The Hardest Breakup I’ve Ever Had To Go Through: Cutting Ties With My Kids’ Friends’ Parents

by Lisa Sugarman
Lisa writes the nationally syndicated column "It Is What It Is" and is the author of Untying Parent Anxiety.

We parents know that there is an almost unlimited number of awkward situations we can find ourselves in on a daily basis. Probably the most obvious is getting caught by our kids having sex. (Knock on wood, my husband Dave and I have been good so far.) Or being caught with a body part exposed at the market. (Good there, too.) Or having our kids divulge one of our private little “family secrets,” like how mommy likes to iron in her underwear. (No comment.)

The list is long and painful. We can accidentally walk into our 16-year-old daughter’s bedroom while she’s getting changed and see body parts we haven’t had a visual on in years. We can be at a family function and have our toddler drop an F-bomb in the middle of dessert. But believe it or not, one of the most awkward situations we can find ourselves in is breaking up with one of our kids’ friend’s parents. That one hurts. Bad.


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 among kids. 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 19-year-old was four. Some parents I’m still super close with, while others have drifted to being more like acquaintances. 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 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 my kids 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.

Sometimes, though, these relationships 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, or maybe not.

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 mamabearish about our own kids, we have a tough time suppressing that urge to defend our children, 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. That’s 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.

Still 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, 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 all wounds” 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.



Have you struggled with having to break up with a friend who is the parent of one of your kid’ friends? Make sure to SHARE your story in the comments!

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