Last weekend, I did something radical. Not radical as in going from blonde to brunette to pink and then back to blonde again. But radical nonetheless. I spent an entire evening compiling contact information for all the parents of my 13-year-old daughter's closest friends.
Like many middle schoolers, my kid now sets her own social schedule. She syncs her calendar with those of her nine BFFs with the aplomb of Jeff Bezos' personal assistant. Thanks to the Norman Rockwell nature of our little town in New Jersey, she's able to stroll to restaurants, movie theaters and friends' homes pretty much at whim. And because of our close proximity to Manhattan, she's also able to go into New York City -- a crash course in all walks of life -- on her own, with friends.
But sometimes I think all this independent living -- driven in large part by the spread of social media -- has gone a step too far.
Kids flit in and out of our house. Sometimes friends sleep over. Sometimes they don't. Usually I don't mind either way. For the most part, all the girls seem like nice young ladies -- and all are exceedingly polite. ("Thank you so SO much for having me.") But as the girls in this group cemented their friendships with each other this past year, one issue has continued to gnaw at me: my familiarity -- or lack thereof -- with the kids' parents. Do I know them? Yes, a few. Do I talk to them by phone? No, almost never. Email? Not really. Not that this is the worst thing in the world. But this unfamiliarity has definitely weighed on my mind.
During these middle school years, I've often thought about how nice it would be if parents retrieved their kids by coming up to the front door and chatting with me for a few minutes rather than simply texting their child "out front" while parked in my driveway. Call me old fashioned but every once in awhile I'd like to exchange pleasantries with other parents. I'd like to find out where they're from and where they work and to discover various points of common experience. When your children are little, this is easy. Members of baby and toddler groups form bonds that can last a lifetime. But it's a different story when your kids become teenagers. My daughter can walk to middle school -- so I don't even need to stop by the school to drop her off. Although I helped run the PTA in elementary school, I admit I'm much less involved now.
When my daughter started middle school two years ago, she befriended a whole new circle of friends. And, like most middle schoolers, they move in packs. If one goes to Starbucks, they all go to Starbucks. Again, nothing wrong with that. She's seeking her independence and subconsciously wants to prove she's getting older by striking out on her own.
But the fact that I really don't know the parents of my daughter's friends became abundantly clear one recent weekend when -- after a sleepover -- I couldn't reach my daughter on her phone despite it being close to lunchtime. Was she still asleep? I had no way of knowing. But I needed to reach her. And it dawned on me that I didn't have the phone number for the house or even the cell phone numbers for the friend's parents so that I could have simply called to find out. Eventually, my daughter checked in. But it made me realize I needed to have a complete compilation of names, phone numbers and email addresses at my fingertips.
And that's why I put together the contact list. I emailed a few parents and they emailed a few parents and pretty soon we had a pretty thorough record of information on the families of our 10 teenaged girls -- and even a few others. And the best part? The parents were "thrilled" that someone was taking the initiative to make this happen. We even made a plan to meet up for drinks -- all of us -- this spring. No, we don't have to become bosom buddies. But it sure will be nice to be friendly with each other, especially as our daughters start high school next year.
I don't want to deprive my children of a social life. But I want to be an involved mother -- perhaps now more than ever. And what better way than to familiarize myself with the parents of my daughter's friends.
What do you think? Do you know the parents of the friends of your older kids? Let us know in comments.