Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lolling About in the Nebulous Unknown

I have decided I would prefer a life without problems.

Or: if I must have problems, I would like those problems to be along the lines of "Oh dear, we've got cut worms on the broccoli; whatever shall we do?"

Actually, I don't mind big problems, problems that call for a stiff upper lip, elbow grease and a can-do spirit. Garage falls down in a wind storm? We'll build ourselves a new one, by golly! No money for food? I'll take on a second job sewing the buttons back on businessmen's shirts. We will survive!

It's the nebulous problems that totally stress me out. Problems that have no solutions. Problems that may not even be problems. Or aren't problems now, but might become problems later.

And problems that concern my children drive me absolutely nuts.

So Jack has this friend named (let's pretend) Caleb. They've been friends for awhile, not close, not play-date friends, but hang out during recess friends. Caleb is bright and funny and a bit of a trouble maker. At least that's been my take on him. He's clearly a high energy kid, and I know he's had problems with other kids, being too physical with them. He's a big guy. But I don't get a bad vibe from him at all.

Other moms have other opinions, it turns out. One mom, who I don't know that well, but whose son is one of Jack's best friends at school, essentially thinks Caleb is a psychopath. She claims he's told kids at school he hurts his cat for fun, that last year (third grade) he shaved his head because he wanted to be a goth. He apparently plowed down her son last year on the playground for no reason whatsoever while she and Caleb's mother were standing there watching. Caleb's mom didn't say anything.

My inclination is to worry this to death. We're coming up on middle school after all. Is Jack buddying up with a future Jeffrey Dahmer? Will he join Caleb in a life of crime? If it were even possible to separate Jack from this kid, would it be wise? Are there actual grounds for doing so? The mom who's been telling me this stuff has only one child; could she be overprotective and paranoid? Misinterpreting?

Should I trust that we've done a good job raising Jack, that he knows right from wrong, and ultimately will make wise choices when it comes to friends? I knew right from wrong growing up, and I still formed wildly inappropriate friendships whenever possible. They were so much more fun than the suitable girls.

Really, you could go crazy thinking about this stuff. Do we have a problem or not? Can you even define the problem discussed in this post? I'm not sure I can.

I'm beginning to think I'm an unfit mother and will not survive my children's adolescence. Stay tuned to find out!


Heather said...

If there is an award, which there probably is, for best title to a post (or anything for that matter) I'd give it to you.

Don't know if you have a problem or not but I will definitely stay tuned.

Susan said...

I'd rather re-build our garage that's been blown down in a windstorm with the buttons from men's shirts than to face the nebulous unknown of adolescence that we're on the verge of facing here with our kids.

Oh, the horror of adolescence!

Left-Handed Housewife said...

Heather, It's actually possible the title makes more sense than the post itself. Writing while we're freaking out--wise choice or no? Continue staying tuned ...

Susan, I'm right there building the button garage by your side. Anything but teenagers. How did we get ourselves into this fine mess?

K said...

My mother strove to be a positive influence on our friends. We lived in a mixed income catchment area for school and my brother and I were friends with some of the kids from broken homes and unstable living conditions.

Mum would encourage us to invite them over to play (as opposed to going there or meeting at the playground) and she was always there as a calm, caring person. We would have our friends over for sleepovers and take them to church with us (their parents didn't seem to mind if they came over after school Friday and went home Sunday around supper time).

Having a stable positive influence can make all the difference in the world to a child. Even if it's something minor, like a friend's mother.

Tracy said...

My 2c? Go with your gut and don't listen to other parents. Just because other people don't get along doesn't mean the crowd should be followed.

I reckon, have a chat to Jack about choosing good friends and what a good friend does and how they behave. Give him ideas about how to tackle difficult friendships or when he gets himself halfway to mischief and realises he doesn't want to go there. And then trust him. We all grew up OK, did we not?!

Then again, maybe I'm very naive and I should be more concerned?! LOL

Dulce Domum said...

So you didn't get a bad vibe from this Caleb kid? Go with your gut insinct (how unladylike? go with you tummy instinct, dear) other parents' interpretations of behaviour could be wildly different to yours. Keep an eye on the little bugger, though. My eldest has a friend I'm not quite sure of, but I make sure that my home is very welcome to her, just because I don't want them going off to the park as a preference to chez domum. Result: undesirable declared "this is the coolest house ever." Poor child must have been to some really uncool houses, but my nefarious plan worked.

PS. Eldest is going to secondary in September, and I'm not handling that thought too well, so I can empathise.

Jo said...

Oh, I am really enjoying your blog...

Children's friends are one thing, but wait till they start with the girlfriends...I have gone with the quiet word in the boy's ear when I have been concerned about any of his friends, while still being clear that they will always be welcome here at any time.

You must read the wonderful chapter 'Intimate Friends' in What Katy Did. I have just read this one with my girls. When in doubt, I always head to the bookcase. I figure some wise and thoughtful author has been there and said it better than I can in my harried parenting fuddle.

PS What do you write, and where can I find?

Left-Handed Housewife said...

K, I've wondered if our family might be a good thing in Caleb's life. We're a pretty stable lot, but not easily fazed (or at least my husband's not). It's a little scary, though, trusting God enough to open up your family to a possibly difficult person. But trust we must.

Tracy, I'm all agreement with all you've written. I also wonder if I'm naive! But I have to trust that Jack is going to make good choices; at the same time I'm also feeling more committed to getting those channels of communication open so that if Jack finds himself in a tough spot, he can get out (with our help, if need be).

DD--Both the Man and I have had similar "tummy instincts" about this kid, and whereas I can be naive about people, the Man usually isn't. The thing that I like about Caleb is that all his negative stuff, as reported, seems to be very much out in the open. There's nothing sneaky or underhanded about him. But if he and Jack are going to spend time with each other outside of school, I definitely want it to be over here, where I can keep an eye on things. Don't know if we'll ever get the "coolest house ever" award, but a girl can dream.

Jo, Oh, not girlfriends! I'm not ready to go there yet! I do agree that books can be great teachers, and I'll look for "What Katy Did." E-mail me and I'll send you a list of what I've written. I'm glad you're enjoying the blog!

Danielle said...

You have nailed why my motto has been "I do the first decade" and the Man had best be the primary force in the second decade. Sleep deprivation tantrums, laundry, whining, endless chores, grocery shopping, homework overseerer, etc. is far from a blast, but looking rather romantic now that hormones, friend b.s., clothes wars, driver's license, romantic entanglements, technology addictions, etc. loom.

Danielle said...

p.s. let us say it is bad form to lay on another mom, who isn't someone you even have a real relationship with, your own "crap" about another kid. she is clearly struggling with her own issues of how to handle "caleb" and only serves to stir the pot and raise anxiety.

I'm far from perfect, and I like it best when we moms are honest and supportive instead of hiding behind perfection veneers; but simple manners. Please?

Angela said...

Trust your instincts, trust your kids, and trust the Lord. And I go along with comments from K & DD - make sure your home is open to your kid's friends, that way you can keep an eye on them, and they may pick up some positive values from your family life. You WILL survive - and one day when you are feeling stronger, I may share the stories of the Goth from Wales, the friend who vomited cranberry and vodka on the new carpet, and the strange one armed man, and other odd moments in my daughters' lives!!

Gumbo Lily said...

Trust, yet be ever watchful.


Anonymous said...

I tend to think my kids' friends are gorgeous -- till I meet some other mother who tells me a horror story -- but then she probably tells horror stories about my kids too. C'est la vie.


Victoria said...

Problem - kids have to have friends - some of them are bad influences (or dangerous, or could be), this drives me nuts too, andI feel like there's not a huge amount I can do about it..