Is it a bad idea to befriend your kid's pal's parents?

When my daughter was 3 years old, she befriended a girl she met at the park — and I befriended the girl’s mom. The girls developed a close friendship. They attended the same elementary school and summer camp, and they loved playing together after school and having sleepovers on the weekends.   

As the girls grew closer, so did the mom and I. We talked on the phone, went to lunch and met for manicures.  Our husbands became friendly, and the four of us would get together for barbecues or to watch a football game. For many years, it worked out really well.  

When the girls were in high school, however, things changed. At first, it was a gradual distancing between the two teens; they were spending much less time together. I figured they were just making new friends and exploring different interests, but my friend confided in me that she thought there might be a problem between them. So I asked my daughter, who admitted she and her friend had grown apart.

My friend suggested we intervene, and I agreed.

The two of us arranged several lunch dates for the girls with the hope that if they just spent time together, their relationship would improve. But this approach was ill-conceived. Of course our 16-year-old daughters were too old for “playdates” forced on them by their mothers. The dates were awkward. The girls barely spoke to each other, and they mostly sat there on their phones.

It became clear to me that the girls were going in different directions.  This saddened me since they’d been friends for so long and I genuinely cared about this girl who had grown up alongside my daughter, largely at my house. I couldn’t imagine them not being a part of each other’s lives.  But this wasn’t about me.

Or was it? Because I also really missed my friend. Over the years, we had developed a real friendship of our own beyond just co-playdate coordinators — but it became impossible for us to be together without the topic of our daughters’ friendship (or lack thereof) coming up.   

And finally, the demise of the girls’ friendship was also causing tension between my daughter and I. My friend kept insisting that my daughter was to blame for the “breakup,” and I began to wonder if that was true. I kept pushing my daughter to fix things with her friend — so that I could have my friend back.  

My daughter became upset with me for trying to pressure her back into friendship with this girl. She explained that the two of them simply didn’t have much in common anymore beyond a shared history. There was no ill will, but there was no connection. And while she felt bad that it was causing friction between my friend and me, she also could not continue a friendship just because her mother said so.  

She was right. You can’t force a friendship. It wasn’t about fault or blame; it was two girls who were growing up and growing apart. It was a part of life, and my daughter needed me to support her in it, not condemn her.

I realized it was going to be impossible for me to have both a healthy relationship with my friend and with my daughter. The choice was simple; I chose my daughter.  I apologized to her, and I explained that as long as she was not mean or intentionally exclusive, I would respect whatever she chose to do about this friendship — and any friendship. And she was grateful to have me, finally, on her side.  

While this decision improved my relationship with my daughter, it ended my relationship with my friend. When I told her I would no longer interfere in the girls’ friendship — and that they would have to decide on their own if they would continue being friends — she got angry. She believed my daughter (and I) had intentionally hurt her child. I countered that the girls had made the decision mutually not to work on their friendship. She disagreed, we argued, and we both said some regrettable things.

In the end, although I’d hoped we could hang onto our friendship even as our daughters were letting go of theirs, we couldn’t. The girls brought us together, and they ultimately tore us apart.

But ending our friendship turned out to be a relief. I realized it wasn’t my daughter’s job to help me keep my friendship; it was my job to help her cope with the loss of hers. Knowing I had her back brought my daughter and I closer.

Years later, instead of focusing on how it ended, I try to look back and remember the great times the four of us had together. These friendships, both my daughter’s and mine, had simply run their course.  I do harbor a vague hope that one day in adulthood the girls might reconnect — but now I realize that’s up to them and them alone.

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