friends without benefits

The Potato has been having some difficulty with his best friend, the Turnip, of late. Last week, he came home and said that the Turnip’s mom told him that he shouldn’t play with the Potato anymore. Landisdad & I talked it over, and decided to leave it alone for a few days—to see if it just blew over. But when he came home for the fourth day in a row, and said they still weren’t playing together, I decided to text the Turnip’s mom, to see what was going on.


There’s a part of me that never wants to be that mother. I don’t want to be that kind of helicopter parent that swoops in whenever there is any tiny problem.

On the other hand, the Potato only has one really close friend. And that friend is the Turnip.


In addition, if the Potato had done something—although he swore up and down that he couldn’t think of anything—I kinda wanted to know about it. And as landisdad and I talked it over, we decided that we’d be justifiably upset with the Turnip’s mom if something HAD happened, and she hadn’t mentioned it to either of us.

So I called her, and left her a message. She called me back when I was at work and couldn’t take the call, and then texted me right after—we had a lengthy text exchange, the upshot of which was that the Turnip had been complaining to her about the fact that the Potato wants to play with him to the exclusion of everyone else in their class—and he occasionally wants to play with other kids. So she had suggested to her son that he play with the Potato every other day.

This of course was misinterpreted by the 8 year-old set. I’m not surprised by the misinterpretation, because it was only like a month ago that I got the Potato to understand that the phrase “every other day” means “alternating days” (it came up in a conversation with his orthodontist, who wanted us to start twisting his expander every other night, instead of every night).

In the end, it’s probably going to be okay. But as of the beginning of spring break, they hadn’t started playing with each other again, even on alternate days. If they end up with that ending their friendship, I’ll be sad for the Potato. It’s hard to lose friends. It’s especially hard if the hardship seems one-sided.


April 9, 2012. growing up.


  1. g2-64b7ff43a0015f8b17fcd238950f6808 replied:

    Aw, that’s tough.

    I don’t think, by the way, that checking in with another parent is in anyway “helicopter” parenting. In many communities, you would naturally be in touch with the parents of the kids your kid plays with and these conversations would happen naturally.

    • landismom replied:

      yeah, I was really surprised that the Turnip’s mom didn’t say anything earlier, or to us directly–we had the Turnip over at least once a week last spring, when she was on bedrest.

  2. Jody replied:

    My heart hurts for you both. We have intermittent problems of exactly this kind with Wilder’s one good friend and it’s really, really hard. In the long stretch of time, it’s alternated, which one is doing the “stepping back to be able to spend more time with other people” dance, but only adults see that as balance.

    A part of me wishes the friend’s mother had tried to help her child get to a solution that didn’t involve rationing. There’s something too adult, too abstract, about it, and not just because kids that age are still mastering time.

  3. chichimama replied:

    Aww, I am sorry. C has had similar issues, it is hard. Hope things work out for Potato and Turnip…

  4. Elise replied:

    It’s sort of funny because I was just reading some stuff about helicopter parents. What stood out the most to me was the holier than thou attitude of the people doing the judging. It actually made me curious as to why, as a society, it makes us feel so good to stand back and judge other people…especially on their parenting skills. With my youngest now in ninth grade, my oldest almost done his first year in college and the middle one headed off to college in the fall, I feel as if I’ve had some failures but I’ve also had a lot of positives. In a lot of ways I am a helicopter mom, however, I mostly believe that it has had beneficial effects. I could give you specifics of why I can justify my helicopter tendencies, but really I do it because it just feels right. What all those judgmental people would find odd, is, my son is doing great in college, on his own with much less help from me – although I still guide and help him on some big decisions. I did not cry hysterically when I dropped him off and I do not talk to him every day.

    I bet in your gut you knew it was the right thing to do to step in and help the Potato but what was nagging at you was what other people would think. What would this mother think of you? Would other people think you were being a helicopter parent? Just go with your gut and he will be fine:)

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