I have two kids, a 4 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I'm pretty much a SAHM (I work whenever I can on a part-time basis, which isn't much in my rural area). My dh travels a bit for work, and whenever he travels, the kids and I often take off in the van on a mini-trip of our own to see family or friends, as we live 4-9 hours from our geographically closest friends/family.
My best friend lives one state over, about 4-5 hours away. The kids and I go over there a few times a year, and she comes to our house once or twice a year. She has three kids and works part-time, so it works out well for us that I usually travel over there.
Her kids are 6, 3, and 9 months. She just completed a renovation on her farmhouse which effectively doubled her mortgage payment, putting her in the position of having to work (she would secretly rather be at home). Her job is awful at present, and her husband is the absolute least-involved person I've ever seen in a marriage or as a parent. He's the silent guy who comes home, grunts at his wife and barely speaks to the kids as he makes his way to the couch. He comes when called to dinner, eats, then clears his own plate and goes back to the couch until bedtime (his). He makes zero attempt to interact with the family unless one of the kids is doing something completely egregious directly in front of him. He spends weekends at "his land" (a parcel about 3 miles from their home) fixing an old tractor & bulldozer, and his 6 year old son let it slip this weekend that daddy likes to take naps in the camper when he goes to his land. My friend was not previously aware of this, and the look on her face was so sad. Her marriage makes her sad, but she'll never divorce. She grew up on a farm with a big, loving, happy family and desperately wants that for her family.
She has had PPD and complicated nursing issues, though she continues to try and supplement (she makes perhaps 18 oz/day for her 9 month old). She has longstanding thyroid issues and has taken meds while not nursing, though she won't (can't, I think?) take Synthroid while nursing...so her levels are actually zero right now and she is a MESS.
She's gone from 2 to 3 kids, she's depressed, her hormones are nuts, and her husband is, for all practical purposes, absent.
The kids and I went over there this weekend. I knew she was tense, but I figured a weekend would cheer her up. My kids have been over there a dozen times, and there were always the usual issues (colicky infants, fussy babies, highly attached children...oh, and they sleep horribly. Want us to come to your house?
) but we laugh about it and she hugs them anyway and we always have a great time. We parent very differently (me = AP, her = spank and scream), and we've had some spirited discussions, but we've always made it through it and still love each other. Her kids are lovely and play great with mine.
The first day was great. Her 6 year old and my 4 year old spent the afternoon outside on the farm building stuff and moving snow around. Our 3 year old daughters played side by side. I rocked the baby while she cooked for us all. Very happy.
The second day was horrible.
She was tense anyway, and it started at breakfast. My son grabbed his sister's hand for coming close to his milk, and claimed he wanted to bite her. I didn't see any of this (not in the room), but I came back in as my friend was grabbing my son and yelling at him, and he was crying. I took over and calmed him and sat next to him through breakfast while simultaneously reminding him in a dire voice that he is absolutely not allowed to bite. anyone. ever.
It ended, though, and we went outside to sled. They have 20 acres with some fantastic hills, and we were all excited. At one point, my son slid down the backside of the hill, away from the rest of us. He didn't respond when she called him, and since I was downhill with my daughter, I didn't know he was down there. She sent her 6yo son to go see why he wasn't coming back up when she called. It became a huge deal because HER kids know that when she whistles, it means that they need to come IMMEDIATELY, but my son has never been whistled for in his whole life and it didn't even faze him. She called his name, and apparently he didn't come then, either.
So, her son went down and I met him coming halfway back up, when I asked him what was up with my son - why wasn't he coming up? Her son replied that my son said "My foot tangled in the rope of the sled. I'm just resting now." I shrugged and kept walking to get him. He said the same thing to me, and I reminded him that when someone calls his name, he needs to answer them. He said okay. We went back up the hill, and I told my friend all of the above. She didn't say much, but she was hot -- and then I heard her asking her son if that was what *really* happened to mine. I was embarrassed -- she was checking to see if my son was lying. Her son confirmed the story, but she was still mad.
A little while later, I was walking up the hill myself and I saw my kids about 15 feet away. Their sleds are identical except for a towing rope, and I saw my daughter climb into her brother's. No big deal, but he immediately tried to dump her out. I yelled his name and started up the hill a little faster, but my friend ran past me and picked him up before I reached him. She started screaming: "I am sick and tired of you being mean to your sister! You are DONE SLEDDING! You need to sit right there!" and she dropped him into the cargo basket of their four-wheeler.
I was steps behind her, and immediately picked him up and started walking away from the group with him, toward the house (about 0.25 mile). I scolded him for not listening/trying to dump his sister, but by the time we got to the house, he was just sobbing and scared. We stopped and I hugged him and calmed him down and listened to what he had to say. I reminded him that he had to be nice to his sister and listen to adults and all, but mostly I just hugged him and tried to calm both of us down.
When the group arrived back at the house, my son and I had spent time in a room by ourselves, calming and talking. He met my friend at the door and apologized for not listening to her. She met us and said "I need to apologize, too. I know you don't yell at your children
What?? That wasn't an apology. It was a backhanded insult.
At any rate, I apologized by saying "I'm sorry my kids are misbehaving at your house."
The evening was frosty, and she stomped around and I rocked her baby while the kids played (they were all fine by this point). We were expecting a third friend of ours to come the next day with her kids, and she called to see what time she should come. My friend took the phone in the bathroom (10 feet away) and didn't shut the door while she ranted and vented about my children: she told the stories about Adam, and ended by yelling "How do you tell your friend YOU can come to my house, but NOT YOUR KIDS! ARGH!"
I was so embarrassed and humiliated, and she walked out of the bathroom to find me off the phone, realizing I heard every word of hers. She gave the kids dessert and they skipped off while we put the baby in the bath.
While I was handing her soap and such, she point-blank asked me "Do you think your kids would be good at your house?" I was stunned and couldn't say anything but I think I murmured something like 'who knows' -- I mean, how do you respond to that?
She spent the entire next day with our friend over describing how we just need a Mom's Weekend Away next year, without the kids. I knew she meant mine.
I felt shamed.
The kids played just fine the rest of the weekend and were sad to leave, mostly because they love her kids' toys and land. They are already asking to go back.
I spent the nights and the last few days just sick over it, and my friend called like nothing had happened and chatted just as pleasantly as could be. I was outside playing with my son when she called, and he was laughing, and she was really pleasant: "I just love his laugh!" I felt like she was extending an olive branch, but I wasn't sure.
I am trying to take everything into consideration ---- if I felt no grace in my life (work, husband, young children, mortgage...), I would hardly be able to extend it to other people, like my friends' kids when they misbehave. So I am trying to see this through her eyes with compassion and love and trying to believe the best and trying to be compassionate about all of the extenuating circumstances that led her to react the way she did to, frankly, what is not abnormal behavior at my house. My kids are 4 and 3 and they aren't perfect listeners, and they do sometimes fight. It's better than it used to be, but they aren't perfectly behaved all the time. Heck, if she thought that was bad, she should be at my house at 5pm while I'm trying to cook dinner! I'll show her ill behavior.
Anyway, I'm trying to be compassionate about it.
However, I still feel humiliated and embarrassed at her reaction to me and my son.
I read an interview with Thich Nhat Hanh tonight, and I'm trying so hard to extend compassion to her in frankly, what is a difficult time for her. I don't work (much), my husband is wonderful, our finances are in order, and my hormones are fine. I feel like I can give her this grace.
But I'm still wary of taking the kids over there anytime soon.
And love to you
if you have read this far.