Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Friendship Challenged by Parenting, a Spin Cycle

WARNING (Vodla Mom) Long Post

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.


Anonymous said...

I have no kids of my own but have plenty of friends who do. In their cases the biggest thing they argue about is their kids, what is right and what is wrong, who should be doing what etc etc. From an outsiders point of view I have seen many good friendships broken due to this ... The kids fight then the parents fight. The kids make-up and the parents never do.

Providing kids are just 'being kids' and are causing no harm I really don't see why it is necessary to get involved. It's the age-old subject of "I can say whatever I like about my family, but I wouldn't want to hear anyone else say it".

Mike said...

A woman poked your son in the head and called him a little brat? And she is still alive? You are way too nice!!! But, I think that may not be such a bad thing, nice is good!

cheatymoon said...

Awesome spin. I know it was difficult to write. I can't stand competitiveness in any way. And the number one lesson in Parenting 101 is humility.

Perhaps my radar is up in regard to competitive parenting, but really, is it necessary? Our kids are here for their own journey. To judge each other for what the kids are doing... it just seems like a waste of time.

Oh my goodness, Pseudo, I could write a blog post in your comments on this topic. Perhaps I should take a break from my research paper and write my own damned spin.

Beth said...

This just proves you are way nicer than I am. While I am probably the first to point out my children's faults (they say I am too hard on them), I try hard to NOT find fault in other people and their kids. But when they start yacking about something my kid did (especially when most of the time kids are just being kids), I do get defensive.

I probably need to work on not getting so defensive. You probably need to work on getting a little more defensive. See? That makes you nicer.

King of New York Hacks said...

We all do our best ...they are doomed anyway with this new crazy world !!

Sharon Rose said...

I don't care for those who judge my son according to their own lack of knowledge. In fact, I probably wouldn't cross the street to spit on them if they were on fire. . . so for that turn the other cheek scripture, I've seriously failed. And I certainly don't care for those who judge my parenting skills. We all have our own paths from which we come along, birth and raise children from. So, darlin', I hope this post you presented us with today helped get stuff off your chest.

As you can see, we all have growing to do. I need to work on not judging others who judge me or my son!

The Rambler said...

Oh Psuedo...I really enjoyed this post. It was very...honest and wow for me.

I felt a surge of protectiveness for you my bloggy friend when you wrote what you heard your friend tell your child...

But you are absolutely right. When all the kids are older and out of the house..you can all sit back and all that will truly matter is that you know your children love you and everything you and your husband did for them.

xoxo Always!

Anonymous said...

Pseudo - This is the best post I've read in a while. It's absolutely timely for me as I'm dealing with parenting an assertive son. I hate that your "friend" chose to address your son as she did. And I hate that you've been made to feel like you have. BUT I absolutely applaud you for how you have handled yourself.

You are a gem, my dear. And an awesome parent. I 100% agree with you. We all parent differently. There's no right or wrong. Each kid is different. I don't agree with some, but I keep that to myself. I'm sure they don't agree with me. All I know is that Blue Eyes and I are doing the best we can, and that's all we can do.

I'm saying it again, this is the best post ever!

Hit 40 said...

My youngest is also a little pistol. I try my best with him. The oldest is just a doll. He is no trouble. Just strange how both boys were raised by the same parents with the same genes??

If I understood the story correctly, the boys were ALL wresting. She scooped your son up? And her son was also wresting?? A little self righteous of her.

Having children like my youngest makes going to events like the karaoke party. Just painful. He's getting a little better. I just get tired of being judged by his behavior. I try my best with him

Christy said...

Wow. I think you are a saint for not speaking up when that woman was such a bitch to your son. I'm pretty sure I couldn't have just watched silently....but knowing she's your good friend, in a circle of friends, makes it even more complicated. I don't know that I have any advice for you...I just know that I probably would have many fewer friends than you do if I were walking in your shoes. Because I can't stand that crap. I sort of dread those days in my future! It's so nice now when my child and my friend's kids just babble and crawl around!

Liz Wilkey (a.k.a. A Mom on Spin) said...

I sometimes feel that way within my own family.

It seems that others somehow have "perfect" children and can't understand what it's like to have kids who break the rules at time.

Funny thing? In the recent church trip/drinking debacle. . . my sister's son got caught drinking along with my girls I was secretly happy.

Kristan said...

"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."

My mom dealt with this a lot too, from one friend in particular. And I have to say, my mom didn't handle it as gracefully as you seem to be, and now they are no longer friends. :(

So there's a part of me that agrees with your daughter and thinks you should stand up for yourself! I mean, what those women are doing is ridiculous.

But then there's a part of me that thinks you're doing just fine right now, even if it's hard to deal sometimes.

The truth is, the only person who's going to agree with you 100% of the time is you -- meaning that there's always someone who is going to disagree and/or judge. But if you really want, long-term, to stay friends with that someone, then you have to be the bigger person, since they apparently won't.

(Somewhat related... URGH right now I'm being judgmental about my friend's TOXIC relationship, and I realize I need to stop, but at the same time it is SO HARD/FRUSTRATING to see her making bad decisions. Decisions that SHE says she knows are bad -- that's one way that it's a little different from what you're talking about here -- but she still makes them anyway. BAH. I need to channel some of my inner Pseudo...)

Nicole said...

I would be the bitch who would say screw it and never talk to them again, to be honest.

Vodka Mom said...

Yes, my darling, that WAS LONG!

but it was totally worth it. I love the fact that my own children are flawed, they get in trouble, they're bitchy and sometimes sassy, but they are REAL. And I love the hell out of them. every bit.

Cid said...

When my first son was born it seemed most of my close friends had girls then we all had boys the second time around and they stopped because they had the "Millionaire's Family." But we forged ahead and had son number three. I still see my friends but their families interact in a totally different way from mine. We are a physical family, for better or for worse, those who have girls will never understand my boys' overwhelming need to be physical - ALL THE TIME. My friends don't say things out loud about my boys but the invites for us to come over as a family declined, especially when they were younger. Now it is a little easier but we still seem to get together more as just grown ups. I'm okay with that, I have my posse of MOBs who get it.
Once again, however hard it may sometimes be, none of us can really know what it is like to live in anyone else's family.
You are a great friend for keeping your mouth shut.

Susan said...

I think you are a wonderful friend to still hang in there and be friends with this person after seeing what she said and did to your son. Kudos to you.

Michelle said...

I don't think I'd be able to refrain from speaking my mind if someone DARED do that to my child, no matter the circumstances.
I have struggled with this same issue. It's very hard to be friends with someone at this stage of my life who has a drastically different parenting style from my own. Especially when it creates conflict with the kids.

Anonymous said...

My daughter got into a huge fight with my best friend's daughter when they were around 4 years old. I mean HUGE fight - fists were flying and hair was being pulled and names were being called and it was a pretty intense scene. After we separated the girls and they each pointed the finger at the other, my friend and I both looked at each other for a few seconds, with a facial expression that had "it was all YOUR child's fault" written all over it...then we both laughed when we simultaneously realized exactly what the other was thinking.

I think it's human nature to want to defend our own child's behavior, and our own parenting style. We all have to learn how to respect others' judgement when it comes to raising their own kids.

That said, if I ever saw my friend poke my child in the forehead and call her a brat, you can bet your ass there would be words exchanged.

Pseudo said...

I'm enjoying all your comments more than you know.

FYI The incident I choose for illustrative reasons was purposely from a long time ago. There have been a few incidents of late, but too close for comofrt to detail publicly.

"Our kids are here for their own journey. To judge each other for what the kids are doing... it just seems like a waste of time." thank-you Movie for this. It ws what I was trying to say, but just fused around.

And if I could go back in time, I would have defended mykids a bit more andlet my friends know their opinons were crossing a line. I've been working on that lately. Itis just difficult since Ilet it go on so long.

Cynthia said...

See now, it comes back to what I said "some folks just suck"

Sometimes I wish I wasn't such a confrontation avoider:P

Jan said...

Like onlyamovie, I could write an entire blog post in your comments section on this one, because it's one I'll probably never touch on my own blog - it's simply too close to home.

Beloved and I have very similar views on parenting, but we have very different parenting styles. He's a very in-your-face, micromanaging type, while I'm a very laid back, give-them-the-rope-to-hang-themselves type.

His kids are A-type overachievers. My kids, not so much. He thinks he's a better parent because of this. Me, not so much - my kids may be meandering through life, trying to find their right paths (and they're doing a fine job of it), but they don't have some of the issues that his daughters have (both of them have trouble forming and maintaining relationships).

Our friendship has survived because I do what you do - I don't press the issue. If he wants to think he's a better parent than me and his kids are better than mine - hey, what can I say? I think that too. I just don't go around telling him that.

Maureen at IslandRoar said...

Boy does this strike a chord. I love everyone's thoughtful comments. Not only is this hard when they're younger, but it goes on when they're teens. I have heard several second-hand "judgments" of my 15 year old daughter that make my blood literally boil. There are many ways to parent and many ways to become a good person. Why do some people have to think theirs is the only way??

Great post!! Thanks.

Sprite's Keeper said...

Pseudo, I always love your Spins, but this one is my absolute favorite. I can tell the inner turmoil you went through on this. Some people can be friends with conditions and as long as you don't broach those topics, you get along famously, but things like parenthood skim the deep end. I do have a circle of friends who seem to judge parenting skills as well as child development based on whose child is doing what first or how well behaved the child is. It drives me crazy because I DID fall into it at first. Now, I try to avoid it and secretly delight when my daughter is playing with these other children and steps out of bounds willfully. It shows she does not subscribe to their agenda and I love her more (if that is at all possible) for it. I'll reel her in when it's merited, but now I silently dare the other mothers to make a rebuttal if I don't punish her. Excellent Spin! You're linked!

Evenspor said...

Oh man. My son has a cousin two years older than he is who we have this same problem with. It started at a wedding last year when they were with their two other cousins that are in between them in age. There was much wrestling, which, like you, I don't really have a problem with. One of the cousins didn't want to wrestle so they left him alone. Occassionally someone would get hurt, cry for a minute, then everything was cool again.

My husband told me, though, that at the bachelor party, when my son and certain cousin would wrestle, cousin would cry, then his dad would be all sympathetic and say things like, "You don't have to play with him." Of course, when he thought no one was looking, said cousin would punch my son. Never got in trouble.

More recently, my son came home from cousin's house with a black eye. He told me cousinhit him with a ball. Again that will happen with boys, so no big deal, right? Except that his parents never mentioned it, and that is weird to me. Now I am especially wary of letting him play with his cousin.

That really stinks that it happens with your friends, though.

Mama Badger said...

Oh, Pseudo, I'm really liking this post. It hits home on so many levels.

But I have to ask the hard question, are these people really your friends? Friends love and support eachother, and give constructive criticism if something is desperately going wrong. That doesn't sound like what you're describing. Friends should never make you feel like this.

Can you really say that once the kids are gone it will get all better? Your kids will never really be gone. They will be part of your life forever.

IMO, maybe you should find some distance from this particular group. Hard as it is to let go of old friends, better to find new people who will support your decisions, and you, then feel like you're on the defensive!

I could go on all day, too, but I'll stop here. Good luck with this. Hopefully it made you feel better to write about it!

Pearl said...

You opened a can of worms with this post!

Well written. I really enjoyed this.


Anna Whiston-Donaldson said...

Ouch. I've been on both sides of this. I've been the bitchy mom (but in my head, not by saying mean things to kids), and I've been the mom whose kids have been judged unfairly. Sometimes I think socializing is too hard, and that we should just stay in our respective minivans.

The incident you shared reminded me of this (and another BIG post I can only write in my head): http://aninchofgray.blogspot.com/2009/06/into-mouths-of-babes.html

I thought I was a perfect mom with a perfect kid, until I finally realized I wasn't and he wasn't.

I think you were at a disadvantage having rhis incident happen with your second child, while your friends were on their first. You had had a chance to mellow out and put life in perspective, but they were (are?) still wound up trying to appear "perfect." Ugh.

Thanks for a thought provoking post!

Little Ms Blogger said...

I really enjoyed reading this.

Although I have no children, I witness various parenting styles of siblings and friends, but keep my mouth shut for the most part.

I have been known to stop my sister from calling her son a loser in my presence. She has a tendency to use terms like loser, ass whenever and unless given that name at birth you shouldn't use it.

No adult has the right to poke a children on the forehead and call him/her a brat.

I also agree that boys will wrestle, make noise, play with guys (my friend tried to stop that, but a stick can be made into a sword or gun). It is part of the chemistry.

Thank you for writing such a wonderful and honest/open post.

Liz Mays said...

I guess you're a bigger person than I am because I would never have talked to her again. Mess with me, it's one thing. Mess with my kids and it's on.

mo.stoneskin said...

"overly confident in their parenting skills and overly judgemental and critical of others'"

Sadly this is so often the case. Seen it a lot in my wife's circles. It's odd too.

My wife was a nursery manager, so draws on a lot of experience. A lot of her peers don't have that experience. We see them make mistakes/weird choices/actions that she would (from experience) condemn, that I (without her input) would naturally accept without question. We find ourselves questioning, yet accepting nonetheless.

mommy4life said...

Oh How I understand. I tend to blame my kids, when situations happen with my friends kids. One thing I have been more about is that just because I am friends with their parent, doesn't mean my kids have to be friends with their kids.

mommy4life said...

BTW - thanks for stopping by on my SITS day yesterday.

darsden said...

I would have showed that Biotch who taught the boy how to wrestle after she poked him in the forehead..them there are fighting terms, I do admire your refrain!!! She would have left because she had a broken arm from being twisted and needing a brain scan after I poked her forehead... jus sayin' ;-)

Willow said...

Wow, this really did hit a sore spot with a lot of people! Now that my kids are grown I'm seeing this same behavior (from the parents) all over again, another round of same. Sigh.

Thanks for stopping by my blog! La Jolla is beautiful in winter, too. I saw it first on New Year's Day.

Twenty Four At Heart said...

You're a nicer person than I am, but then - I already knew that!

Joanna Jenkins said...

Wow, I must be the biggest bitch on the planet because I would have totally kicked that nasty mom's ass.... And then I would have asked myself if she is even a good person that I would want for a friend-- Now or when my kids are grown.

That was a tough post to write. I hope it helps you sort things out.


Brigit said...

As loving parents, regardless of how hard we try, we all make errors, but we all do the best we can, or what we believe is the best for our children.

I know many a time I listened to the advice of other parents, but ultimately would do what I FELT was the best thing to do. It was a gut thing. Maybe I was wrong, maybe I was right. I don't know, but I could only do what sat well with my heart.

Your friends, I guess they only did/do what they believe is right....sounds like they don't have a good sense of boundaries, but friendships often have a problem with boundaries.

To me Pseudo, you sound like a great parent. The proof being the ongoing closeness of your family as your children have grown up.

essbesee said...

That friend of yours would hate my sons. They have wrestled from the time our youngest was old enough to sit up and try it. It has never bothered me, it is something boys/esp. brothers do sort of like monkeys or something. And as for the "little brat" comment. I would have had to have "ahem-ed" at that point. It is really odd friend's parenting styles are opposite of your own. Also uncomfortable/odd, when you have friends who actually do have "little brats" but they don't see it that way, very awkward. (I am referring to some friends of ours we stayed with recently - their sons picked on our sons the whole time and it was so yucky to be around) Great post, again and congrats on being back at work. And on being a mix of the personalties and taking the high road. sorry such a long comment!

Casey said...

This post made my blood boil. How dare your friend talk like that to your kid! I don't think I could get past that and continue the friendship, now matter how close you were.

I've drifted apart from some of my friends due to waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay different parenting philosophies. They have their way and we have ours but getting together with the kids is dangerous.

Great spin, as always!

Melissa B. said...

One of my SILs has a split personality when it comes to her kids and mine. She's the loving Auntie most of the time, but every so often-especially when her kids are screwing up-she tries to put some of it on my kids, too. I try to keep peace when this happens, but it's difficult sometimes!

Smart Mouth Broad said...

I just hate this kind of crap. I have lost touch with a friend because I couldn't stand the way she turned every conversation into a competition. The older I get the more I realize I would rather be alone than to be with people who irritate the crap out of me. Obviously you really care for your competitive friends and that puts you in a rough place. I have to say, you're ARE a better woman than me because I probably would have snapped a long time ago. It takes a lot but when I snap, I snap big and usually in psycho fashion. *sigh* Not pretty.

Christy said...

I don't have any kids so I don't know how I would handle this. I AM glad that your first day back was not a waste of time...those are the WORST DAYS EVER.

Kathy B! said...

Man, I enjoyed the comments almost as much as I enjoyed this post. A lot.

I have some friends like this, and my solution has been mostly not to socialize as familiies... lots of mom night out (if 1x per mo is alot) stuff and very little with the kids. Just enough to kepp the friendships in tact 'til the kids are old enough to do their own things.

Stacy Uncorked said...

You definitely showed way more restraint than I ever could in that situation. I agree with 'only a movie' - our kids are here for their own journey. Some people seem to forget that, and try to mold their kids into a mirror image of themselves - or what they think they should be...*cough*my sister*cough* :) What's funny is my hubby and I have different 'parenting' ideas...most likely as a result from our own individual upbringing. I'm way more laid back...to a degree. At times he thinks she should already 'know better', and I'll have to remind him that she's only 6, not 16 (that will come soon enough!) and it's our job to help her understand and to 'know better'.

Loved this post - and the comments, too! :)

Rachel said...

ooooh. I totally would have said something to that mom at Karaoke. I don't care how good a friend she was, I think I would have used words that I don't normally say. Nobody messes with my kids!

Midlife Roadtripper said...

I'm thinking mother knows best - and especially when it comes to our kids. Also, the best way to raise or not raise kids, watch how other do it. Pick out what you life best and bury the rest.

Interesting post. Your summer off has served you will in the most important reflection arena.

Cajoh said...

I think most parents "think" they have the whole parenting thing down. What is not understood is that everybody is different— even your own children can be different. Because of this there is NO way that you can know it all when it comes to being a parent. I do find it rather sad that some people think they know how to be parents to other people's children.

It is often hard when you come to realize that someone who is your friend has changed so much that you question if they still should be your friend.