When kids are little, most of their important decisions are understandably made for them: what they’ll eat, what they’ll wear, what time they’ll go to bed… you get the picture. One of the decisions kids have very little say in when they’re younger is who their friends will be.
After all, moms usually group together for themselves (and sure, to socialize the kiddos), but no toddler is facilitating play dates or penciling new friends into their calendar. Friends are mostly just accidents of circumstance; the daughter of the cool mom at library story time, the son of the neighbor who makes great coffee, even a sibling.
Once your kid gets to school, though? That’s when they really start sifting through their peers and making purposeful choices about who they want to hang out with. Their horizons are expanding, which means that yours will too.
Here’s who to expect:
1. The friend who is your child’s polar opposite
This child is the embodiment of “opposites attract.” This kid and your kid have literally nothing in common, but it doesn’t matter. If your kid is reserved, this one is rambunctious. If your child loves noise and chaos, this friend is happiest with a book and some earplugs. This is almost, without fail, the first friend your kid makes.
2. The friend who is your child’s doppelganger
Then there’s the child who could be your child’s twin, sometimes in appearance, sometimes in personality, often in both. You will call this friend by your child’s name and vice versa, and there’s a chance you may accidentally grab the wrong kid at pick-up.
3. The friend who puts your parenting efforts to shame
This child is so. Freaking. Polite. He is all pleases and thank yous and probably plays the violin and has a favorite lean protein and is entirely earnest about it all. He volunteers on the weekends and more often than not, your child is his “polar opposite.”
4. The giver
Eventually, your child will start coming home from school with all manner of random detritus squirreled away in their backpack and lunchbox. You won’t recognize these little bits and baubles — usually Happy Meal toys, cheap plastic jewelry and LEGO minifigs — and when you attempt to nail down their provenance you’ll hear, “So-and-So gave me that.” It’s nice of So-and-So, but you could do without the influx of plastic crap.
5. The enigma
The enigma is a child you’ll hear about often but never, ever meet. Tales of their exploits/awesome jokes/light-up kicks will reach your ears, but when you attempt to get them over for a play date, you’ll wonder if this is just the latest incarnation of your child’s imaginary friend.
6. The “but mom, she’s my best friend” friend
If you are planning to do anything — grab some ice cream after school, hit up a movie, visit the zoo — your child will extend an invitation to this friend. When you attempt to put the kibosh on that (does your kid’s best friend really need to tag along to the DMV this afternoon?) your child will “but, but, but” you on it until you relent. Get used to it. This one’s sticking around.
7. The extractor
This child is the one who pulls yours out of their shell. They will teach them all kinds of super-secret kid stuff, like clapping games and how to fart with your armpits. You will see a side of your child you’ve never seen before.
8. The frenemy
When this friend comes over, the only thing your child seems to want to do with them is fight. Fight over toys, fight over snacks, fight over bikes, fight over video games. You might mistakenly believe that your child doesn’t like this child or vice versa, but you’re wrong — because as soon as the frenemy’s mom shows up for pick-up, the pair will start excitedly planning the next play date.
9. The friend who’s really comfortable around you
This friend requires no warm-up period and will pretty much immediately settle into your lives. Eventually, they’ll start calling you “Mom 2” and raiding the fridge without any sense of self-consciousness.
10. The friendly competition friend
This child and your child have a competition going that they might not even be aware of. Every time they hang out, it’s a constant battle of one-upmanship, tall tales and science-fair secrecy.
11. The crush
Sometimes this is the unexpected school bus “boyfriend” or cafeteria “girlfriend” your child holds hands with and won’t let you talk to that prompts you to slow your breathing and say dumb stuff, and sometimes it’s a platonic crush: the kid your child desperately wants to be friends with but gets tongue-tied around.