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Do we all have to be friends? Why?

Late last school year, my girl developed a new friendship at her school.  My girl came home talking and talking about "Penny".  We'd seen Penny at school before, and she seemed like a sweet and spunky little gal, a perfect compliment to our girl.  Our girl was beside herself when Penny invited her over to her birthday party.  Our whole family went to the birthday party, to get to know our girl's new friend & her family a little better.

We were a bit taken aback how unwelcome and uncomfortable we felt with Penny's mom.  As we got settled with the other families, Penny's mom hardly said two sentences to us.  As she prepared candles on the cake, Penny's mom was muttering under her breath.  As she took pictures of the group of kids, Penny's mom scolded her husband for not being helpful.  As she saw her in-laws (Penny's grandparents) approaching, Penny's mom rolled her eyes and audibly said, "Good grief, I can't believe they're here."  There was so much negativity and judgment coming from Penny's mom that we felt really, really awkward.

Recently, our girl has resurfaced the request to have a play date with Penny.  Likewise, Penny has asked me directly if she and our girl could plan a play date.  I keep deflecting the requests.  I'm not keen on Penny's mama, and I would hate for things to get negative while my girl was I her house, even if the negativity was not necessarily directed at my girl.  I suppose I could suggest that Penny come to our house, but I somehow can't even stomach that idea.  The whole thought leaves a bad taste in my mouth; we just weren't too fond of the idea of nurturing a relationship with Penny's family.

If you encountered a family that rubbed you the wrong way, what would you do if the kids still wanted to play?  Do we ALL have to be friends?  Awww, do we HAVE TO?

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Interesting dilema. Is it possible the mom was just stressed out and having a bad day? Have you met her more than once?

Perhaps you two could meet somewhere on neutral ground, like a park, where the kids could play and you two could chat without background distractions (phones, inlaws, party stress).

No, I don't think everyone has to be friends but you should definitely feel comfortable with where you leave your child. We can't choose who our kids are friends with though we can discuss what we do or don't feel is appropriate.

So, what if the shoe were on the other foot--another family loves your kid, can't stand you? Would you want your kid to miss out on a friendship because the other parents don't like you?

If the kid is a good kid and your child truly enjoys her, I say make the playdates on your turf. It makes total sense why you might not want your kid visiting that particular home, but don't punish the other child for having jerky parents.

And you might want to give that mom another chance. Some people just don't do well when they have to throw a party and there may have been some problem running in the background that you're not aware of. I'm not excusing her behavior, but it might be that she's a great person who was having a horrid, horrid day.

Don't punish the kids. Unless the parents seem dangerous, like alcoholics or people that have unlocked guns, you aren't being fair. Just because the parents are bad doesn't mean the child is going to be bad for your daughter. I think you are being a little petty.

Wow, what an interesting question.

One thing I always keep in mind when I meet someone I just really can't stand is...

You have no idea why that person is acting like they are. No idea. None.

More likely then not if everyone sat and shared their life stories we'd all have a lot more compassion and understanding for each other. Unfortunately that will never happen, so in lieu give people a break and say to yourself "I don't know why she's acting like that, but she has a reason" Most people go through a lot in their lifetimes. We've all been there, at those breaking points. Extend compassion, even if she totally sucks.

That doesn't mean you have to be around negativity. Or put your kids around it. If Paige is a good kid, let them be friends and play at your house. Paige is not her mother, don't make her pay the price.

Please DO NOT make the date!!!
Why waste your time and especially your mama energy on people-even kids- who don't fit with you?
Been there, done that and REALLY didn't like it one bit.
Other friends even asked WHY I continue the relationship just because our kids connected (for a bit). Kids personalities change, mom's likely not to, I'd wait to see Paige's mom show you a different side before I'd leave my child there or have them over to play.
I sounds like you are being PC enough while trying to work it out that folks shouldn't be twisting your arm to play nice.

Could "Paige's" mama be reading this post? If so, how would you feel? It certainly can be hard to get to know parents at times, and yes, we do sometimes have our "gut feelings"--but it might be nice to give her a chance if your impression was formed solely on the basis of a birthday party (family dynamics can be different in every circle). Isn't this site intended to bring people together? If so, do give her a chance, she doesn't need to become one of your closest friends.

Do we all have to be friends? Of course not, but do you pick your friends based on whether your daughter enjoys their company? Regardless of whether her mom was just having a bad day, or really is an abrasive negative human being, that really should have no bearing on your daughter and her daughter being able to have a play date. Geez, most of us wouldn't even be married if we could only associate with people whose parents got along with our own.

I've commented already, but I'm back because my heart is hurting for Paige--and for my own kid.

My social skills sort of suck, I am very uncomfortable making chit-chat with people I don't know, I can be a bit acerbic, and I'm fat and I'm tattooed and I have a nose piercing. And a single, working, not-as-much-money mama. I don't fit in with most moms at my kid's school. And her playdates--even though she is well-behaved, polite, social, sweet, clean, "normal" looking--tend to be one-shot deals and I'm pretty sure it's because of me. And it kills me and I'm about on the verge of tears just writing this. You don't have to be friends with the parents of your kids' friends. And everybody has bad days, and just because someone isn't just.like.you. doesn't mean they (or their kids) aren't perfectly wonderful people. Give Paige (and Paige's mom) a chance.

Most of my friends growing up were girls who were in far fancier social classes than I was, due to the school and program I was enrolled in. I know that some of the other parents saw mine as uncouth and uneducated. Did our parents hang out? No way, but I certainly had close friendships with these girls, some all the way through high school. I think it's a perk if parents are mutual friends rather than a necessity. There's no need to "nurture" an involved relationship other than one of courtesy and politeness during pick up/drop off.

I feel sorry for Paige, possibly losing out on a great friend just because her mom is unpleasant. I agree with Jen-unless the parents are dangerous, by all means let them play!

We just had a party for our 6 year olds B-day at Pump it up. I was completely overwhelmed with the fact that there were 25 kids and 31 parents.I was able to say about 2 words apeice to everyone and was disgruntled at the lack of help I recieved from the party helpers. If I had seen my in-laws I probably would have mutterd a lot worse(since they were not invited). I would give Paiges mom a chance with just the 2 of you and your girls-she may be a negative person but she might be like me-really stressed out in social situations.Everyone says Im the nicest person they know-Im sure none of the new parents that I barely had a chance to meet would think so.

Sheryl,

Big hug to you (unless hugs gross you out).

I agree completely.

Ahhh, Sheryl, I feel for you. I am sorry if we other moms don't give you a chance. I don't ever want to have my kids not get playdates because of me. We just have to do what is best for our child and try to cultivate those friendships that they build with other kids. We do not have to all get along or even know one another just as long as there is mutual respect.

My son has a friend who's parents I am sketchy about but I do see that they love their child. In the beginning, I made playdates at my house in an evironment that I was comfortable with. Over time my son has progressed to going over to his friend's house. Please don't punish a child for their parents' shortcomings. Good luck!

This is your daughter's friend not yours. You don't have to be buddies with Paige's mom. If Paige is a nice kid why don’t you give her and her mom a chance?

Kids can only benefit from having additional positive role models. If you offer Paige a different perspective on how to socially engage in the world, that can be good thing for her. It takes a village.

I'm trying to think back to what it was like when I was young and wanted to play at a friend's house. I don't ever remember my mom feeling the need to meet my friends' parents and form relationships with them. Since there were usually only one or two kids who I cared to play with after school was out it didn't take long for mine and their parents to get to know each other casually, enough to find out that we would be in safe environments while at each others houses and where to find us if there was a problem. The whole "play date" thing, and feeling the need to socialize with people simply because your children attend the same school, strikes me as another way we've made parenting way harder than it has to be. Call Paige's mom, ask if your daughter can play at her house, drop her off yourself and feel the situation out that way. If you don't like the vibe you're getting pick her up in an hour and discourage it from happening again. Or encourage Paige to come to your house instead. And if Paige's mom does turn out to be a truly unpleasant person, you'll probably hurt your daughter more by keeping her from choosing her own friends than she might be by the few hours she would be in the company of this person. Our children are going to meet plenty of unpleasant people in their lives. I'd rather teach them how to work with that situation instead of running from it.

More hugs for Sheryl. I know we've talked about this before. I, too, have had the kid who didn't get asked for playdates because her mom was not like the others.

I can't say that any straight partnered mama made an effort to include me or my kid back when parents made the playdates. Ooo, wait one mama did when my kid was six. And after being deflected a couple of times, I stopped suggesting playdates.

As smart-ass, know-it-all, fat, colored single mama I have found that other marginalized mamas ended up being part of my tribe whether its relationship status, orientation, disability, color, politics. And we made our kids play together. A friend of mine and I just admitted to ourselves that the reason our kids didn't get along for seven years was because they never liked each other, their moms did.

So I lean towards neutral territory or at the OPs house, but you really don't hafta like the parents. Also, be assured that your kid can pick up those vibes from you.

thisfast, your girl will be making her own friends and social outings. Then the fun begins.

Full disclosure - our kids don't do a lot of playdates. We have a small circle of friends who have their own kids and that's who my children typically hang around with when not at school. My initial reaction is -why do you need to be friends with the mother or family of Paige? I would think what's important is that the kids like each other and want to play with each other. We're not always going to like the parents of our child's friends, but unless it's extreme circumstances (neglect, safety issues) - I would try to prevent my feelings about the parent(s) from interfering with my child's friends.

Are Paige's parents nice enough your daughter? Will they make her feel uncomfortable, scared or confused by their behavior? Will they be a bad example for her? Is it okay for our kids to hang around other adults we deem too unpleasant for our own company? Do children continue on the paths on which we place them? If our parents allow us to spend time with bad people, does that become our "normal"?

My parents made me play with a really crummy family as a child. It took a long, long time to learn that I didn't have to play with jerks.

Now I feel there isn't enough time for all of our nice friends. I've learned that "best friend" doesn't mean the one you're closest to. It's the one who is the best person.

A big part of being an "urban" mama is raising kids in a diverse community. I exclude meanies. Our time is too valuable to give to them.

We're nice-elite, I guess.

Let them be friends. I had a friend who came over often when we were kids. Years later, in our 20s, she let me know how grateful she was that I invited her over to play. Her family was in great turmoil. It was a really bad situation. When she got older, she used her experiences with our family as her role model for what she wanted in a family,etc. She saw the difference. You never know the impact you might make. Kids do remember.

are you basing your entire estimation of paige's mama on one birthday party? if so, i'd cut her some slack. as others have said, holidays and event planning can bring out the stressed-out crankies in all of us.

i don't think we have to be friends with our children's friends' parents (though it certainly helps, and i do think there need to be ground rules about how discipline and safety are handled). if i shunned anyone i felt the slightest dislike for, or sensed the barest bit of "negativity" emanating from, well then, dang, i'd be one pretty solitary human. and as someone with mood issues who's profoundly introverted, i would hate to think that another mom might look at me, sense aloofness, and potentially write me off.

as long as the interaction between "paige" and your daughter is positive, and paige's mom is willing to meet you halfway on the playdates, i'd give them both a chance. it's a diverse, difficult world, and we could all use some kindness and assumption of decent intentions.

I have friends who would just kill to have their kids invited on a play date, due to their own kids' social deficits. It's amazing the perspective you get when the situation is turned around. I like what someone said about your own child having a say in what friends you make because she does not like them. I was not the most popular kid and may not be the most popular adult, but I, too, would be broken hearted to think that my socially adequate child would be rejected due to my issues. If that was the case and I could do something about it, I would, just for the sake of my daughter. I would say give the mom one more chance. Negativity can be transient, but I don't think it necessarily has to be hereditary or contagious!

i have to say, when i'm pissed or stressed, it shows. i can't hide it and i'm sure a lot of first impressions have been made about me that never changed even if i never had another bad moment around that person. sometimes, you can never get the taste of a bad first impression out of your mouth, even if there might be a good reason for the bad behaviour and the person might in fact be the funnest person you met otherwise.
the first week of school this year i wasn't sent home the right information. we showed up on what was supposed to be the first day for preschoolers, when in fact it wasn't, so i left in a huff. when we came back on the right day, i was informed i had to stand around the whole time, with a cranky baby in tow. i glared and sighed heavily. trying to get into the parking lot to pick up my kid was a joke, total chaos, i kinda talked really loud to one guy. and while this stuff was irritating, i was more on edge because i was planning a wedding, 2 friends had died and 2 were in the hospital. not a good 6 weeks and no sleep on top of that.
so my point is, who the hell knows why people are negative sometimes, but i think everyone deserves a second chance.

I am SO thankful for my childhood friend's parents who welcomed me into their homes and kid's lives despite my less than ideal family. Even as a child I noticed when other parents abrubtly retreated when they met a tough-looking aunt or other family member. As an adult I realized how much those other families meant to me growing up, and how much I learned from them.

Wow, just chiming in to say that my eyes are watering from all the compassionate responses.

As a kid I had a friend whom I was friendly with. I loved going to her house, Barbies as far as the eye could see and she had what I had always wanted, a big sister! I asked my mom about spending more time with A. and was told her mom drinks. See my mom had known her mom when they were in High School (Portland has always been a small town) When A. again asked if I could come play I told her what my mom had said, and she of course told her mom. She had been sober for years my mom just was not aware of that fact. Whew, was that a big to-doo! In my defense I was in first grade, mom learned a lesson about little people having big ears and bigger mouths! After a few heated phone calls the moms truced in favor of us girls getting to play together. That second chance gave us the opportunity to become great friends and that lasted until we went to different schools. In a very clique-y environment that little girl was one of my constants from Kindergarten to 5th grade.

Long story short, let the kids become friends, you will not always have to deal with the mom and it may be that over time, and in less stressful situations the best may come out in the mom!

It feels odd to think about now, but I do actually remember my mom telling me she didn't prefer me spending too much time with a particular gal when we were kids because of her mom's views on abortion... As an adult, I realize this had nothing to do with how nice the girl was or how great we got along, but more to do with the fact that my mom's (liberal) views didn't jive with her mama's. It's kind of amazing to me to think about that now, because I hung out with a very diverse group of kids growing up and I'm sure my mother didn't ask all of their mothers if they were pro-choice prior to agreeing to a playdate with them! Funny...

I'd like to think that I will let my kids decide for themselves who they want to be friends with and I will worry about the bigger issues of safety, influence, etc. but who knows, lots of this parenting stuff is easier said than done. We were a foster family throughout my childhood and I agree with what so many others have said here, that by inviting children from all different backgrounds into your home you create lots of opportunities for learning and growing for everyone.

Yeah, sounds like a good opportunity to exercise some empathy.

I've realized so totally that it. is. not. about. me. There are some mothers with whom I stretch every last ounce of my social skills to chat with while our kids play with legos and then others with whom I've developed lasting friendships. Regardless, my children won't have the opportunity to develop these friendships without my participation, so, I give it up.

Also, I agree with those who have said that they can't hide their stress...I've always kind of trusted that other mothers have been there and that they cut other mothers some slack. I am now quite unnerved to know that this isn't true. If I was judged solely on my performance at childrens or even adult parties that I'm hosting, then I'm toast.

The only criteria I have for playdates (and this is just me) is whether I can see eye to eye with the other parent about safety. No guns, adequate supervision, no playing in the street, etc., then all systems go.

I would say it depends. You don't have to be friends with everyone you meet. I also think when kids are at a very young age and starting to learn how to socialize, we as parents can limit some of these interactions. Life can be busy in general and nurturing new relationships can take a lot of time. We've turned down plenty of party invites and playdates from preschool friends simply because I personally feel like I'm spreading my energy and time too thin. And not clicking immediately with someone might be a filter you have to use because of all of the demands in life. It doesn't make you petty or judgmental, but allows you to prioritize.

As kids get older and start initiating and pursuing friendships is a different story. At that point, I don't think I would be involved much in those decisions since they are beginning to pursue their own lives and at that point hopefully can use their own judgment about friendships.

I'm chiming in, too, to say this is bringing tears to my eyes. Sheryl, your comments made me really sad for you and your daughter. Shame on those parents! And, I am heartened to see all the compassion and understanding expressed.

As a former rebel, I would suggest that trying to choose your kids' friends will only lead to creating rebellious children. Be her guide, but not her boss. We have to let our kids make some choices, even if they turn our to be wrong. Isn't that the way we all learned? We can't be over-controlling. mommas.

Of course, Paige is probably a great kid with stressed out parents. Lighten up. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices for our kids and tolerate people we don't like. We do it for our jobs, our churches, our neighborhoods, so why not for the most important people in our lives? Have we never acted without grace and poise? Doubt it. No one is perfect.

And, what a great lesson for your daughter to learn how to handle people who aren't like her parents. We all have to learn sometime.

I do think that we want to express our compassion, kindness, and love to everyone we meet. That can be difficult when others are different from us.

However, that does NOT mean that everyone will become our best and closest friends. We have the RIGHT to decide who we invite into our homes and who we decide to enter into close relationships with.

I've personally experienced it both ways. One Mom at one of my kids classes was definately uptight and negative. But when I started being friendly to her and her kid she relaxed and now we are great friends.

On the other hand, I've met people who I started to have a relationship with that just ended up being negative & toxic for everyone. It was better to end these relationships. For example, ever dump a boyfriend? Why?

I would suggest that you reach out a little bit. The whole thing could dissolve, or you could end up being an important light in the life of Paige. Or after a time or two it becomes obvious to your daughter that something is amiss and then you'll have a teaching moment.

We do express love to everyone, just in different ways. Sometimes we get close, other times it's better to let go.

Along time ago kids used to be able to pick their friends and not arrange a play date to enjoy them. That being said times have changed and now we are involved in everything our child does and that includes thier friends. Don't scold Paige for a naegative frustrating momma. My mom was a hard working independent lady and not into the whole kiddo get-togethers. I however was a great kid and was bummed that I missed out on some friendships. Let your positive family lighten up Paige's world. . .have her come your way and who says her momma has to come along!! Have her pick her up later.

i just finished a book called "mean girls grown up"
http://www.powells.com/biblio/2-9780470168752-1

by the same woman who wrote "surviving ophelia"
http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780345455383-1

both books are attempts at gaining insight into female bullying-however the former deals with our age group. that seems to me to be, maybe, the broader theme of topic on this post-or maybe i only think that because i've been bullied for the last year and engaged in counter-bullying and it's on my mind a lot.

another book that i recently read that seems appropriate to this topic is "worried all the time: overparenting in the age of anxiety and how to stop it"
http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780345455383-1

both the book on bullying and the one on overparenting have been very useful for me in addressing parts and pieces of what is being discussed here. but i can't help but think that a discussion offline would be amazing.

would anyone be interested in forming a bookclub of sorts, revolving around books like these? if you are, please feel free to email me at meliadonovan@gmail.com or maybe something can be (or has been?) organized through activistas?

In the spirit of appreciation and thanksgiving, I want to thank everyone for all the suggestions to be compassionate, sympathetic, and understanding. We can all afford to be more so.

There seems to be a theme in the comments, suggesting that I branch out from my comfort circle. With this school community and in with Paige's mom in specific, I have consistently felt to be the odd mama out - with a good 10 year age differential, different skin color, living in a different part of town, and a different socioeconomic bracket. Paige's mom has made me feel judged in more than one setting. It is the way she looks right past me, and it is the way she dismisses me when I try to have a conversation with her at the school picnic.

Couple all the differences with the negativity from Paige's mom and I feel outright uncomfortable. Has anyone ever felt like that? Felt like the "different" parent in a community and gotten over the repeated negativity? I should challenge my comfort levels and open myself up to her judgment about my home, occupation or other things? Let my kid pick her own friends? Yes, of course. I can do that. We'll have Paige over sometime before the holidays.

i feel incredibly uncomfortable at my son's school. politically -spiritually - parenting methods - income bracket. i stand at the side as i watch one mom in particular spread rumors about me and my family and there's not much i can do about it. the more i protest, the more certain others have become that the rumors are true.

i don't know how you get over the negativity. the mean girls book suggests that you learn to forgive, and much like others wrote-take yourself out of the equation and assume that the behavior has nothing to do with you. the trouble that we get into is in the negative assumptions.

i think that we fall back into those roles that we adopted in middle school and high school when we enter back into the school system with our children. if we were outsiders then we're outsiders now. if we were bullies then we're bullies now. etc etc.

i also think, and this may be out of line, that parents are crazy. especially if you only have one child (which i do-but i'm open to the possibility that multiple children drive you crazy in a different way). and i think we're bored. so we create drama that occupies our time, distracts us from the important stuff.

Oh, I feel so bad for the outsider mamas. I've never been in the mama "in" crowd. At any school, cause I'm a weirdo. My social circle has always been pretty seperate from school stuff, much like it was when I was in school. I am interested in school scuttlebutt with regard to teachers and administrators, but I know nearly nothing about the mom gossip.

I am always overprotective about my daughter going to people's houses. But once I am assured that it is a safe environment, I pretty much step back. I'm not very socially agile in mama groups. Tough crowd. I'm a liability, for sure. I sometimes feel sorry for my kid, because as someone said when she was a baby, it is/was harder for her because her mom doesn't fit.

Maybe she was irriated that you took it upon yourself to bring your whole family to her child's birthday party? Just saying.

I too am not you're typical mom - Hopefully as my child gets older, this will not deter others from wanting to have playdates with her. I don't remember my mother being "friends" with any of her children's friends. Friendly maybe. But again, this was when kids just hung out and watched a lot of tv and ate pop tarts as a snack (oh the good old days.)

Maybe I grew up in a different "time" on a different coast. My friendships out of my small neighborhood, were MY friendships, not my parents.
My best friend in elementary/middle school, lived about 5 miles away. Her mom was a single parent (dad died of a brain tumor when she was 7) her Aunt lived with them,and was helping in raising the 2 kids. Her mom and aunt smoked cigarettes and went out on dates. My parents barely knew these adults, where I would spend lots of time and overnights. Having said that...
I would not be the person I am today without having that friendship and experience. I probably could have done without the exposure to cigarettes, but thats probably why I don't smoke...saw how gross anad addicting it was.
Let your children develop their own relationships....remember some friendships will last and others will not.

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