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I Made Friends With My Kid’s Friends’ Parents

Was it a mistake?

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illustration of parents sitting together
Alexandra Bowman
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It was at my son’s kindergarten birthday party that I first met Marshall’s mother. We exchanged pleasantries, and that was it. Marshall was my son’s first grade-school friend, and for a while, the only one. The next year, his group extended to three kids. The year after that, four. His circle of friends grew by one each year. By sixth grade he was part of a group of seven, and I gained a village.

I bonded with four of the mothers. I felt a kinship with them, and thoroughly enjoyed their company. One year, three of them went on vacation with their families, and I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that we hadn’t been included. I wasn’t jealous; I just felt like I had been presumptuous about our friendship. Of course, I was being ridiculous, but it was the first time I realized that I considered these women my friends — not just the mothers of my son’s friends, but my friends as well.

I was also a little weirded out. I’m not one for change. I’ve had the same best friend for 35 years. Sure, I’ve separated the wheat from the chaff over the years, and every decade sees a few additions to the ranks, but my friend base has remained relatively stable. To suddenly have an entirely new contingent was unprecedented.

Yet here are these women who know so little about me, and at times I consider them to be my closest allies. Our sons are so similar — quiet, smart, slightly awkward and really decent boys. And the women are good people, too. They’re all kind and compassionate, and we miraculously found each other through the happy coincidence of our sons getting to know each other.

And because they are all such nice people, I was always careful not to reveal too much about myself. I talk a lot. I was careful to keep certain parts of my life quiet, for fear they might judge me or not want their sons to hang around with mine. I’m not a bad person; I’m pretty good, actually. But when you tally up my scoresheet … I don’t know, I’m lacking.

Maybe I reveled in my anonymity with these women. Maybe that’s what attracted me, what drew us all together. We get to enjoy spending time together without years of baggage weighing us down. It’s strange to be with people who know me only as a mother, but it’s also something we all have in common. There’s something powerful about it.

I think about my best friend and how we can sit in the room together and have an entire conversation without saying a word. No one, except my husband, knows me as well as she does. There is something incredibly fulfilling about our friendship. But this new circle of friends fills a whole different need.

When the boys graduated from elementary school, we decided to give them one last hoorah. We rented a large cottage on a lake and a whole crew of us headed up there for the week. There were about 18 of us — kids and adults included, and it was amazing.

When the summer was over, the boys went off to separate schools. My group of four moms was splitting up. I suspected we were friends a while ago, but I knew it when that week at the lake house was over.

The boys are older now. Much of their interaction takes place online, and when they do see each other, they don’t need us to get anywhere. They’ve all got bus passes. If we were going to keep this going, it was on us. And we did. Roughly once a month we meet for dinner. And dessert.

As time went by, I opened up more. Lo and behold, they haven’t run screaming or snatched their children away from my son. We still meet regularly for dinner and catch up on our hectic lives. Our conversations invariable involve the current obstacles we’re trying to overcome with our kids, and we’re all just there to support each other.

The boys have remained friends, too. So much so that we rented that cottage on the lake again this summer. I don’t know how long our idyllic little setup will last, but I think we’re going to ride this wave as long as we can.