My 9-year-old son was invited to a birthday party. Our lives consist primarily of barreling through endless homework, too many extracurricular activities, high-pitched whining, random Nerf gun fights, and chaotic evening routines–punctuated by holidays and birthday parties. So I assumed we’d buy the obligatory $20 gift from Target and RSVP “yes.”
I told my son he was invited to a party, and was about to confirm his attendance when he said “Oh, I’m not going.” What?! Did he know something about our social calendar that I didn’t (wouldn’t be the first time)? No, turns out he explained very concisely to me that in fact, he didn’t want to go because this child was “a school friend” and was not very kind to him. Therefore, my son didn’t feel obligated to interact socially with this child outside of the school day. They play together in school–he knows that forced circumstances require certain social norms, but he didn’t feel obligated or compelled to be friendly outside of the school day. Because this kid consistently isn’t nice to him. Why would he want to spend time with someone who wasn’t nice to him, he asked.
Proud. Mama. Moment.
My son understands that we have different kinds of friends. That some friends are confidants, some are sports teammates, some are fun-time friends, some are acquaintances, some are school friends. But that there is a different level of intensity and trust and boundaries with each friend–that one size does not fit all. We don’t all have to be friends, and we don’t have to be the same kind of friend. We don’t all have to get along all the time and be besties, and you can and should still be nice and civil. He understands there is value in honoring your personal boundaries and you don’t need to feel obligated to do anything you’re not comfortable with. That you don’t have to subject yourself to spending time with people who are not good to you. I’m so proud of him because so many adults still don’t get this.
It’s moments like this that I think I might actually be a good mother. I am however bummed I don’t get a good excuse to go to Target and troll the clearance racks.