Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Good Neighbors, Great Friends

We’ve lived in our cul-de-sac for a little over four years and up until this summer my nine-year-old son Levi has been frustrated that he didn’t have a buddy in the neighborhood. Sure, we’ve got triplets with two boys right next door, but they’re a year older and not in quite the same place as he is developmentally. So, I was beyond excited for Levi when a friend who is the same age and attitude moved into the house two doors away.

After a little bit of a rough start, Levi and (I’ll call him Michael), soon became best buds. They act, behave and even seem to think alike. It’s been so much fun watching them run between houses playing Nerf wars, dressing up in Star Wars costumes and bringing Minecraft to life with pick axes and diamond swords when I’ve run them off of Xbox. And sleepovers are hassle free. No packing, dropping off or picking up required. Best of all, when one or the other has had enough, they just zip back across the yard. Boom. Done. They’re great friends.

Given how well the boys have gotten along, the fact that they had their first fight on Christmas Day was unfortunate. Sometime that afternoon Michael popped in as we prepared to leave for vacation. Levi had gotten the Diamond Edition Minecraft sword and pick axe and I could hear them battling downstairs. They were a little more rambunctious than usual but I chocked it up to too much Christmas excitement. The next thing I knew, I heard the front door close and assumed Michael had to get home. When I came downstairs, I could see from Levi and his eleven-year-old sister Liv’s expressions that something had gone wrong. “I told him to get out,” Levi explained angrily, but I could tell tears were close to the surface. According to Liv, when Levi kept boasting about defeating him, Michael punched him in the nose! “I’ve lost my best friend on Christmas,” Levi shrugged, again trying to act macho about it all.

Of course I wanted to rush in and help the boys patch things up, but had to finish packing, so I only asked Levi to think about whether there was anything more to the story and if he wanted to go out of town with things the way they were. As much as I wanted him to, Levi didn’t go talk to Michael that night before we left and it hung like a cloud over him for most of the trip. Time and again I had to fight the urge to contact Michael’s mom and intervene, fearing that the longer the silence stretched, the more awkward things would be, not only between the boys but between us as moms who’d formed a bit of a relationship through them.

I needn’t have worried. On our way home, Levi asked if he could text Michael. Apparently there was more to the story, and he wasn’t merely an innocent victim. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Michael should have resorted to violence, but I also know my son’s behavior can be provoking. Levi must have known it, too, because his text simply read, “I hope you can forgive. Your best friend – I hope.”

Everything turned out well in the end. For Levi and Michael, and for us moms too.  What a relief! We get to choose our friends, but not our neighbors. Life is so much better, for children and their parents, when you’re both.

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