In November, Jake came home announcing that we had to get his new friend Rob a toy helicopter. We thought it was odd since it was neither Rob’s birthday nor Christmas. But Jake said a promise was a promise and so Joe took him to Target on Saturday and purchased the helicopter. In the following weeks, Jake asked me to pack double snacks since Rob liked what he brought to school. Rob and Jake aren’t in the same class but both attend the Safe ‘n Sound after school program. They became friends on the first day of school.

Both Joe and I have noticed Jake’s mood swings when we pick him up from school. A couple of times he told us it was because of Rob who declared to be Jake’s friend one minute and turned against him the next. “School is getting stressful,” Jake sighed.

A couple of weeks ago, Jake urged me to buy two bags of Cheetos for school. As soon as I returned home from Meijer and told him that I had got what he had asked for, Jake quickly put one bag in his schoolbag because Rob asked for it. I didn’t like what I saw and therefore put my foot down.

“Jake, if Rob wants toys or food, he should ask his parents. I am not running to the store for Rob. It’s not my job. Do you understand?”

Jake got it. Instead he packed two small bags of Cheetos, one for himself and one for Rob. I had a feeling that this kid Rob had some control over our boy.

On Thursday Jake came home from school in a cheerful mood. He had told his dad in the car that Rob was moving and thus would be attending a different school.

“How do you feel about that, Jake?” I asked.

“Happy! I am glad he won’t be at Safe ‘n Sound anymore,”

Joe and I looked at each other and smiled.

Last night Jake and I were cuddling in bed reading.

“Tell me about Rob. What is he like?” I asked my son, scratching his back,

“I don’t know how to describe it, but he is commanding.”

“You mean demanding?”


“Is he popular?”

“He is popular.”

“Do you like him?”

“From the inside I don’t like him, but I am totally into him from the outside.”

“Why don’t you like him from the inside?”

“He is a troublemaker and he annoys me.”

“You have trouble saying no to him. What do you think would happen if you said no?”

“He won’t be my friend,”

“You know Jake, somebody who only wants things from you isn’t a real friend. As soon as you stop giving, he’ll stop liking you.”

“I know, mama,”

We’ve all had someone like Rob in our lives. If my hunch is right, he is likely to be manipulative as well. Rob is a dark-skinned, curly haired, tall, handsome and popular 8-year-old. Remember Jake’s New Year resolution was “to get some style”? There is something about Rob that attracted Jake and made him try really hard to please his friend. The conflict of internal rejection and external attraction must have been exhausting for Jake.

I hope this experience will prepare Jake for the next Rob in his life and he’ll learn to let his internal compass guide his actions. It should also teach our boy what kind of friend he ought to be to others.