Like all relationships, adult friendships can be complicated, but how exactly do you explain your friend “break up“ to your child?
For these purposes, let’s call this friend Sally. Sally was close to my kids, through dinners, outings, and birthdays. She and her husband spent time with us at the pool and they would even babysit when we were in a pinch. Every time we pass their house, Cara would wave out the window to them with the nicknames her brother gave them. So when Sally stopped coming around, Cara asked why, and I couldn’t answer her.
There are no books for this. Throughout their young lives, we teach our children to be friends with everyone, and here I am defriending this woman and all Cara wants to know is, where’s Sally? And every time I tell her maybe we’ll see her soon, Cara says, “I’m sad not to see Sally.”
Do I tell her in my time of need Sally wasn’t there for me? That she abandoned me for her own selfishness? While Sally may think differently, this is my perception and my feelings are hurt. What lesson can I give Cara, that sometimes friends let us down and it is OK to not be friends with them anymore? Isn’t she too young for this concept? Won’t telling her this kill the part of her innocent stance that Sally and all people are good?
We are not friends with everyone. Even the kids aren’t. They are drawn to other kids for a variety of reasons but as parents and teachers we try to make sure no one is excluded. I can just imagine that Cara is thinking, “Then why is my mom excluding Sally from my life?”
For now, I just told Cara that Sally is really busy and that seems to be OK but I hate not telling her the truth. Maybe Sally and I will be friends again or maybe we won’t. Maybe our season of friendship is over and being 7, Cara will forget that Sally was in our life as much as she was for the time that she was.
Life is complicated, messy, and full of ups and downs. While I want to protect Cara from as much as possible, I also recognize that she has to learn to grow. Finding the right balance is the trickiest and best part of being a parent.