Monday, February 8, 2010

Friends- More

(First part here, and second part here.)  
Btw, sometimes I just mention a Bible reference.
Hover over it and you'll see the verse.

So far... Kerry and I have basically the same goals as far as how the kids ought to treat people.  But we differ in our views of balancing compassion with caution in making friends.

2.  Who the boys hang out with.

Here's where the rubber meets the road.  The boys don't live in a bubble, after all.  They're in contact with all kinds of people.

And they're young and immature.  I don't mean they're immature for their ages, but they are not adults.  They are not mature.  They are not wise and discerning.  I think they need help - they need guidance in evaluating who they can and should hang around with.  They really do.

I'll tell you a story.  When Tate was about seven, there was a boy in his class at school who lived nearby.  I think Tate liked him because he was funny.  Oh, he was funny all right.  He was a smart aleck, popping off in class.  I let him come over to play a few times, against my better judgment.  But that came to a screeching halt when he persisted in bullying Gunnar every time he was here.  Sometimes right in front of his own mom.  And Tate was just too young to get it.

On the other hand, there are other neighborhood kids that our boys go back and forth with constantly, with our blessing.  They're not perfect.  We're not perfect.  But we're on the same page, so I don't have to be as vigilant in overseeing their time together.

As some of you wisely pointed out, there are friends and there are friends.  I think of Proverbs 12:26, "A righteous man is cautious in friendship."

Rachael mentioned the importance of paying close attention to how our kids respond to other kids.  Are my kids being judgmental?  Are they able to be gracious without compromise?  Or are they being attracted by what they know is wrong?  How are they handling it?

When I watched Tate with this other boy, I could see that Tate thought it was all really funny, a big game.  He thought this kid was "cool". When I told Tate we weren't going to be having that boy over any more I also asked him to find some other kids to play with at recess.  And I got resistance.  Which, to me, is a warning flag.  Why are we so fascinated with trouble?

Around that same time we had temporary custody of Kerry's niece for about a year.  Her parents are/were the most vile, self-serving, manipulative druggies you can imagine.  They would've thrown her under a bus to get whatever they wanted.  The things she had been exposed to would curl your hair.  And you know what?  Whenever we were downtown, or at a store, we would see people like her parents - people our grandparents would call "low-lifes" - and she was clearly drawn to them.  They were her normal.  I would watch her watching them... see her interest, her attraction.  And she was two years old.  Broke my heart, and scared me for her future.

So I'm cautious about whom I want the boys getting comfortable around.

Goes back to Proverbs 22:24-25.  Why do we avoid certain people?  So we don't fall into their ways.  So we don't become like them

I think Kerry's gut-reaction is to equate this with being snobby.  Being holier-than-thou.  I see it differently.

I'll tell you the truth.  It's not because I think my boys are so pure and noble and perfectly mannered that they need to somehow be protected from contamination by "bad" kids.  Oh no, it's because they - we - are weak.  And easily influenced by the company we keep.  Proverbs 13:20.

So I'm left with the tension of trying to balance the virtue of being a friend to the lonely and the outcast, with my desire to protect my boys from trouble and temptation, knowing all the while that we bring our own trouble to the equation.

Rachael didn't pull any punches when she said, "Sin isn't a disease we catch.  It's a genetic conditon."

We have it, too.


leah said...

This is such a great discussion. I was talking to one of my mommy-friends about this dilemma(we all go to the same MOPS- Mothers of Preschoolers- group at a local church).

My children are so young that we haven't experienced much in the world of friends yet, but she has children who are older and in the public school system. She uses the idea of a "friendship dial," where parents are responsible for tuning that dial.

She also talks to her kids constantly. For kids that are low on the friendship dial (kids that have behaviors or belief systems they don't agree with), she talks to her kids BEFORE they play, supervises the play, and then talks to them AFTER they play. They talk about various behaviors and help guide the kids' thoughts about certain issues.

In this way, they hope to raise their kids to be compassionate, wise, and prudent.

Of course, sometimes you have to turn the friendship dial completely off. In the case of bullying, or behaviors that could cause permanent harm, the dial has to be turned off entirely.

And now I am going to return to my world of 2 and 4 year olds, where the biggest issue is "the sharing of the toys." :-)

Herding Grasshoppers said...


That's a great "picture" - the friendship dial. I bet that will make it easier for the kids to get a handle on. As long as they don't go around telling other kids their numbers!

"Well, my mom says you're a five. But you on the other hand, are a TWO."

And oh the sharing... we still have those moments. It's just over different things.


leah said...

That has me laughing- I can only imagine the phone calls THAT would bring "Johnny came home crying because your boys called him a three!"

Deborah said...

Excellent thoughts. I am on the same page as you with this. I like Leah's friendship dial too. I am wondering how much harder this is going to get as our children enter the highschool years...