For all my trepidation about returning to work, it was one of the best first day backs ever. The presentations were succinct, to the point, and delivered with more personality and sincerity than I can remember. We laughed. A lot. So, as much as I long to stay home, blog, garden, cook, and write a book; it’s not so bad being a Teacher. A Colleague.
Ice breaking warm ups this year were based on personality tests. We teachers take a lot of these. We’re expected to know ourselves awfully well in order to relate to the diverse personalities and learning styles (not to mention hormone challenges) of our students.
Today’s personality tests got me to thinking a lot about the Spin Cycle writing topic this week – friendship.
There’s something that just keeps coming up in a couple of my friendships and maybe if I write about it I can put it to bed. Figure out which part of my personality needs to deal with it.
The spin I’m taking on this isn’t the easy road. The Coast Highway with a view - balmy weather in a convertible. The weekend retreat with your best friends while you enjoy each other’s company.
Nor is this spin the hard road taken together, the long highway in rainy weather. The year your best friends rally around you while you battle breast cancer, chemo, radiation, baldness, and depression. The year they bring you get well gifts, cards with cheery notes, and meals for your family.
This spin is the lonely and sometimes scary dirt biking back trail with rocks and cracks and a slippery slope of mud. The trail you take off on your own to distance yourself from your friends when the road they are on, you don’t want anything to do with. When the road they are on feels more like a racetrack, going around in circles. Each car pitted against the other in a competition.
Throughout my life, I mostly stayed away from the popular girls. The competitive, back-stabbing type. It took until my twenties, but I ended up with a group of women friends who were like a part of my own soul. They are wonderful, intelligent, and generous of heart. Not to mention independent and loads of fun. I felt very blessed. I feel very blessed. I’m lucky and I know it. That’s what makes this so difficult.
All of us did not get married or start having children until our late twenties or early thirties.
Then something changed.
There’s no other way to say it, but a couple of my friends are entirely different people when it comes to our kids. Things come up that I don’t like so much. They are overly confident in their parenting skills and overly judgmental and critical of others’. Especially mine. Or so it seems.
It has fucked with me for a long time and I still have not found the best way to deal with it.
It started when the kids were little. My daughter, she was the first by three years. Then, when my son was born, there was a litter of them in our circle of friends. Mostly boys.
One of the first times it became awkward we had taken the kids and rented a karaoke room. The boys were around four through six. A couple of my friends were of the philosophy that wrestling and grappling were taboo. This had already come up. Now, it is not like I thought it was OK for my son (or any kid) to grab a buddy and jackhammer his head into the pavement in a WWF move. But a bit of wrestling and grappling, well, I’m sorry if this offends anyone out there… but for a lot of little boys that’s just what they do. What they like. Our son’s favorite thing at that age was wrestling his dad.
His dad feels that boys wrestling and grappling with their friends helps them learn to handle themselves should they ever be in a bad situation.
But I knew how my friends felt, so when I did stuff with them and our boys I kept an eye out.
Told my son it was not allowed.
The problem, well, the problem was that my friends’ sons not only wanted to wrestle, they were sneaky about it because they were not allowed. And they knew my son and his friends by our house wrestled it up from time to time. So, of course they wanted to try their shit with him.
I was sitting in a booth by myself at the back of the room keeping an eye on my son because the other boys kept coming up from behind and locking onto him to see if he could grapple them off (after about an hour of karaoke they were looking for other forms of entertainment). I would put a stop to it. This happened about 478 times. I’d lost my enthusiasm and was letting them go a minute or so before I broke them up. I mean, shit. How hurt could they get wringing their little arms around each other shoulders when I was all of two feet away?
The boys decided on a tactic of two taking on my son. I have to say, I was a bit curious myself if he could get both the little buggers off. Meanwhile, the moms and little girls were in the middle of Grease’s Summer Days. Son had one boy off and was squeezing the other’s arm up and over his head when one of my bossy friends came up behind them.
She did not see me in the booth.
She grabbed MY son’s arm, twisted him around, and with a pinched mouth and a hiss like voice called him what I would consider mean names and made threats if he “picked on” her son or the other boy again.
Then she poked her finger into the middle of his forehead and said, “I’m watching you, you little brat.”
I never told her what I saw.
I’ve got a laundry list of stuff like this from over the years, from what TV and movies we let our kids watch to who started what and who is more at fault when the boys fight or disagree. But the incidents are not the point.
I’m not really sure what the point is…
Because it is a big blob of icky.
OK. I think this is the point. Over the years a couple of my friends have put me on the spot time and time again. Questioning or judging the parenting choices our family makes. Pointing out when things go south and giving unasked for opinions on the why and what next.
And this is why it is difficult.
I have no intention of going tit for tat. I know what their kids are up to and they are no saints. Sometimes I wonder if they focus on my kids to avoid their own kids’ problems. But I don't retaliate by pointing out what is "wrong" with their kids or how they deal with it.
I haven’t defended my son from a lot of the criticism because it’s just silly. He’s tenacious and stubborn and a smart ass. He does not think before he opens his mouth a lot of the time. We are working on his challenges. All. The. Time.
The way I look at it, we are all doing the best we can according to our own morals and inner guidelines. They were little people. They are now teenagers. They will never be perfect. They just need to try to be the best people they can be. We need to do our best to help them. When they fall from grace, they need to learn from their mistakes.
I try my best not to let my son hang out with the couple of friends’ sons whose moms behave this way. I love my friends dearly; they are wonderful in every other way and after these boys go off to their own lives I want these women to be a part of my life.
Daughter has been mad at me for years over this and thinks that I should speak my mind.
Hubs fluctuates. Part of him thinks it is a competitive thing. Like who can be the best parent. I don’t remember signing up for that contest. Other times Hubs gets paranoid, feeling like we are under a microscope and says it used to be a lot easier to socialize before we all had kids.
The personality test we took at work today looked at whether our personality styles are dominance, influence, steadiness, or conscientiousness. According to the test, I’m a mix of them all.
If Daughter is right, I need to OWN my D-style a bit more.
For more spins on friendship, head on over to our wonderful host, Sprite's Keeper.