It started innocently enough: our sons fell in love. It was a platonic young love, the kind that happens to 3-year-old boys who have officially found their first best friend. It all started in preschool, where they learned to wrestle, giggle uncontrollably, chase each other, and speed race on the twister slide. All my son talked about on evenings and weekends was this boy. He couldn’t wait to have him over to our house. It was the perfect play date just waiting to happen.
And then I met his mom.
I spotted her in the preschool parking lot and introduced myself. It seemed like a good idea, since the two boys were attached at the hip. She was friendly … extremely friendly. This mom immediately treated me like a friend she hadn’t seen in years. Hugging me, she opened up about her son’s “lame, neurotic, and self-serving” dad and his “slutty” girlfriend. Then she launched into a recent date-gone-wrong in great detail, describing how her suitor tried to get in her pants before dinner was even served.
I could relate; I was feeling similarly violated given that school pick-up had just devolved to a PG-13 play-by-play. I was happy to delve right into these details with my close friends, but it felt bizarre coming from a stranger who happened to be the parent of my son’s best friend. Since this was the first time we’d ever met, I uncomfortably tried to bring the conversation back to the kids. We laughed about our sons’ platonic love affair and decided a play date for the kids was definitely the next step.
She brought him by our house a few days later, and the boys instantly started running around as I lingered in the doorway with her to decide on pick-up times. But as she talked, it became apparent she wasn’t leaving anytime soon. Expecting a quick “hello” and kid drop-off, I thought it was obvious that the play date was for the kids, not the adults. She delved into her love life yet again, telling me everything from the size of her ex-husband’s manhood to her desire to become a surrogate mother for some extra cash. The doorway chat led to a couch chat, and while I kept trying to eke out the fact that I was pretty busy, I felt like I would have been rude to cut her off. My thoughts of getting a few things done around the house while the two boys played were starting to evaporate.
After a couple hours of talking and hanging out with the boys, I finally made up an excuse about having to head to the store, and she and her son took off. After that, she started calling — a lot. First she wanted to hang out and have a glass of wine. Then she was wondering if I could take her son for a few hours while she went out to dinner with another new guy. Then she was wondering if I’d take him overnight while she went on a date with another guy she was hoping to score with.
Red flags frantically waving in the background, I reluctantly agreed to all of these things. Our sons had so much fun together, and she was a single mom with little assistance. Why wouldn’t I help her out? Because our boys were so into each other, I thought maybe I should be into her as well, like we were compelled to be buddies because our kids were. Isn’t that what new mom friends do?
When she came to drop her son off for the overnight, my husband and I were just about to sit down for dinner. She stood in the doorway with a bottle of wine in her hand. “I thought we could hang out and have a glass before I left,” she said. I left my husband to eat on his own, thinking that sipping on a glass of wine was perhaps a good way for me to loosen up around her and connect. We made our way to the back deck and opened the bottle, watching the boys tearing around the yard.
“You seem to have such a great relationship with your husband,” she said. “And a great set-up here.”
I replied with something about how not everything is as perfect as it seems when she popped the question.
“Would you guys consider being my son’s guardian if something ever happened to me?”
Whoa, I thought, yanking on the reigns of this runaway horse. This was our third time chatting, and now she was asking me and my husband, whom she hadn’t even met until tonight, to take her child in the event of her death?!
“Um, wow,” I said. “Let me talk to him about it.” But in my head, I knew that talk would be more of a “You’ll never guess what just happened” kind of chat. I knew then it was time for a clean break before I got pulled in any deeper. What was next? She would ask to move in? And I wasn’t sure I could stomach any more info about the, ahem, package size of her next date.
The situation I was caught in left me pondering the new stage I had reached in the life of a parent. My son was my first child, and this was the first time I had experienced these forced friendships: the kind where your kids dictate who you have to hang out with simply because of who they hang out with. But did I have to be good friends with parents I didn’t like for the sake of a play date?
Still being a rookie at this whole thing, I watched what other moms and dads in the schoolyard did, hoping to find some guidance. I noticed that some parents tended to linger uncomfortably, waiting for the kids to be released while avoiding eye contact or pretending to text. Others were more social, chatting away with new mom friends and making plans for their kids. I found myself somewhere in the middle, pleasantly cautious but making small talk occasionally.
It was then that I realized how silly I was being. This woman was simply not my type. Not only did I find her conversations one-sided and somewhat boring, I also realized I couldn’t take another one of them, with or without wine. And it struck me that this whole time, instead of being true to my gut feelings to run away, I was subjecting myself to this, and that was my fault. During that first play date, I could have set up some boundaries and told her I was too busy to hang out, but I’d gladly watch the kids.
That’s when I decided to give her the slip, texting her back instead of calling and making excuses about how busy we were. And the legal guardianship? I never addressed it again. After I cut myself off from her, neither did she. I was still pleasant when I’d run into her but made the exchanges quick.
I stopped caring if I wasn’t being as nice as possible; I had to protect myself from getting any closer to her and getting forced into a nutso relationship, and within about six months, both of our sons went on to meet other “best” friends. Around the same time, she quit making contact as well. Maybe she’d moved on to the next friend’s mom like some fresh prey. From time to time, my son would ask about when he could see her son again, but that soon faded as well. I felt like a weight had been taken off.
Though I was a bit gun shy afterward, for me, my son’s relationship with his first best friend was like an initiation into the world of making new mom friends: some would be a good fit, some would not. Since that time, with my son now in kindergarten, there have been moms who I’ve immediately clicked with; we hang out often, with or without kids. And of course there have been moms who just aren’t my cup of tea; I’m fine with that, too.
If confronted with another bad “momance,” I’ve decided to listen to my instincts and nip things in the bud early on. If I’m not feeling a connection with a mom who is pursuing me, I’ll set up more boundaries, be too busy to hang out upon play date drop-offs, or just let the kids play at school and leave it at that. Just because the kids are best friends, it doesn’t mean the moms have to be as well. They get to choose their friends, and now I do, too.