Don’t you love unsolicited advice? Not! Well, today is your unlucky day. Seriously though, I try to avoid doing this as much as possible. I don’t like using this as my platform to dole out the wisdom I have acquired. If I did, this would be a very short-lived blog because…well, there really isn’t that much wisdom to offer. I’m still learning as a parent. But sometimes, I’ve encountered a situation enough times to know that it might be helpful to others.
If there is one thing that can get under the skin of a mother the most, it’s when someone has hurt our child—physically or emotionally. Nothing brings out the claws in mama bear faster than a wrong being done against her son or daughter.
Now I’ll admit, for some mothers, it’s easier to let their children navigate the difficulties of relationships. But for others (hand being raised here), it’s a tremendous struggle. In fact, there are some parents who go beyond offering advice. They get involved—too involved! Actually, at this point I can start to put my hand back down. Because experience (which means making lots of mistakes) has taught me that it’s more harmful than helpful.
When I’m talking about relationships, I’m not referring to acquaintances or strangers. I’m speaking of friendships—the ones that are forged with iron, and yet can break in an instant with that “last straw.”
I’ve never been the kind of mother who would tell my kids to work it out. I had to help them work it out. Sometimes I’ve even manipulated the circumstances to make things go the way I thought they should. It worked out well when they were younger. But as they started to get older, well, it many times backfired on me. In fact, sometimes it was downright embarrassing.
Let me set the stage. Imagine you are an 11-year-old boy in 5th grade. You’re at that age when boyhood is slowly starting to fade away—you are even starting to hide from your friends that you still enjoy playing with Legos. You want to be viewed by your peers as strong and cool.
Then one day you are on the playground, having an argument with a friend. It’s starting to get heated. Attention is being drawn to it. Then that friend hauls off and slugs you in the side of the head. Of course, that’s embarrassing enough—and the last thing you want to do is get into a fight. Let me take that back. The last thing you want is your mother showing up on the playground at the very moment you’re struck in the head.
Oh, but it gets worse. Now you hear mom yelling clear across the playground at the boy who hit you. Children stop and gasp. Someone asks the boy who was slugged, “Is that your mom????” Spitfire mad she confronts the boy who punched her son, while her now thoroughly embarrassed child starts to slink away.
But it doesn’t end there. She proceeds into the principal’s office, ranting about it. Calls up the mom of the other boy while in the office and lays into her. I should also mention that the mother is her good friend. Her church friend. In fact, the two boys who had the argument, have been friends since they were toddlers. Nearly two friendships were destroyed that day.
Can you see the mistakes I made—er, I mean the mistakes that mom made? Now was it okay that my son was punched (I know you’ve figured it out already—yes, I’m that crazy mom). No. But did I really need to get involved, especially in front of nearly the entire school? Mark that as one of my less than redeeming moments as a parent.
Friendships are complicated. It can take one argument to destroy a decades old bond. But it’s not just with children. If we consider some of our past friendships, we’ll discover that some were for a season. Others have ended and it felt like a blow to the heart—but we came to discover it was for the best. Then there are friendships that stand the test of time. Oh, but it’s not without ups and downs.
If we intervene in every single argument or breakup that our children have, we’re not teaching them anything. Most times we have to allow them to work things out. We also have to remember that we’re supposed to be the mature ones. I’ve known parents who treat their kid’s friends (or ex-friends) like dirt because of a disagreement. Hey, I’ve been there. That’s not a good Christian witness. And well, it’s just really immature as an adult.
I’ve learned that there are two sides to every story. I know we like to think that our children never do anything wrong. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I guarantee you there is missing information or outright lies told from your child. We usually only get one side of things. Besides, that deviant you’ve decided is no good for your child, will probably be his/her best friend again next week. Now who looks like a schmuck?
Bottom line…be there for your child when there is a struggle in a friendship. Listen. More than anything, be a good listener. Offer advice when they’re younger. Word of caution, though—when they’re teenagers, first ask if they want advice. Be vulnerable and share some of the ways you’ve handled relationship issues. That means admitting to some of your own mistakes.
But please, if at possible, don’t get personally involved. Don’t try to control the situation. Don’t dismiss another child who is just as imperfect as your own. And never, ever let your emotions get the best of you. You really don’t want to be that mom.
© 2014, Stephanie Romero