I have to admit, most of my boys’ friends are pretty cool. And by cool, I mean respectful, smart, funny and generally well-behaved and well-rounded kids.
But I also have to be honest – there are a few that make me uneasy.
GD – My Oldest Son
GD is a quiet, shy, introspective boy. He rarely initiates conversation but it’s pretty obvious when something is on his mind and he wants to talk (he chooses to hang around me, asks me questions about what I’m doing, etc. I’ve come to recognize that as his need to talk to me about something).
GD has always had a handful of friends, and about three really good friends throughout his young life. They haven’t always been the same three friends, but their personalities were very similar in nature. He either simply didn’t want to make the effort to get to know more kids, or he was too shy to make the effort (I suspect the latter). And the friends he’s made over the years were pretty good boys, save for the one friend in the bunch who was sort of a rebel – i.e. crazy hair, tough talker, rough and tumble attitude; he’s always looked up to that sort of personality – again, I’m assuming because he’s simply NOT that way.
GD met our neighbor’s grandson when he was quite little, I believe he was two and this little boy was three when they first met in our backyard. They have become fast friends over the years. The little boy, let’s call him Dan, would come over every Friday night, when he came over to visit his grandparents, and play with GD and later MK.
Dan doesn’t have a father. I don’t believe his parents were married, but were planning on getting married shortly after Dan was born. However, Dan’s father committed suicide (we really don’t know much more than that because we’ve never asked – it’s not exactly something you bring up in casual conversation) and as a result, Dan has always sort of looked on the husband as his surrogate father growing up. Though this has made the hubs a bit uncomfortable, he has understood the boy’s need to have a male role model in his life.
But because Dan doesn’t have a consistent male role model in his life, he’s a bit on the wild side. He routinely gets into trouble and I think it’s largely due to the fact that he’s alone a lot (his mom works a lot of long hours) and he needs attention. Case in point: The boy got his learner’s permit. And then raced a buddy of his through his neighborhood (his mom bought him a car so he could drive himself to school, even though he didn’t have a licensed driver with him – his mom is a bit on the immature side herself, she tries to be more his friend as opposed to his mother). Dan and his buddy crashed their cars. The police came, gave Dan four tickets and now he can’t get a license until he’s 18.
GD and I talk about this boy’s wild nature – A LOT. We talk about his mistakes and the possible reasons WHY he does the things does in the first place. I am constantly telling GD that I think he’s a good influence on Dan because he’s a lot more calm and level-headed than his friend is – they complement each other. And I think Dan might be good for GD on some level because he helps GD not be so … timid about things, to take a chance once in a while (which could both be a good thing and a bad thing). I think I partly encourage the friendship because A. the few times I’ve voiced any sort of harsh criticism about Dan, GD has shut down and become obstinate, so to continue to discourage him from this friendship might actually backfire on me and B. I feel sorry for Dan. He doesn’t really have a “parent” in his life, per se, and I sometimes feel like he seeks me and the hubs out for guidance. I can’t let him down by turning my back on him.
GD is a great kid, he truly is. He has a level head on his shoulders, he has a strong sense of right and wrong, and we’ve helped instill a firm spiritual balance in his life. But, he’s quiet, and shy and I often wonder just how strong he really is when it comes to peer pressure. He’s already told me that he’s witnessed quite a few drug exchanges at his school, in the hallways and in front of oblivious teachers, but he has assured me that none of those so-called “friends” have ever offered him anything; I only pray he’s right.
Sometimes I wonder if his reluctance to grow up, to take on more responsibilities is so that he won’t have to put himself in a situation where he’ll be confronted with peer pressure. He doesn’t hang out with anybody from school and I pick him up from school everyday so he’s not hanging around long enough for anyone to approach him. I often wonder, if/when he’s in a peer-pressured situation, just how he will handle it. Given his quiet, shy personality, I worry.
MK – my youngest son.
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know my boys are polar opposites. One boy likes jelly, the other doesn’t. One boy is blonde/blue-eyed, the other brown/brown-eyed. Their personalities are totally different and their choice in friends are totally different. MK prefers to hang out with friends who aren’t afraid to be … different. They are a bit zany, goofy, have a huge sense of humor and don’t really care what other’s think.
MK’s friends are loud – I don’t do loud very well. As a result, I honestly can’t handle his friends hanging out over here very often because it just grates on my nerves. But they are nice, sweet kids – they’re just LOUD.
MK has a lot of friends. Well, he has a lot of people he calls friends; I’m not so sure these other people have lumped MK in the same category. MK also wears his heart on his sleeve and gets his feelings hurt really easily. We’ve talked, at length, that there will be times when you simply have to give up. You’re nice to someone, you bend over backwards for them, several times, and yet, they continue to take advantage of your good nature. There are people out there that will simply walk all over you if they sense they can.
MK has learned a lot of tough lessons these past years when it came to his friends. Now that he’s in middle school, he’s especially aware of how people change when they start hanging out with a different crowd of kids.
Case in point: His best friend all throughout grade school, let’s call him Abe, started hanging out with the “cool” kids at school. And by “cool”, I mean the kids who make fun of other kids, who wear a lot of black, curse just to show off and who are generally mean kids but who everyone has, for some reason or other, labeled “cool.”
Abe’s personality began to change. He no longer goofed around with MK, in fact, he started ignoring MK. Though (to my knowledge) he was never one of the kids to make fun of MK, he didn’t exactly come to his defense, either.
This change broke MK’s heart. I remember picking him up from school, his face downcast, his normally bubbly personality subdued and I knew, I just knew, the other kids had been mean to him. But I was patient and after a while, he opened up to me. He explained the situation with Abe and he told me that it really hurt to have his best friend reject him like that.
Since then, Abe has ping-ponged back and forth, between this “cool” group of kids and being MK’s friend. I can’t tell you the NUMBER of long, heart-felt conversations we’ve had about this situation and I’ve been impressed with how much MK really understands – about Abe’s insecurity and his need to be something he wasn’t. I have to admire MK for his conviction to remain true to himself. Though it’s hurt, MK has never once tried to “conform.” He’s taken it on the chin and then kept on going. If anything, this experience has taught him to be himself and he’s learning that if people don’t accept him for him, screw ’em.
This past year has been a real eye-opener for both of my boys in the friendship arena. They have learned a lot by watching their friends and (hopefully) learning from their mistakes. I’ve taken advantage of these experiences to teach them some valuable life lessons – I pray they’ve been listening.
So far, I’ve been pretty lucky in the fact that I haven’t had to deal with my boys’ difficult friends. The friends I’ve met have been pretty cool kids. And the “friends” I’ve heard about have had problems, but my boys seem to be focusing more on trying to help these kids as opposed to trying to be like these kids.
Letting your kids go, to allow them to be influenced by so many different personalities, is so hard. It’s the unknown, it’s the not knowing what exactly is going on or what is happening around my kids while they are at school that sometimes keeps me up at night. I pray to God that we’re being a positive influence on them and that they aren’t tricked, coerced, or charmed into doing something they know is wrong by any so called “friends.”
Your turn: Tell me about your childrens’ friends. Do you like them? Do you think they are good influences?