Q: I recently started a club for my tween son and a few of his friends to enter an upcoming competition. We only have a few weeks to prepare, but the group is doing so well, they went into a class at school to talk about our club. Now a bunch of other kids want to join, including a few of my son’s other friends. I’m friends with the mom of the one of the kids who wants to join and she was telling me how much her son would like to be involved as the club moves ahead. The problem is - I started this with a small, manageable group of kids that I knew would get along well. The more kids I allow in, the harder it will be to find a meeting schedule that works for everyone and the harder it will be for everyone to get along as well as to keep everyone in their roles within the club. I wish the group had stayed underground!
How do I find the balance between what is small, manageable, and even fun for me (and my son, of course), and disappointing the other kids and pissing off their parents?
Signed, Too Much of a Good Thing
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A: Dear Good Thing:
You’re doing so well with your little club that there’s a line at the door and you need to be the bouncer and the main entertainment? Tough one. But the more important line that you tread here is the one between your son becoming a confident young man because of his awesome mother’s efforts and becoming a pompous ass because his club is so popular.
We all can identify with being left out of a group and commiserate with those kids who really, really want to join, but feel like you’re just leaving them out because you don’t like them. Wait, maybe that’s just me.
No matter what you do, you’ll end up disappointing someone, so how to proceed? Here’s an exercise that can help. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and think about the club. What makes you feel good about it? The smile on your son’s face as he talks about your progress? The satisfaction you feel as you create lasting memories for him? Or the security of knowing he’s safe and healthy hanging out with you and the other good kids instead of lurking by the train tracks learning how to smoke cigarettes and drawing dirty pictures on the sidewalk?
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Whatever the answer is, that’s what you need to focus on. Be honest not only with yourself but also with the other parents and kids who want to be a part of your club. Don’t worry about pissing them off. Tomorrow they’ll find something else to be mad about, anyway. It’s not like you are a government institution charged with the task of being fair to everyone. You are mom with a finite amount of energy and hours in the day. Of course you want to devote those resources to your own kid, and the fact that you’ve taken a few others under your wing is admirable. Look at you! You are Super Mom! - at least for those few hours a week.
Make sure your son witnesses your diplomatic response to these other families. Rather than touting the exclusivity of the club, he will see his Super Mom establishing healthy boundaries in a respectful way. If the other parents push back or react negatively, that is not your problem. Being true to yourself under pressure is the best example of what it’s like to be a grownup that you can show your child.
Once you’ve settled that, you can start making a fortune selling your secret to surviving regular group time with tween boys.
Do you have a dilemma that’s too big for your girlfriends, but too small for a therapist? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I may choose to answer it in next week’s column. I’ve got your back, sister.