(I'm posting this under a different screen name because I met the "mommy friend" in question through MDC, names have been changed, etc. I apologize in advance for this being kind of long....)
A few years ago we moved to a *really* small town. Molly was the first "mommy friend" I made and we had/have a ton in common both AP values wise and culturally and got along great. Her DS--Johnny--is a year older (2006) than my DD1--Erica (2007). For the first couple of years that we lived here we spent a lot of time with her family: frequent play dates, shared childcare, day trips, pet sitting, even a few shared holidays. Johnny and Erica also got along very well and enjoyed playing with each other.
About a year ago everything changed. Molly and I both became pregnant with our second babies. During this time her husband--Roger--quit his job kind of abruptly (i.e. no planning), became a SAHD, and she increased her hours at work from part-time to closer to full-time. Shortly before this Johnny turned 3, potty trained, and weaned... probably unrelated, but I'm including it because his behavior changed at almost exactly the same time. (FWIW Erica hit the same milestones 9 months and 18 months later.)
Throughout our pregnancies Molly and I remained friends and the kids still played together, although somewhat less. The main reason for this decrease in play dates (from my perspective) was that it was at this point that the way Johnny played began to change. His play became, um, more more chaotic and disordered? Wild? I hesitate to say "violent," but he did begin pushing/tackling/waving sticks around a lot at this point. He also began hugging Erica in a kind of aggressive way that made her uncomfortable and encouraged her to go play with him in rooms away from adult supervision (at this point Erica was 2). His parents would make some attempts at correcting his behavior with gentle discipline, but they were fairly inconsistent and ineffective (especially Molly). I found that Johnny's behavior would usually improve A LOT when his parents weren't around (i.e. when I was babysitting).
So a year ago Molly and I both had our babies, Johnny turned 4, Erica turned 3. Everything was ok for a few months although we didn't see them very often. I attended a holiday event with my 2 kids, Molly and Roger and their kids (my DH was working). We walked over to our small local grocery store and were attempting to do some quick shopping while the kids played. Johnny was acting pretty wild and knocked Erica to the ground. I was distracted by DD2 and didn't see this, but a mutual friend of both families did. She was upset that neither of Johnny's parents asked him to apologize and told him that he should (she knows both children very well). Johnny then hugged Erica really hard (I saw this part). Erica tried to push him away said "no," made it pretty clear that she didn't want to be hugged. At which point Roger intervenes and says to Johnny, "She says no but she really means yes. Women are like that." (Or something very close to those exact words.)
I may be overreacting, but his comment really upset me, probably because I have a past history of date rape (which he doesn't know about). At the time, however, I was too shocked to say anything and I've never confronted either Roger or Molly about his comment. I will also note that during the holiday event and shopping trip Roger was talking to Molly in a way that I considered to be fairly abusive/demeaning... i.e. he was pretty stridently criticizing her parenting, cooking, and shopping choices and she wasn't saying anything in her own defense. His comments to her were actually making me fairly uncomfortable, to the point where I tried to walk slightly ahead of them with Erica and DD2 so that I wouldn't "overhear." They were of a nature that if my DH spoke that way to me in public (or vice versa) we would have a serious problem. I'll also note that I've interacted with them as a couple quite a lot over the past few years and never noticed this behavior before. Molly is a very independent, outspoken, free spirit. In retrospect she had made a few comments to me about their relationship that I found slightly odd, but had dismissed (e.g. she doesn't wear certain colors because Roger dislikes them). I should also note that both Roger and Molly have voiced the opinion (multiple times) that boys are naturally "wild" and "violent" and that this should be encouraged. Johnny has expressed interest in girly things (mostly hair bows and pink clothing/toys) that Molly has tried to be neutral about but has had to discourage him because Roger is really against Johnny having "girl" things.
I discussed the entire incident with my DH afterwards and we came to the conclusion that Erica and Johnny probably shouldn't play together if he is going to be physically aggressive toward her (both in hitting and in hugs) and his parents aren't going to intervene. DH was pretty adamant about this and made the point that my primary responsibility is to Erica's safety and not my friendship with Molly.
I never communicated this "decision" to Molly or expressed our concerns to her because a) I was overwhelmed by a newborn and postpartum depression at the time and b) had no idea where to begin and c) DH discouraged me from doing so. Molly made a few attempts throughout the winter/spring to get together for play dates but I made "polite" excuses and declined. I will also note that we discussed this to a limited extent with Erica, i.e. we asked her how she felt about playing with Johnny. She told us that she liked to play with Johnny but not when he was mean to her and that she preferred to play with her other friends who aren't mean to her. (Those are basically her exact words. She's pretty verbally advanced for her age also so she COULD talk about things like this at the time.)
This spring there was one more "incident" which resulted in a small fight between Roger and myself. I was at the same grocery store with both children (DH again at work). Both of my kids were in our double stroller and Roger was at the store with Johnny. Johnny followed us around the store while I tried to shop and kept jumping at the stroller and yelling... which caused Erica to shriek, me to correct Erica (remind her not to yell in a store), etc. This went on for some minutes until one time when Johnny did it directly in DD2's face... which made her burst into tears. At that point I asked Johnny to please leave us alone. I was trying to finish my shopping (now carrying DD2 and pushing the stroller) when Molly entered the store with her baby. I stop to chat with Molly and Johnny jumps/screams at Erica again. Molly immediately corrects him and asks him not to do that anymore. Roger jumps in and contradicts her, telling Johnny "oh no, it's ok, she likes it." At which point I lost my temper and snapped, "No, Roger, she does NOT like it and he needs to stop." Roger replied "well she was laughing!" (Which she WAS but in a way that I interpreted as "nervous.") Anyway, I stopped talking to Roger at that point, cut short our shopping, and left. (FWIW, Johnny's behavior had caused normally cheerful DD2 to cry the entire walk home.)
And since then we have only seen them a handful of times in group situations. I've had a few brief conversations with Molly when I run into her without Johnny and Roger, but there is a definite distance/coolness. I have never explained to her that her husband's behavior makes me really uncomfortable or that Erica is unhappy playing with Johnny because of the way he acts towards her. My DH thinks that I have acted completely correctly and that this is an acceptable way for the friendship between Molly and I to end...
Is he right? Or should I have mentioned my concerns to Molly at some point? Or at least explained the change in my behavior towards her? Do I owe her an explanation? Or is the better course of action to do nothing? Prior to having kids I was always really direct/honest in my friendships, but I feel like this is more complicated because there are kids involved? I feel really uncomfortable with the idea of (even implicitly) criticizing her child, spouse, or parenting. Is there an opportunity I missed? Something I should do now? Or should I really just take DH's advice and let it go. Johnny and Erica playing together one on one isn't really an option (and Johnny is home schooled so he is always around) and our babies don't seem to have complimentary temperaments (i.e. my DD2 annoys her more quiet, reserved DD).
The other thing that is causing me to doubt my behavior is that Johnny and Erica have several mutual playmates and their parents seem to have no issue with the way that Johnny plays. If anything, they have become closer to Molly's family at the same time that we have distanced ourselves. My DH claims that this is because the children who play with Johnny in these families are all boys and that most parents have different expectations for how boys should play? FWIW, Erica has other children she plays with pretty happily (both boys and girls) and the play is never as physical as it is with Johnny.
If you have read this far, thank you :) I'm not sure what advice I'm actually looking for but I figured it might help to run the scenario by other mothers because I just feel uneasy/bad/guilty about how the whole relationship has played out. (I also worry that my DH might have given me bad advice since he is very socially awkward and has no friends of his own.)
Bonus question: Erica has a birthday coming up. Do I invite Johnny and his sister to her party? (They were invited last year. Molly doesn't have parties for Johnny.) On one hand I feel awkward/rude inviting them to a birthday party when we never talk/play together anymore. On the other hand, this is a VERY SMALL community and Johnny regularly plays with 99% of the potential guest list and Molly (if not Johnny) would definitely find out about the party and that they weren't invited. I'm not worried about Johnny hurting Erica at her party because he ignores her when there are other boys to play with (which there will be), but I can't figure out which is the least rude option.