CANDY ALLAN: Sometimes, you strike it lucky

As my children get older, it’s interesting to watch them shift to becoming tweens. Friends are starting to loom larger in their lives and the opinions of others matter more (much more than they should, in my opinion, but nobody listens to mom once you’re in middle school).

I wonder if I should be more concerned about this transition to “What is everyone else going to think?” than I am. I know it’s a normal phase in growing up, and I think I have good kids. But that’s not what keeps me from biting my nails.

Fact is, I’m not overly worried (OK, at least not yet) because not only do I think my kids are good kids, but the kids they hang out with — the ones slowly becoming a major influence on them — are also basically good kids. Boy, did I ever get lucky, or what?

I know their friends, and I know, at least in passing, their friends’ parents.

This hit home for me last week when I was at my son’s school watching the middle school speech competition. A dozen kids had earned their way into the finals of the Modern Woodmen of America contest and were nervously waiting their turn to give their speech on a famous landmark. An assortment of parents and other students filled the audience chairs, waiting to listen.

They were all good kids. After the last speech had been given and everyone moved into the hallway so the judges could confer in order to select a winner, I had a chance to watch the kids.

Contestants were practically vibrating with nervous energy. Their friends were all smiles and encouragement. Students from different grades compared opinions and shared feedback. One contestant went to another — the only two to pick the same landmark — and congratulated the second girl for her speech. She said something similar to “You were so good! I don’t have a chance!”

When we were called in again, the top three students were named. The applause from the other contestants was genuine. Sure, they were disappointed they hadn’t won. But they were mature enough to appreciate the talent and hard work of the other kids who had.

If my kids are surrounded by kids like that — and, thank heaven, they are — this shift to caring what their friends think shouldn’t be too much of a bump in their road.

Let’s be honest, I’ve been making up this parenting thing as I go along ever since my son was born. I know there’s more experienced parents out there and folks with different ideas. Respond to my column by emailing me at, and you might see your thoughts in print in an upcoming issue of the Lake County Star.