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Mom upset about son's exclusion

DEAR AMY: My son is in fourth grade. He is involved in a sport each season. Due to the size of the school, he is on teams with the same group of boys over and over. Many of the parents of these boys have become friends and socialize together. My husband and I are not part of their social group. We are older and we both work full-time jobs in law enforcement, while many in this group are stay-at-home moms. Consequently, while all the parents are socializing, so are the boys, with the exception of my son. He considers these boys his best friends, yet he is never included in their socialization, although they include him for birthday parties. He has other play dates with boys not in this group. Whenever this group sees my son, they are always excited and immediately include him, but we never get the phone call to have him meet them at a function; it's just coincidence if we run into them. My son has not noticed this or expressed any concern, but it feels like a knife going through my heart when I hear about all the boys getting together when he has not been included. My husband says to relax, that in a few years the boys will make their own plans and socialize on their own. Of course, I try to arrange play dates, but due to our schedule (we are police officers and our schedules frequently change) we are last-minute planners! So should I just let things sort themselves out? Should I arrange more play dates with kids whom my son thinks are his besties?

-- Upset

DEAR UPSET: Nothing that is happening here is deliberate. At this age, socialization is all about opportunity. Fourth-graders pretty much go where they're taken and strike up friendships along the way.

This gang of kids sounds nice, fun and as if they like your son. So work the sidelines a little bit and get to know some of these parents. Invite some boys to go with you to the neighborhood pool or the local carnival if you get a chance this summer.

But most of all, do not create problems before they exist.

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