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mommy friend etiquette question (did I mess up?)  

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

(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. 




post #2 of 15

I'm seeing two different issues here - that you are uncomfortable with Roger (and how he treats Molly and Johnny) and Johnny being rougher with your daughter than you'd like.


The first issue I think is more personal - it's hard to see a friend deal with a husband that you would never want to deal with. I have a friend like this - she works her butt of 40 hrs a week (night shifts) and stays home with the kids during the day and her DH makes her feel lazy when she desperately needs a nap on a Saturday. And does nothing to help around the house. But she is an independent, strong woman and I just don't "get it" - why she doesn't demand more, etc. Rogers comment about "girls say no when they mean yes" was totally inappropriate. He may have thought he was making a joke, but it's not a funny one. Since rape is very real for many, many women. So Roger sounds immature at best, maybe pretty controlling.


On the other hand, I see Johnny in maybe a different light. I have three sons, and while I don't think "boys will be boys" or rough play should be encouraged, I also see that my kids play WAY rougher than most of the girls they know. And my friends who have only girls tend to be surprised by the physical and LOUD nature of boys. They don't enter rooms, they burst into rooms. They don't give me a hug, they smother me with them. I try to be respectful of everyone else's children and if someone doesn't want to wrestle with one of my sons than I certainly would not let him tackle her anyway, for example. We are teaching them to respect other people's boundaries. But at the same time, I think a little benefit of the doubt needs to be given to boys and their natural physicality. Just like schools often reward girls for being able to sit still while reprimanding boys for moving around (instead of say, working movement into math lessons) I think there is often an assumption that boys who jump or wrestle or speak WAY TOO LOUD all the time are not well disciplined and would sit still if just told to do so. Many just can't.


That said, if your daughter doesn't enjoy playing with Johnny because he is more physical than she likes, then that is the answer. Your daughter should be allowed to pick her playmates. She might just have more in common and more fun with a quieter boy or a girl. My sons have two very good girl friends, but they are very active, physical girls who like wrestling, etc. Most all of their other friends are boys.


I want to add that I had a similar situation with a neighbor but was on the other end of the issue. I was outside watching my 4yo son playing with a 5yo neighbor boy. They were wearing capes and masks (Star Wars and Power Rangers) and were playing "monsters." They were roaring at each other and chasing each other around the yards. A 4yo neighbor girl ran over to play with them and didn't have a mask on, but roared at them as she ran up. Her mom was sitting on her front porch. When the little girl roared at the two boys, they figured she was playing too so roared back and started chasing her...all in good fun, of course, since that was the game they'd been playing. It scared the girl and she ran (she didn't cry, but I could tell by her face that it had startled her). Of course my son and his friend didn't see the look on her face because she was running away, so they chased her. The mom jumped up and yelled at the two boys "STOP TRYING TO SCARE HER!!!" and jumped up to physically get between the boys and her daughter. I stopped my son and told him that it had scared the girl and to apologize and to just play with his friend, which is what they did. I thought it was an overreaction on the mom's part, since her daughter WAS playing the game with them for a moment and what they were doing hadn't scared them, so they figured it was all fun. Of course the boys needed to stop, but they weren't being aggressive or intentional in scaring her...they just thought they were playing. Throughout the next 30 minutes or so, the girl kept running back to play monsters but the Mom finally told her to stop and made her go inside. I'm not sure why, since the girl seemed to be having fun.


I'm not sure if I answered your questions, but just adding my perspective.

Edited by berry987 - 8/23/11 at 8:31am
post #3 of 15
Originally Posted by badfriend View Post

"She says no but she really means yes. Women are like that." (Or something very close to those exact words.) 

That comment would be more than enough for me to quit spending time with this family.  I try to cut my friends a lot of slack, but someone who would make a statement like this is *not* someone I would want to be around my children.  Ever. 


Second, kids hit.  My kid was a serious hitter from about 17 through 21 months.  However, I never made excuses for his behavior, and when we had playdates, instead of sitting on the couch drinking coffee like I would have in the past, I was on the floor with him and the other kids anticipating and preventing him from actually making contact with other kids when that little arm started flying.  You daughter frequently being harmed by this kid with little to no intervention on the part of his parents would also cause me to stop spending time with them.


As far as the birthday party, I would not invite them.  I realize they may find out and feel left out, but I doubt she'll ever confront you on it.  And as far as being direct with her about your friendship, I may be in the minority, but I just don't feel like this would be the best way to handle things.  Criticizing her DH and DS isn't going to make her feel any better about your friendship cooling.  It will make things totally awkward when you do end up seeing her.  Friendships do naturally grow apart sometimes.  There are lots of other reasons it seems your friendship has grown apart.  I just don't see the benefit in directly airing your issues with her.  Plus, it leaves the option open that you could occassionally meet her for dinner or get together just with her if you are still somewhat interested in her friendship.


post #4 of 15

it's a tough situation to be in, mama, but here's my 2 cents:


although we're not a girls are naturally this, boys are naturally that, sort of family, I have seen a change in ds1 as he's grown (ds1 is 5, ds2 is 2). he was, and to a point still is, a quiet boy who enjoys puzzles, word searches etc. most times. however, since he turned 4 he's become MUCH more aggressive, rambunctious, "wild" than he ever was. if he's playing he doesn't realise his own strength and will sometimes push, shove, roar in others' faces--all in fun for him but i try to intervene every time, esp if it's with someone who's clearly not enjoying it. a year ago he had playdates equally with both boys and girls but since then he gets along so much better with boys that we have almost nil playdates with girls any more. and it's not just him, it's all boys that are his age. they have an almost insatiable urge to show their prowess and strength in play that can sometimes turn rough. this new ds1 is so different from his 3yo self that if someone had said to me then this is how it would be i wouldn't believe them. so i think what johnny is going through is just a natural stage of development. however i do think the parents esp the dad sounds a bit obnoxious about it and that comment was totally inappropriate. boys or girls, these kids still need supervision and direction so that lack of discipline would bother me too.


re the birthday, i would invite them. it's just me but that would make me feel like the friendship isn't completely broken as if there had been a public/major showdown. also, if they're probably the only family in your very small community that will not be invited it would make your friend feel totally left out. if you do extend the invitation the ball's in her court so to speak and she can decide whether she feels comfortable coming or not. if i was her, and the coolness was so apparent in my friendship i wouldn't go but that would be my decision and reciprocation the coolness, yk? it's not like she has changed as a person and you don;t enjoy HER company any more...it's just how things have phased out for btoh of you.


good luckw ith your decision and let us know how it turns out.

post #5 of 15

It sounds like she hasn't changed or done anything to offend you-it is her husband and son that you have an issue with. I too have seen an increase in really physical play with my young son. I would talk to Molly about her son and how he plays with your daughter. I would phrase it as your daughter is not enjoying rough play right now and could you meet up without the kids possibly.


I hate to see a friendship end over the actions of others she can't control (her jerky husband) and actions that are hard to control consistently (her son and his physical drives).


I would invite them to the party as well.

post #6 of 15

I agree with oaktreemama and wookie - I would invite them.  If I was the other mama, I would be crushed if we were not invited, and so far as I can tell from your post, she has done nothing wrong. I am fairly certain that she knows that you're trying to distance yourself, because we as women tend to notice these things. Chances are, if things are cool now, she may not even come.


I do agree with your husband, however, that  you owe  her no explanation about the friendship fading. Leave things as they are. I would of course explain (in the most gentle and sensitive of terms) if she was ever to ask.


Good luck. I have been in a similar situation and it is difficult all around.

post #7 of 15
Originally Posted by oaktreemama View Post

It sounds like she hasn't changed or done anything to offend you-it is her husband and son that you have an issue with. I too have seen an increase in really physical play with my young son. I would talk to Molly about her son and how he plays with your daughter. I would phrase it as your daughter is not enjoying rough play right now and could you meet up without the kids possibly.


I hate to see a friendship end over the actions of others she can't control (her jerky husband) and actions that are hard to control consistently (her son and his physical drives).


I would invite them to the party as well.

Ditto this.


I taught preschool and some kids are just more physical (and no they are not all boys) especially from age 2-6. Even kiddos from the SAME FAMILY and the same gender can vary widely in their ability to interact with their peers w/o getting physical. It is developmental and totally normal- though parents should attempt to redirect play or help kiddos recognize when they are 'scaring' a peer vs 'playing' with a peer (sometimes it is hard with preschoolers).


I would try to meet up with your friend w/o the husband if possible. Set up activities that may allow more gentle play that will let their DS be physical (park, chalk, bubbles, trikes,etc)


post #8 of 15

When I am unsure about whether or not to say something I find help in the adage:

Is it true?  Is it kind?  Is it necessary? 

Whatever I want to say has to be a "yes" on all three.  In this situation, you have rightfully made your children and your relationship with DH the priority.  If your friend approaches you and asks why you have backed off, then it might be appropriate to share your discomfort with her, however she has not asked.  As for the party-- that is a time for your family to celebrate DD with whomever you choose.  If you would feel uncomfortable including former friends, you are not obligated to do so.  You don't have to make the guest list public and highlight who was left off, since not everyone who is invited is able to attend.   Would you feel inauthentic or fake welcoming them into your home?  That would be a red flag for me.   

post #9 of 15



 If your friend approaches you and asks why you have backed off, then it might be appropriate to share your discomfort with her, however she has not asked. 



I think it is cruel to leave someone guessing about what happened-especially in this case where it is not the friend that is the cause of the rift. Our relationships with our families and our friends are much more nuanced and deep then armchair pyschology questions.

post #10 of 15
Originally Posted by oaktreemama View Post


I think it is cruel to leave someone guessing about what happened-especially in this case where it is not the friend that is the cause of the rift.  Our relationships with our families and our friends are much more nuanced and deep then armchair pyschology questions.

Ouch.  Far from the armchair, I was sharing from my direct experience-- questions that have worked for me in similar situations.

post #11 of 15

Before you speak, think -Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it hurt anyone? Will it improve on the silence?”  Sri Sathya Sai Baba quotes (Indian Spiritual leader, b.1926)


Love this quote sren!


I agree with sren.


OP:  Breakups are so hard, even harder are the friendship breakups vs boyfriend breakups imho.  


Best of luck with this issue.


post #12 of 15

no real advice, just good luck....and in a small town where almost everyone's invited, I'd just invite them too....he probably will be playing with the other boys.  You're not going to get away from seeing them around, I'd just be nice but not back to playdates and all that---she should not *have to* have playdates with people she does not enjoy playing with, period.  May be time for now to let this go....or you still be friends who talk but don't get all the kids together.  possibly too when the littlest ones are older, things will be different between them....could happen.

post #13 of 15


just my two cents here. I am a very direct person, and I guess I am too direct at times. I am telling people what I don´t like. I am not yelling or anything. I try to be really respectful, but I am telling. I feel between adults, I want to know if someone is upset about something, or if I don´t like certain behavior. 


that comment: That is really bad. (I was raped as a kid, and I mean - what can I say...), on the other hand though, I know a couple of men who really try to be funny, and get it really wrong at times. I would have told him that a comment like that is really inappropriate and that it would it encourage rape or things like that and if he actually wants his son to be like this (if I wouldn´t have been to stunned, that is) - if I would not have told him, I would have talked with my friend about it, just to know how she feels and if that was a joke (really not funny though) or if he is usually like this. 


I personally would probably try to have playdates with her and the kids alone, without him. I have a friend with a husband I don´t like too much, so I try to meet her if he is not around, that´s another story. 


To the birthday: I do strictly invite kids my daughter wants to have around. She decides who is coming.  I do give a little bit of direction like: Oh you did not play that nicely with this child the last couple of times, are you sure you want him/her to come. I do not invite for being polite or nice or not hurting feelings. If my daughter does not want to invite someone for whatever reason, and I feel it would kind of disturb our relationship or hurt the other person, I plan a different "special playdate" for them. With a tiny little party included, like a little cake and a game or something. That is if I actually want them to be around. 


But - as I said - I am not a "nice" person. 


Hope that this is not too confusing...

post #14 of 15

The boy is not the problem, the father is.  The mother is not the problem either.  I would venture to say you were let down by her and what she is willing to deal with.  I've had friends go because they didn't like my husband.  That's fine, they didn't understand our situation.  Though a few of them did bring up my husbands odd behavior, and I'm glad they did as I was able to explain to them what PTSD and Bi polar really do to a person.  Though I'm sad the friendships ended my family is more important than outsiders. 


Also men change when they become stay at homes.  Sometimes they feel like they're worth less not worthless but just not as high on the totem pole.  It's a very hard adjustment.  When DH first started staying home I got a lot of crappy comments out of him like he was trying to assert his manliness... Laughable but understandable.  3 yrs in, he's changed his attitude and the friends that stuck around even have noticed things are better for him and us.  And seem to come around a lot more.


Good luck and think twice about shutting her out because of him. 

post #15 of 15

badfriend, we don't permit members to open second accounts and remain active under the two. So one of your two accounts must be closed. I can appreciate your need for advice but considering the fact that your friend is a member here, this entire discussion seems rather uncomfortable for her. So I'm closing this.


I assume you want your other account to remain open so I'll close badfriend.

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