Can I screen my child’s potential friends for the rest of his life? No? Well, I don’t care for that. I think I usually strike a pretty good balance between my intellectual desire for letting Max interact and experience with the world (good and bad) and my emotional need to hover and protect. I know he needs to make mistakes and bad choices to learn how to properly recover from them, but I still like to moderate the challenges to take some of the risk away. I meddle, it’s what I do.
Earlier in the week during a walkabout with the wife, the little dude spied a pack of neighborhood boys. The pack ranged in age, most of them much older than Max, but when they started to run, he wanted to join in. This pack of lads was unsupervised, and they were full of energy and rambunctious childhood rashness, so they wouldn’t be considered the best companions for a 3-year-old. He did join their pack for a bit (with my wife keeping a watchful eye from a few feet behind), albeit without official invitation. And, since he didn’t have a weapon (they were playing guns, naturally), the game moved on without him and he came in for a quick snack break.
While he was inside, he kept talking about going back outside with ‘the boys’ and playing with them. Aside from my trepidation at his running around with the older crowd, he was also weathering a hearty cold, and the walk outside had turned his nose into a snot faucet. So, I gently suggested he stay inside and warm up while having a rest, and the sadness burst forth from within. He was so forlorn at not joining up with the boys that I felt terrible. I want to give him all of the social play opportunities he asks for, but the cold was already inviting a cough to the party and I had to be the bad guy.
I guess it’s another part of parenthood that you have to make your peace with: your child will have friends that you don’t approve of. You can’t supervise every relationship they participate in, and sometimes they’re going to hang out with the smelly kid with the shifty eyes. But hopefully we can keep him out of the wilder rumpus’ for a little while longer.