Friends & Hurt Feelings

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Friend saying negative things about my son

March 2007

I have a very close friend of mine (of a group of close college friends); we've been friends for 20 years... She has a 5 yr old girl and 2.5 year old son. I have a 1 year old son. Since becoming a Mom, I naively assumed that our friendship would become closer, but I find that I feel hurt and angry with her because she has a tendency to label my son as ''difficult'' and ''aggressive'', ''loud'' - ''not one who will get picked on'' when we're together and in front of our kids. She tells our other friends (of the college clan) these comments too about my son. I feel that I have been very supportive of her and her children and try very hard not to make comments about her children that are not positive. Her children are not perfect either. The only thing that I can figure is that she is a burned out stay at home mom. Her son tends to be quiet and passive, so I'm not sure if she is ''projecting''. Anyway, the bottomline is that I'm wondering how I tell her gently (or do I? Or do I seek out more supportive, new friends too?) that I don't like her making not-so-positive comments about my son. He's only 1 year old too! anon

Honestly? I'd ask her what to do -- ask her how she thinks you should respond when she says things that are less than helpful - ask her how you can be more supportive of her, too... tell her you hope to build a new friendship for this new part of your lives, while maintaining the old friendship you value... Yes, you need to make additional friends now, but don't dismiss this old friend without doing everything you can. It will take you YEARS to make a new old friend... Homesick for old buddies...
oh, have i been there and dealt with that!!!! only it wasn't a friend, it was my parents. they were continuously telling me that there was something wrong with my son. he cried a lot when he was a baby, had colic, wouldn't sleep, would only nurse, blah, blah. i never had a problem w/ it until the criticism started to occur in front of my children. eventually, as i did, you will have to confront your ''friend.'' i gently told them, that as they well knew, i was his mom. and even though i acknowleged he could be spirited (never used difficult or whatever), it was my place to help him through whatever issue it was. and i clearly pointed out that while i appreciated the fact that they were expressing concern, doing it in front of my son (and daughter) was extremely hurtful, confusing and detrimental. i explained to them further that if they couldn't curb their criticism, then i would curb my visits. your friend has issues. clearly they aren't your or your sons. the best thing you can do is to gently express to her your desire that she cease and desist (sp?) and that while you enjoy spending time with her, her criticism is hurtful to both you and your child. ask her how her life is going and turn the tables. might go for an interesting conversation. one thing i have learned in raising 3 children is that friends you had before kids aren't necessarily the ones you'll have while raising your own. good luck and do what you need to do to keep your child's psyche in tact- they take it all in. no need for it to start at this age! paige
I think you should let your friend know that it hurts your feelings (don't try to say it hurts your son's feelings) while at the same time trying not to take it personally and definitely don't lose such a longtime friend over this. I think you might be a little more sensitive to the terms ''difficult'' ''loud'' and ''aggressive'' than she is since your child is younger and cuter and the apple of your eye. It's not that your friend is totally burned out but that over the course of preschool reports, books about temperament and stuff like that, she probably doesn't think they are that negative. Especially with what she said about ''he won't get pushed around'' she probably thinks he's a strong little guy while being not so secretly pleased that she got mellower kids. I am a parent with a mellow kid and our best friends have a really rowdy one. I would never describe their child the way your friend did but they describe her that way themselves. So there are people out there that don't think those are such bad things to say. But if she is such a close friend, just tell her that you don't like her talking that way. anon
I think you need to tell her. If she really is a worthwhile friend, you want to deepen the friendship and she'll understand. It is funny how even though when one becomes a parent, one suddenly ''gets'' what other parents go through, but alas, as the parent of a truly ''spirited'' child, I do get a lot of misunderstanding and prejudice regarding my child and my parenting skills from parents of ''easy'' children. You need to use a lot of ''I'' statements - ''I feel hurt'' ''I value our friendship'' ''I appreciate your insight, but feel this is labelling, and not helpful advice''- not ''YOU do this or that''. Writing a letter can be tricky, since it's hard to get the tone right. In person is best. She may not even be aware of what she's doing -she may see it as merely commenting on what she sees - as innocuous as ''I see he's smiling today.'' Been There Too
Yes, tell her. Say: ''_____,I wish you wouldn't say negative things about my son. It makes me uncomfortable.'' A real friend can handle that. anon
There is no way for your friend to know how she is upsetting you if you don't tell her. You need to tell her something along the lines of ''I'm sure you didn't intend this, but I feel hurt when you words like XYZ to describe my son. As a mother I'm sure you understand that I love him exactly the way he is and feel defensive when it seems like he is being criticized!'' Give her a chance and see if you can work through this together, in honor of your long-standing friendship. Good luck!
I'm sorry your friend is making you sad. She probably IS a burned out mom. But she's also probably right-at least somewhat. As she's seen over and over again through the years of raising her kids, there is a tendency for parents (especially first time parents) to not see how difficult or misbehaved their kids are.

Without getting angry, sit back and think for a long your son a bully? Is he difficult? Agressive? Do you make excuses for his agressivness (He's tired, hungry, not ready to share yet, we're working on that....) I know he's young, but being young is no excuse for being a aggressive or needlessly loud. She has 3 kids, she knows what is normal kid behavior- perhaps your son's is not. And this is the only, tactless as it may be, way to tell you that.

Really sit down and think about what she's trying to tell you. She may be doing you a favor by showing you that you need to set some more boundries, rules, and be consistent in enforcing them. No one likes an aggressive child. And you shouldn't make excuses for them.

If you really think about this and you honestly don't feel your child is agressive or loud or difficult or a bully, then talk to your friend. Say ''Why do you say that about my son? I've thought about it a lot and I can't see his behavior like that. Have you been observing things I don't see?'' and see where that leads.

On the same note, I have a friend who has a daughter that is aggressive. Almost every time my daughter goes over there, she gets hurt-mentally or physically. I've tried talking with my friend about it and she says that her daughter is just ''high spirited.'' It's very hard on us and now my friend is hurt that we don't really go to her house anymore. But who wants to be around a kid that is mean to their child? Perhaps that is what she is trying to tell you. anon.

My oh my, when will the labeling end. My brother and I became parents in 2001. By the time our kids were a year old, his daughter was labelled the light and happy one, and my son was labelled the difficult one. I finally realized that it was because I was complaining about motherhood (which I did full time) whereas my brother (who had a stay-at-home wife AND a nanny) had only happy things to report. I kept asking them to stop labelling, that both of the children were real people with moments of ease and moments of struggle, but I was spitting in the wind.

Finally, when my brother's second child was born, my mother went to take care of the first, that mythically easy child, and boy did my niece give Grandma a run for her money! She was nothing but trouble the whole time, bless her heart! After that, my parents took a more balanced view of their grandchildren and dropped the labels.

In your situation, you could say something like, ''He's only a year old.'' Or you could give it time. Something might happen to wake her up and soften her mind. So long as she doesn't say these things in front of your son, I'd say it's safe to wait and see. But don't torture yourself. You don't have to be around her if she isn't what you need right now. Things may be different down the road. Elisa

Three choices stand out: 1) assume your friend is right and get some parenting classes; 2) continue to let your friend make you feel bad; 3) get rid of her as a friend.

For what it's worth, we had friends with two sons who became parents and sudden experts on child-rearing (one is a doctor, one a nurse, so their expertise was underscored by their professions). From the way we sleep-trained our kid, to our synagogue choice, to the preschool we chose (oh, and don't call it daycare), they always had the superior way to do things. One day my husband and I looked at each other and decided that they were not people who made us feel good and we bagged the friendship and haven't looked back. Oh... and amazingly, our current friends think we're doing just fine. - in control

First off, I genuinely don't think that your friend should be saying anything about your child (or her children for that matter) in front of him that isn't positive. Your child can hear you/her. He may not be speaking much yet, but one-year-olds (especially those one-year-olds that are closer to being two-year-olds) can understand you (he can follow simple directions, right? That means that he understands). You can remind her of that with a simple, 'Please watch what you say, our children hear what you say and understand you.' It also doesn't hurt to remind her that a lot of energy isn't bad, but different than what she has experienced with her own children.

That said, do you think your child hits, pushes or whatever, more than other kids? Then you really do need to do something about it. Instead of nipping 'naughty' behavior in the bud when my children first started it (15 and 22 months respectively), I chalked it up to spirited behavior, a 'phase,' etc. It is a lot harder to work on later. I wished a good friend had told me that hitting/pushing may be a phase, but it is one that I really needed to deal with... -anon

I found those early child-rearing days some of the most difficult on friendships. I was more sensitive than ever and sometimes didn't find friends' parenting styles compatible with mine (ie. I had a fairly disciplined home and didn't like households where the kids were wild). But now that my kids are teenagers, I'm glad that I was able to keep those old friendships going. My daughter (now 17) was quiet, compliant, and obedient. I patted myself on the back when she was young, thinking what a great job of parenting I was doing. Then I had my son (who is now 15), who was loud and aggressive, all boy ---a spirited child. I have learned over the years that my kids' best traits are also sometimes their most worrisome traits. While I love my daughter's sweetness, her easiness to be around, I have also worried from time to time that she was too reserved or eager to please. Same with my son-- some of those traits that have been the most difficult have also turned out to be his best qualities, his zest for life, his strong personality and aggressiveness. He does not fly under the radar, ever. He is a natural leader and an incredible, gifted athlete. I know that sometimes parents of quiet, obedient kids can be judgmental towards more boisterous, aggressive kids (having been on both sides!). Quiet, obedient kids are definitely easier to raise. Perhaps she is somewhat harsh in her assessment of your son from time to time, but you also seemed overly sensitive , as her comments about him didn't seem negative to me. An obedient, quiet toddler may seem like the ideal child, but many of the most interesting kids/ teens/adults I know are anything but quiet and obedient, they're lively and full of life. So be ready to dish out a lot of discipline, as an aggressive, boisterous child needs it - but also celebrate his strong spirit.

Friend bringing others along without asking first

May 2006

I've got a friend whose company I really enjoy. What I don't enjoy is that sometimes, when we make plans, she shows up with another friend without letting me know. It's a different friend every time, and it's never anybody I know. For example, last week I was set to meet with her for a shopping excursion. She showed up 20 minutes late accompanied by a woman I didn't know -- they had just been out together and I guess she invited her come along. The new friend wasn't even particularly friendly, and she seemed surprised that I was there -- I felt like I was butting in or something. I find this irritating, but my husband says this is just something people do on the East Coast (where he and she are both from). And if I have a legit complaint, how do I tell my friend this irritates me without sounding petty and insecure? Does anybody have any clever, witty suggestions where I could get my point across quickly? I'd rather do that than some from-the-heart, dramatic conversation about my feelings. --wondering if I'm oversensitive

I am from the East Coast and I have never done this and I don't think you're overreacting. When I have a date with a friend, I always assume it is with that friend only, and if I feel I need to bring someone else, I always call and ask the friend first.

But I rarely even ask. I disagree with your husband; I think it's just plain rude to do what your friend does. Maybe you could state your feelings in a nonjudgmental way, nonblaming way. When this happened with another friend of mine, I just said, ''You know, when I make plans with you, I expect it to be just you and me unless you call and let me know that someone else is coming with us. Do you think you could let me know if it's going to be more than just us?'' My friend was surprised -- and maybe miffed -- but she never did it again without calling first. And I wasn't insecure or petty. It's not necessarily about the extra person. I mean, what if you had plans to have dinner with someone and when you arrived at the restaurant, they told you they'd already eaten and wanted to do something else?

I don't think there's anything wrong with asking at a minimum that you just be given some notice that your plans are changing. My free time is very limited and I choose how I spend it pretty carefully. When I see my friends, I want to be able to catch up with them, tell them about my life and find out about theirs. I can't do this with someone I don't know or don't like there. Good luck with this. It's always hard having these kinds of conversations with friends Anon

Here are my two cents. If your friend is worth spending time with (I assume you have kids and busy life and not a lot of time for socializing without kids), she's worth having a ''from-the-heart'' conversation with, as you put it. If you don't want to have that conversation with her, why are you spending time with her? I don't mean that you have to corner her for 2 hours and give her your whole emotional history, but why not tell her how it makes you feel and/or ask her about the assumptions she's been operating under? It's really good practice, speaking as someone who's been practicing lately. By the way, I'm from the east coast and I don't think this is an east coast/west coast thing. And if one of my friends did this repeatedly, I also would be hurt and want to talk about it anon
Sorry, my vote is that you are too sensitive. Some adults are simply more comfortable socializing with a crowd, or with meeting strangers - your friend may be this way and assumes you are too. Exclusive relationships where friends aren't welcoming to others are very limiting for some people, for others, that's all they want. Strangely enough in my experience as a 'social' it's usually the exclusives who 'pick' a social and then expect them to become the exclusives sole entertainment. Can get very tiring to be limited to 'just one friend.' Or... maybe I'm just from the East Coast Anon
I already posted but I was thinking more about how to approach your friend. I would suggest trying to put yourself in her shoes -- is she really overloaded at home and work, so when she gets a little time to herself she wants to share it with more than one friend? Is she by nature a really social person? Is she trying to introduce her friends to each other because she thinks the more the merrier? Trying to look at it from her persepctive can help you to approach her in a nonjudgemental and non-blaming way. But I really would suggest that you go ahead and talk with her. I've recently done this with 2 friends about different issues, and both times I've been glad I spoke up anon
Well, I am from the east coast and I have never heard of this being common or acceptable. I think it's inconsiderate, if not outright rude. If this was my friend I would probably stop getting together with her. Maybe this is OK when you're a teenager and everyone is just hanging out with whomever is available at the moment. But for me as a grownup, with kids and a job, having time with friends takes advanced planning. When I plan a date with a friend, I am expecting to have time with the friend, to talk one on one, or just hang together and have fun.

If the friend brings along other friends or family, then everything is different, and it becomes a group activity instead of a get-together with my friend that I don't see as much as I'd like. I enjoy group activities too, but not when I'm expecting to have a one-on-one with my friend. You friend doesn't seem to get that there's a difference between friend time and group time. Maybe it's time to start developing relationships with people who do get it.

Similar problem: Have you ever invited friends to your house for dinner, and they show up with an extra friend? Or they just fail to show? You planned a special dinner for 6, and you made 6 of everything, and now you've got 7 (or only 4?)? My husband has two friends who do this. We still include them for group events like a potluck, but we don't invite them for dinner anymore. SB

I don't think you are over reacting at all. I have had friends that did the same thing. They were also from NY, but thats not why they acted that way. I lived there ten years and it is not socialy acceptable to be late and double book social dates there either. In the end I realized that these friends were just incredibly self centered and insensitive, and they just weren't that into our friendship so I decided to stop torturing myself and stopped making plans with them. I also had to face my own insecurities and the fact that I had a pattern of choosing friends that treated me badly. I have been much happier ever since I changed my own behavior, and stopped hanging out with people who treated me like a door mat anon
You're not over-reacting if you are looking forward to some quality time with your friend. The next time you make plans, I'd just say- I'd really love to catch up one on one so let's make this date just the two of us, ok? I don't think it's necessarily an east coast thing. allison
YES, you are overreacting. OR, just stop being friends. it's this simple. are you being too sensitive? or is your friend being rude? I have given up many friends because i thought they were rude or insensitive. Don't sell yoour self short with a bad friend. Having just a couple good ones is better then a lot of bad ones. Take care anon
I don't think it is an ''east coast'' thing to bring other friends unannounced. I'm from the east coast (New Yorker) and it's not common to always bring other friends to rendevous unless they are friends in common or it is previously planned. I think it is okay to do it once in a while but all the time is a bit strange. I would talk to her about it especially if the other friends she brings along is not particularly friendly. It seems like she is putting both you and the other friend in an awkward position 2 cents from an Ex-East Coaster
No, I do not think you're overreacting. Believe it or not, I had the same problem with a friend many years ago. Every time we had plans, it turned into a group outing.

Once when I hadn't seen her in a while, we planned to go out to dinner and shopping after work to get caught up on each other's lives. Well, she invited 3 other friends I didn't know well, and they all were shopping for one of the women's honeymoon--and obssessing over a wedding I wasn't even invited to! I totally felt like the odd person out and was miserable...and I was the one who had initiated the plans!

I just let the friendship slide after that and I wish I hadn't, at least not without saying anything. I regret not calling her and saying, ''It was nice to see you and your friends, but it wasn't what I had in mind. Let's plan to get together when it is just the two of us. I miss getting to talk to you.'' If she still pulled the group maneuver, then I'd know she didn't care about my feelings or was too clueless to be my friend.

I would let your friend know next time you make plans. Just ask if she's bringing anyone this time. And tell her you don't mind meeting her friends, but that you'd like a little one-on-one time with her too anon

Your husband told you that your friend bringing along an unannounced, uninvited guest on your excursions is ''just something people do on the East Coast'' ?? !!!! I'm from the East coast -- and also have lived in the South and Midwest -- and that is not the norm * anywhere *. It is, however, kinda rude. The times my friends wanted to add someone to the ''date,'' or I wanted to at the last minute, it was always polite to call ahead and say, ''Is it OK if I bring a friend along?''

You are not being petty and insecure. When you're planning the next get together, just tell her calmly that you have been surprised when she added unexpected people to the party; that you like to meet new people, or meet her friends, but you had been looking forward to time with just the two of you.

You could laugh it off, explaining, ''I guess I'm just not as spontaneous as you'' or, ''I would have had a chance to put on my more expensive jeans if I'd known,'' or whatever.

It sounds as though she likes this freewheeling style of hers and doesn't give the other friends a heads-up either. She may not know that this is bothersome. She should at least try to see where you are coming from and be a little more accomodating Polite ex-East Coaster

I can't tell you if you're overreacting or not, as I also think that behavior is rude, but I think I tend to expect a lot from people. I CAN tell you that this is NOT an East Coast thing, as I am from the East Coast and this never happened to me there!

This has happened to me quite a lot since becoming a parent,but only with people who I don't know well. The scenario is this: one of us asks the other (I'm not always the initiator) to meet somewhere with the kids so that we can get to know each other better. When the other person arrives, they bring another parent (and their child), and I spend the whole outing feeling like an extra wheel! The last time it happened, a Mom from my child's school, who I'd been trying to get together with for weeks, called me to meet her somewhere. When she showed up (an hour late), she had 5 other close friends (and their kids) with her, and they spent the whole day talking about the party this Mom had the night before (that I was obviously not invited to). This was right around the holidays, when I already feel lonely, so it left me very depressed for awhile.

I don't know why people do this,but I have a theory. Spending one-on-one time with someone is an intimate thing, where attention is focused on you, and you are expected to focus on the other person. I think that some people just feel uncomfortable with this, especially if they don't know someone too well. I do believe, however, that it is common courtesey to ask the person you're going to meet if they mind you bringing another person along. This way, you're both on the same page. As laid back as I'd like to be, sometimes I just want one-on- one time with a friend, and it's not okay for her to bring an unexpected guest. One thing I have learned is to be clear about what kind of get- together I'm thinking of when talking with the other person.

With my close friends, it's natural to spend one-on-one time. With new acquaintances, I'm more clear about invites (''Let's let the kids play while we talk'' or ''I'm going to invite a bunch of people to the movies, want to go?''). If your friend cannot honor your wishes, you might be better off skipping get- togethers for awile been there

I hate it when that happens, too. It's almost as if you feel like you weren't good enough for your friend - they had to bring along someone else, too. It seems rude to me. But I really think that the people who do this do not mean to be rude or see any problem with it. So maybe you need to let your friend know that you are not comfortable with it. Maybe saying something like 'I was disappointed because I thought it would just be the two of us (going to brunch, going to the movie, etc..) I don't think it sounds too petty or anything. Good luck! Anon
I do not think you are overreacting at all. I think you can address it without being either too witty/flippant or too vulnerable. What about just saying that you'd prefer to know ahead of time what the plan will be as sometimes you're open to a group thing and sometimes not? This could clue her into the fact that she's essentially making plans for you without your consent Anon
I don't think your are overreacting. Maybe you think too highly of the friendship. Your friend doesn't seem to think too much of your feelings. She could at least let you know when she's bringing another friend along and give you the option of bowing out. I have had the same situation happen and decided not to pursue the friendship any further. My friend is a really nice person but her open invitation style just wasn't mine. - anon
You could do what my first grader did when one of his friends brought another friend along on a playdate. At the end, he told him I like you, but I don't like your friend. A little blunt, but it got the job done.
I was not able to read the original post but let me tell you a story that happened to me. I was the person who always invited other people to events. Not because I thought I was rude but because I wanted everyone to be happy and may be become friends with each other too. Here is my story that helped me change my ways: One New Year's Eve I was invited to a party in a very affluent neighborhood. I, of course, invited a couple of my friends to come with me. Well, unbeknownst to me, one of my friends invited her mother to come along to the party also. The mother flirted with the married DJ all night long who was half her age and gave him her business card! She also went around all night telling people about her website selling plus size lingerie. (I had no idea she had this type of a business) I found out that she informed the hostess that she needed plus size lingerie for her figure. The girl was so upset (she didn't think she was overweight) that she went on a crash diet and had to be hospitalized and later she went into a deep depression. ( Did I say it was a really ritzy party?!!) I'm not kidding, This really happened and I'm still horrified to this day. Needless to say, I have learned my lesson. I never, EVER, invite other friends to come along with me anywhere regardless of the situation. If someone invites me to coffee, lunch, or a party I assume they just want me to come and not my posse. I wish you luck but realize that, like me, your friend might learn her lesson the hard way anon
Oh honey, I'm so sorry.

Although I am probably not the friend you are specifically writing about, I often do the same things that your friend does. I don't do these things to be cruel, inconsiderate, or mean. In fact, I generally intend the opposite & bring people along for the following reasons:

(a) I adore all of my friends so much that I want them to know each other & assume that they will find each other as fascinating as I do;

(b) I'm horribly disorganized & over-committed & often inadvertently double-book my calendar. But I always try to make time for friends because I love them & want to spend time with them. Your friend probably knows you find your time with her to be unsatisfactory but doesn't know why. Some talk & compromise would help a lot.

(c) I come from back East & my old friends & relatives often come to visit randomly & with short notice. When that happens, I often choose to bring my friends along for the ride. From now on, I will remember that this is not congenial for everyone, and will attempt to act accordingly.

(d) Sometimes -- only once in a blue moon -- I try to establish boundaries on a friendship & will hence only include certain people in group activities. But I only do this when someone I really like is involved in self-destructive stuff that is beyond what I can handle, & yet I have enough hope & love for them that I want to keep them in my circle. This doesn't sound like you at all.

Please talk with your friend. If she loves you as much as you love her, I'm sure she will explain her reasons & make every effort to accommodate you. You also may need to accommodate her. Another Social Butterfly