Your kid makes a friend. You meet the friend’s parent. You like that parent, a lot. You start scheduling playdates, mostly for the kids but also for you. Then your partners meet and they like each other, which means now you can all spend your weekends together at backyard barbecues and campsites and waterparks, and life has never been more freaking perfect.
But then the kids get older and they just sort of… drift apart. Maybe they have some kind of falling out or maybe they simply reach the age where having the same favourite colour is no longer a strong enough foundation for a close friendship. One kid gets more into sports while the other is into art. They’ve each made new friends and those get-togethers are becoming less frequent and more awkward.
Don’t take it personally
Unless there is something truly awful happening between your kids, like rumour-spreading or cyber-bullying or boyfriend-stealing, recognise that it’s normal and natural for kids to grow apart. After all, how many of your second-grade besties are still prominent fixtures in your life?
It’s likely not anything that either of them did anything wrong; they’re just figuring out who they are and where they fit in. (Of course, if there is something meaner or more damaging happening between them, that’s going to require a different approach and may have a deeper impact on your own friendship. Usually, though, it’s nobody’s fault.)
This is the big one and unless you happen to be a direct kind of person, it’s also the hardest. You and your friend have to acknowledge with each other what’s happening with your kids’ friendship. That’s what writer Kim O’Rourke and her friend didn’t do, and she writes for Scary Mummy that it cost them about a decade of friendship.
Everything was fantastic, and then the inevitable happened: fifth grade. Cliques formed, boys entered the picture, and the drama began. Our girls seemed to be going in opposite directions. They had different interests and were no longer bonded by their love of puppies and pink bedrooms. Optimistically, we still tried to get the girls together, but it was forced and awkward. Neither girl wanted to be there, and the tension between them was obvious. My daughter became resentful toward me for putting pressure on her to stay friends with her old BFF.
My friend and I didn’t acknowledge what was happening but instead pretended like everything was normal. In hindsight, we should have talked about it. A strong friendship could have survived the murky waters of middle school drama. But we didn’t, and eventually the get-togethers stopped. Not just the ones with our daughters, but all of the get-togethers.
If you’re going to maintain your own friendship while the kids go their separate ways, you’ll have to dig deep and call it what it is. That might sound like this: “I’ve noticed that Jack and Matthew don’t seem to have a ton in common these days. I know they’re both so busy with their different clubs/sports/activities. But whether they’re besties at the moment or not, I really value your friendship and I hope we can still make time for each other.”
Chances are, your friend is going to be relieved that you brought it up and now that the air is clear, you can move on without the kids.
Make your own plans
OK, so it won’t be quite the same now. It’s not going to be full-on weekend getaways and lazy family afternoons at the lake. But nothing in parenting stays the same forever, and you’re used to adjusting. Your kids are getting older anyway, and they probably want to be off doing their own thing a little more often. That’s great. It gives you more flexibility for coffee or dinner dates — or double dates because, hey, your partners still like each other, too.
And while you’re there, don’t be afraid to talk about your kids and ask about theirs. Who knows, your kids might find their way back to their own friendship, but even if they don’t, you still care about them and it’s still nice to know how they’re doing.