THE BLOG
01/25/2011 11:21 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I'm Competing with My Son's Friends for His Attention (and the Friends Are Winning)

There comes a time in every kid's life when he has to make a decision: Does he want to hang out with his parents or his friends?

Like we parents ever win.

We're not dumb; we were kids once. We didn't want to hang out with our parents, either. So we expect this day to come; perhaps we're even resigned to it. We still get to see them. It's not like they moved out of the house. Yet. However, being divorced with shared custody, that time with friends starts seriously cutting into my mom and son time.

What's worse: Living outside my kid's school district. And his dad lives in district. Nearby the majority of my son's friends. And the mall where they all hang out. And the movie theater that they frequent.

Let's just say my odds are getting dismal.

It doesn't matter that I planned for him and birthed him and fed him and bathed him and spent all my fun money (formerly for booze, vacations and shopping sprees - not necessarily, but likely, in that order) on fun toys. My son may appreciate that abundance of Mom love and all-around pretty-decent parenting once he hits 40. But at 13? The kid gives great lip service, but when his group is heading off to the mall for the afternoon, playing canasta at the kitchen table with me doesn't measure up.

My husband and I made a conscious choice to live outside my son's school district. We're in a location, a neighborhood and a house we really wanted. We had run out of space in our previous home after welcoming a son in 2007. It was time to move. And my 13 year old only had five more years of school before college. We didn't want to move someplace we didn't want to live long-term for the sake of being close to his school, and then move again after he graduated. And I never would have considered pulling him out of his district and making him start over when he's in a great school system where he is happy and flourishing. Plus, moving again in five years would mean my younger son having to switch school districts. So we went with the house in the neighborhood we loved. Which is only 15 minutes away from my ex's house and my son's school.

And then in 2010, right after settling into our new home, hanging out with his school friends suddenly became important to him.

Before then, he didn't much care. He was perfectly happy being with us at home, playing with his baby brother and hanging out with neighbor kids. That kept him content. Plus he was involved with soccer, which took up plenty of his time.

Then came texting. And then requests to go to the movies. Or over to a friend's house. Or to a community dance. It wasn't like I couldn't drop him off and pick him up so he could go to these things. It's that these things come up regularly on the weekends. Almost every day during summer or school breaks. Sometimes it is easier for him to be at his dad's if he's doing something within the neighborhood. And so my time with my first-born is dwindling.

Should I have moved in district, so he could be closer to his friends and events? I'm still not 100 percent sure. I love our neighborhood. He has a really nice friend here who lives next door. He has access to a lot of nature-type activities that he doesn't get in his dad's neighborhood. He doesn't miss out on any of his outings. So I guess we're getting by all right. And I suppose it's training for me when he goes off to college. I'm sure I'll really hate it when he comes home from school for a visit, and next thing I know he's off in his car to see his old friends. It's what all parents must undergo. That reminds me, I owe my mom a visit.

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