When we become parents, I feel like there are an almost unlimited number of awkward situations we can find ourselves in on a daily basis. Probably the most obvious of which is getting caught by our kids having sex. (Knock on wood, Dave and I are good so far.) Or being caught with a body part exposed at the market. (Good there, too.) Or having our kid divulge one of our private little “family secrets,” like how mommy likes to iron in her underwear. (No comment.) The list is long and sometimes painful.

But, believe it or not, one of the most awkward situations we can find ourselves in is breaking up with our kid’s friend’s parents. That one hurts. Bad.

Because the thing is, a lot of us with kids have social circles that, in many ways, revolve around the friendships our kids have. That’s just how it happens a lot of the time. As our kids grow and cycle through friendships at different points in their lives, we kind of do the same thing. It’s pretty much inevitable on some level.

Like when they’re little and taking gymnastics classes or playing pee-wee football, and we’re on the sidelines or sitting in the lobby bonding with all the other parents. A lot of the time, friendships are formed with the parents in the same way they’re formed with the kids. And oftentimes those friendships will last years, if not a lifetime. I mean, I’m still friendly with a lot of the moms and dads I met when my now-nineteen-year old was four. Some I’m still super close with, while others have drifted to more of an acquaintance.

Now granted, those relationships have changed in many ways over the years, but I still consider many of those people friends even though we don’t spend every Wednesday afternoon together at Tumble Tots. And even though we may only just talk or text or grab a quick coffee when we can find the time, we’re still connected.

And then there are other parents who I never see or talk to anymore, simply by virtue of the fact that our kids have gone in opposite directions. Maybe it’s just that they ended up at different schools or moved to different sports teams. Or maybe it was just because, as they got older, they migrated to different friend groups, which happens all the time. In those cases, there was no falling out or catastrophic emotional event that separated us. Those are the friendships that just sort of naturally, organically degenerated over time. They didn’t end awkwardly or uncomfortably, they just ended.

And sometimes they do end badly. Sometimes a parent split happens because our own kid, or their friend, did something that wasn’t cool—something that the kids just couldn’t reconcile. Maybe it was deliberate, maybe not. Maybe it’s something they can overcome, and maybe not. And because of that, it becomes tricky, if not impossible, for us as the parents to maintain our friendship. And that’s what I hate. But, sadly, a lot of the time, there’s no real way around it.

See, when something like that happens and the kids aren’t interacting anymore, it makes it kinda tough for the parents to see each other and pretend that nothing’s wrong between their kids. And because every one of us is at least moderately mama bearish about our own kid, we have a tough time suppressing that urge to defend our child, even if they’re part of the problem. We can’t ignore the fact that there’s tension with our children, so that automatically puts stress on the parent friendship. Even parent-friends who have the best relationships.

Which is why, even though we hate to just let things ride, sometimes we have to. Sometimes we have to admit that the awkwardness can’t be overcome right away, or ever. Then again, sometimes a break leads to a reconciliation later on down the line. A reconciliation between everyone.

Personally, I’ve been in both types of situations and neither one is fun. It’s never easy to have to part ways with a friend, especially when the terms of that parting has nothing to do with us adults. But I’m a big believer in timing being a huge part of friendships. Sometimes, even when we desperately want someone in our life, the timing just isn’t right. And so we have no choice but to go with that. Things have a funny way of coming around again, though. Especially when we least expect it. It’s the whole "time heals" thing.

I think I’d almost rather accidentally catch my friend’s husband coming out of the shower. That awkward moment might be a little easier to take in the long run.
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Raising the perfect child . . . it’s our dream as parents.   But the reality is: the perfect child doesn’t exist. Yet parents everywhere are putting the full-court press on their ki...
Untying Parent Anxiety (Years 5–8)

Lisa Sugarman

I'm also the mom of two girls, a wife of almost 25 years to my high-school sweetheart, a nationally syndicated columnist, a runner, an avid paddle boarder, and a whole lot of other things. My true passion, though, is writing. And I love every chance ... Read More