My son (8 years) is friends with two other kids in the neighborhood, lets call them John and Joe. John has been friends with my son for slightly longer than he has been friends with Joe. However Joe has gotten closer to John over the last few weeks. Joe goes to John's house first, and then the kids come over to our house, or call out to my son who goes to John's house. They never play at Joe's.
Of late Joe (a year younger than my son) has been so obsessed with playing with John, that he has been telling my son to stay away from John - sometime playfully, sometimes not so much. My son retaliated saying it is not his position to tell him that, since it is John's call to make. John always steps in during these times and clarifies that my son is welcome to his house and can play. I must clarify that Joe has been using my son as a backup. He visits our house when John is not available to play. Or he goes to John's house first, plays with him for a while, and then both him and John come together and play with our son at my house or at John's. Today after the kids were done playing at John's, Joe alone came in to our yard with my son, when I was talking to his mother. He started telling my son that he cannot come to John's house anymore, to which my son retaliated like always saying Joe doesn't get to say that to which Joe kept aggressively saying it was his order and my son must listen, and my son kept brushing it off gently saying he wont. The mother just kept smiling at all this and dint intervene. I tried intervening by asking Joe "why" but the boys were busy talking to each other regarding this and I don't think I was even heard. When I brought this up with my son afterward, he said he doesn't mind it, because he was sure Joe said it playfully. He mentioned that Joe also mentions it not-so-playfully at times. I asked him how he responds then, and he confirmed he does the same thing he did today, which is tell Joe that he is not my son's boss and cannot stop my son from going to John's. I must add that in general, the boys are good at playing together, more often than not. But I feel that Joe's mother should have stepped in to correct her son instead of just standing there smiling. I also think my son should have something more stronger. In addition, I feel I should have said something instead of letting the boys fight this out. I am looking for suggestions on how I could have handled this better. The thought is eating me up. :(