Friends-in-law: What are your kids’ friends’ parents?

by doodaddy on June 11, 2008

I heard a roar at the zoo today. Given recent history, it made me a little nervous, but it turns out that it was just towheaded, three-something G— shrieking joyfully at us as he emerged from around a corner, elated at the accidental encounter.

G—’s nanny trailed with baby sister in a stroller. She and I are friendly, since she was one of the first people nice to me at the new playground. I flashed her a quick smile as I hailed G— back, snatched him up in a big hug, then flipped him over and bounced his head gently on the pavement as he laughed riotously.

Then his mom walked up.

Sheepishly, I flipped G— back upright and stood for the introduction, somewhat distracted by Boobaby, who now wanted her head to be tapped against the sidewalk, too. (She’s a little jealous that way.)

It’s perfectly natural that I hadn’t yet met G—’s mother, what with a new baby and all, plus I think she works outside of the home, but still, there’s something incongruous to the point of embarrassing about manhandling other people’s kids while they’re watching. (It’s not the first time this has happened, either. You’d think I’d learn my lesson.)

I met G— a kajillion years ago (to him, anyway — to me, it’s been like six months), so he’s completely comfortable with me. But I’d never met his parents, and the same is true of Boobaby’s best playground girlfriend B—, who also seems to be pleasantly fanatical about me. (Nothing makes my day like a 4-year old’s adoration.) I even sent a picture of the two of them home with B—’s nanny, having jotted down my phone number first, but got no response.

Yeah, I know what you’re going to say: these people have their own lives, and what is Doodaddy to them? But I’m not trying to contact the parents for me, though — I have plenty of friends and no need to worm my way into their lives.

Here’s how I see it: To our toddlers, the playground is a real and epic part of existence. Some kids share their playground adventures with their parents and some with their babysitters, and that’s fine. But they all make friends there, and from what I’ve seen the friendships are all the stronger for having been selected, voluntarily, by the kids themselves. Sure, it’s fine to have a playmate in “mommy’s best friend’s toddler who’s almost the same age,” but I learn a lot about my daughter from the way she chooses to interact with other kids when she is allowed to choose.

All I’d like is to be able to call up G—’s mom or B—’s dad and say, “You’ll never believe what happened at the playground today!” Or e-mail them a cute picture, maybe; as things are now, I feel uncomfortable even taking pictures of my daughter and her friends when the parents are strangers to me.

When I was teaching outdoor education, one lesson centered on the concept of “community.” I’d ask the kids “What communities do you belong to?” and they’d say “My neighborhood!” or “My school!” or “My church!” There’s another community they thought of less often, even though it’s about as important as can be: “My friends.” Boobaby’s friends are a band, a tribe that I am allowed to witness because I’m very, very lucky in life.

I only wish I could meet some of the other tribal elders and share with them how amazing their kids are even when their parents aren’t around.

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tagged as in community,friends,playground,stay-at-home guilt ·

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Veronica June 12, 2008 at 4:52 am

And this is what I miss, getting to go to playgroup and watch my toddler play. Not to mention simply getting out of the house for the sake of my sanity!

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mom, again September 4, 2008 at 2:40 pm

I know what you mean. I was at church once, when I went to get the girls from the nursery room, M was thrilled to show me that K was there! K from daycare! Yay! So, I picked up K as I did at daycare. This woman walked up with a startled, worried look and asked what I was doing holding her child? Then my daughter caught her with a bear hug at knee level and, oof!, made the connection.

Luckily, K’s mom (also K) and I hit it off, she was major support during and after my divorce, and we have now been friends for 20 years. Our daughter’s have drifted into different sorts of lifestyles, and though they stay in touch, long since have ceased to be particular friends.

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Doodaddy September 4, 2008 at 10:36 pm

Yep, that’s the scene! It’s maybe a little worse being a man in that situation, since so many are predisposed to suspect me of nefarious intentions toward their kids, anyway… so I’m usually careful on the approach!

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