My son is eight and is in third form of elementary school. He is friendly, social, generous, fun, and popular among both his class mates and their parents. But recently there is a saddening development among his friends.
When my son invites friends to his home, he is always open to other kids coming, too. When he plays with "Tom", and "John" calls and asks if he can come, my son always answers: "Of course." He loves all his friends, and wants all of them around him all the time. We used to have three to five kids in the house on many afternoons.
My son's friends on the other hand usually have one other favourite friend. They play with everyone as a group, while in school, but at home they are content with having their one single best friend over and since a few weeks they have begun to prefer to be alone with that friend. So what has been happening for almost two months now is that whenever my son wants to play with "Tom" and/or "John", the two have always already agreed to meet, and they tell my son that they want to be among themselves and that he cannot come. And this not only happens with "Tom" and "John", but with several of my son's other friends also. Most of his class mates, and unfortunately all of his – former – closest friends, have currently formed "couples", leaving my son the proverbial fifth (or, in this case, third) wheel.
I don't completely understand this, and my son has no explanation either. For a few weeks now he has spent most of his afternoons alone. Only when one "partner" from one of the "couples" is otherwise occupied (usually with sports or family events), the remaining kid is open to play with my son. My son is visibly sad and hurt by the ongoing rejection, but as yet he remains true to his friends.
I'm not sure wether or not I should talk to the other kids or their parents. I don't think forced friendships work, so I hesitate to get involved, but rather hope that this is a phase and will pass.
But then, there is an additional complication. I'm the coach in a climbing group for kids from 7 to 10. My son is in that group. We have a long waiting list of kids that want into that group, and some kids have been on that list for two years.
A couple of weeks back, before the rejections started, "Tom" asked my son if he could join the group, and my son asked me. "Tom" didn't know about the waiting list. I decided to let "Tom" skip the waiting list and allowed him to join. I did this for my son, because "Tom" is one of his closest friends and it made my son happy to have him in the group. And "Tom" and his family will move away at the end of the school year, so his position in the group will become vacant again soon and the kid at the top of the waiting list can join, albeit a few months later than if I hadn't privileged my son's friend.
Now, at the beginning of this week, a day after telling my son that they wanted to play without him, "John" asked my son if he could join the climbing group, too. He and "Tom" allowed my son to play with them on that day.
Basically, I don't feel too good about letting a second kid jump the waiting list. I was making an exception for "Tom", based on the fact that he would leave the group again soon, and my infringement would not be permanent. But I must admit that if "John" was my son's best friend and they were playing together every day, I would probably make a second, and permanent, exception, for the sake of my son.
But now, I feel that "John" is taking advantage of my son's friendship towards him, while at the same time he does not reciprocate the feeling and isn't a friend to my son. Today, as usual, "Tom" and "John" rejected my son's attempts to make a date with them.
So I wonder. Disregarding the waiting list for the moment, should I invite "John" to the group, too, because this would please my son and might actually bring the kids together again? Or does it only bring "John" and "Tom" together, who are then both part of the group? Or should I tell "John" that he needs to decide wether he wants to be friends with my son, or not, and not use his friendship, if he doesn't want it? Or should I just tell him that it is not possible, using the waiting list as an excuse? Or what?
I want my son to have friends. I want to facilitate these friendships, where I can. But I also want to "deflect" those friendships that are, in my opinion, not good for my son (in this case, because his friendship is being used to gain access to something, not out of "love").
What is the right thing to do?
(Again, please disregard the problem of the waiting list. I might not admit "John" to the group regardless of what would be right for my son and their currently deteriorating friendship. The waiting list is a different problem, and not what I'm asking about here. I'll solve that problem with my conscience and my co-coach.)