sequins and heels and things that took my 8-year-old breath away. I would beg my friend to let me into that wonderland, and while she was bored out of her mind, I would count the years until I, too, could walk into my own ball-ready dressing room.
Other friends also had lovely (if not as glam) parents, who I placed into their own comfy categories of warmth, ease and quirkiness—all of them knitting together into the fabric of my childhood.
Recently, one of the moms from my old neighborhood passed away. When this sad news pinged my phone, I was immediately transported back in time to her kitchen as she fed us afterschool snacks and smiled at our antics. I spent endless afternoons with her eldest son (my crush from K–8) reenacting “Star Wars” and sneaking “The Joy of Sex” from the packed bookshelf to laugh at pencil drawings of the forbidden.
The drive home from her celebration of life, which was indeed a celebration of how loved she had made our kid-packed neighborhood feel, had me thinking of the impact we have on our own children’s friends.
Do we as modern parents even register as part of the friendship package? It’s been 30 years since I was a kid, admiring a sparkling closet. Now, there are more parents working, more babysitters in rotating aftercare roles and screens that take away from group snacks around the kitchen counter.
Because I do a fair amount of sports carpooling and volunteering, I have a fly-on-the-wall sense of what my son’s group is “into,” but whereas I felt comfortable confiding in friends’ parents about my own parents’ divorce or even about boys, my sense is that today’s generation doesn’t have that same impulse.
And while I am not advocating becoming weirdly close to your kid’s buds, I do think it is important to have significant and meaningful contact with them. You want to ensure your children are picking positive influences, of course, but you can also be a positive influence on them.
Growing up is challenging. The proliferation of screens, the calendar of activities and dinners on the run can leave kids feeling isolated and perhaps without a lot of guidance. But there are little things we can all do to create a sense of openness and warmth for our children’s peers:
• Greet them with a smile and use their name
• Ask them about something specific you know they are involved in
• Carpool when you can and bring a fun snack for them all (who doesn’t love the mom with yummy treats?)
• Volunteer in the classroom
• Host a playdate at your house when you are there and mastermind a game of Clue or laser tag or baking that you spend time doing with them
• Show off your passion or craft (I am a beekeeper and I love showing kids the hives)
• Go to recitals, sports etc. and cheer on the kids by name
Just by being attentive, caring and authentically present to your kid’s friends will go a long way in building their confidence, sense of community and trust.
Even if you don’t have a closet of sequins, you have a lot to be remembered for.
Maggie Knowles writes about all things kid. She and her family live in Yarmouth, where she gardens, keeps bees and refuses to get rid of her stilettos.