My kids choose good friends.
I don’t know why they’ve been so blessed. I certainly didn’t always have such good judgment.
I knew this was a good sign even when they were very young. They are naturally cautious, and not drawn to the dangerously charismatic kids, the risk takers, the ringleaders. With this tendency, my intuition told me they wouldn’t get lost.
There have been a few friends with problematic parents, but the kids have always been fine.
In the past few months, Ted has become part of a little posse of 8th grade boys. It is mostly kids he has met in middle school, but also includes one kid he’s known since kindergarten, one of my favorites. They’ve been to a few movies as a group, but their main activity is walking to downtown Florence after school on Fridays, stopping by the Florence Pie Bar, and then walking to one of their homes. They’re smart and kind and they have an easy, unself-conscious way about themselves. The boys in the group call Ted by his full name – first and last – like characters out of an odd drawing room comedy. Two of the boys in the group are named Tommy, which confirms my suspicion that they really exist in an episode of Leave it to Beaver.
In January, on a day off from school, the boys met for an early lunch at Miss Flo’s Diner. I could see so clearly that it was to be one of those moments when adolescents practice being adults. I dropped him off with some money and a reminder to be respectful of the waitresses and other diners.
Later that day he told me what he ate and what they talked about. He also described these cool machines at the table: you can flip through song titles, pick one, put in a quarter and it will play music! (Clearly there has been something missing in his education.)
The following week, I heard a story from another parent that he had neglected to tell me.
After lunch, when they asked the waitress for their bill, she told them that they were all set. Their lunch – for six 13-year-old boys – had been covered by a couple at a nearby table. The elderly couple (as Ted called them – they were probably 55) thought they were such nice, well-behaved boys, that they picked up the tab.
Ted is starting high school in the fall, and I still have trouble seeing it. He seems far too young, and so do many of his friends. But with this sweet posse, and the other kids he’s attached himself to, I’m not at all afraid to see him go.