A recent Dear Abby conjured up some old memories for me. The letter writer was a mom whose 11 year old son was told by a playmate that he was only friends with her son because he was being forced by his mom. This made me think of the time when my family moved to a new town when I was around 8ish, 9ish. There was this girl at church, Stacey, who was one grade ahead of me, and she eventually started asking me to go to church functions and even slumber parties at her house. We were never friends who clicked. Our personalities didn’t mesh, we didn’t run around in the same circles, and we had no mutual friends. But she would invite and I would go. I suppose I had an okay time but I could leave the whole friendship if push came to shove. I definitely was not what you’d call vested.
I don’t remember when it was or how I heard this, or from whom, but apparently, Stacey was only nice to me because her mom had told her to be. Her mom had instructed her to befriend the new girl in town. Even though I never felt any real connection with Stacey as a friend, I admit that this news hurt my feelings. Once we were in high school together, I would see her in the halls laughing and carrying on with her friends and she wouldn’t even acknowledge me. I thought it was weird. I mean, we didn’t have to be best buds by any means, but why would you totally snub someone? What a bitch. Oh sorry, did I type that out loud? And it’s not like you could’ve called her Ms. Popularity. She wasn’t. She had her friends and I had mine and that was that.
So let me give Stacey’s mom a little straight-talk — Lady, you weren’t doing me, the poor little new girl in town, any favors by forcing your daughter to be friends with me. What did you possibly think you were going to achieve by trying to fit something together that just wasn’t meant to be? Perhaps you wanted the feeling of doing a good deed. Well good for you, lady. Those hours spent at your daughter’s lame ass slumber parties, I’ll never get back. And no one wants to feel like the odd girl out, and I was. Such a good deed. Gee, maybe this bothered me more than I realized. Ya think?
Several years ago, I was guilty of a similar parenting move. When my boys were still young enough for me to pull it off, I would throw them a two-for-one birthday party. The dates of their birthdays are very close so I would usually combine the celebration into one big blowout to save a lot of headache (and money) and make it more convenient for family and friends as well. A friend of mine’s daughter attended the same daycare as my kids. Her age is right in the middle of theirs. I asked my boys whom they wanted to invite from the daycare, but as you can imagine, caution is advised when handing out selective invitations in such a setting. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, you don’t want anyone to feel left out. But at the same time, I wanted my kids to be in charge of their guest list. The exception was my friend’s daughter. I mean, it only made sense to me to invite her, my boys had been invited to some of her parties, but I didn’t let them have any say. I didn’t think it was even necessary, I didn’t think they’d really care one way or the other actually.
But come to find out, my oldest didn’t particularly connect well with my friend’s daughter. Oh, and don’t get me wrong here, my friend’s daughter is a great girl and she’s smart as a whip. But my oldest took it upon himself to pass this sweet girl an “uninvite” to his party. ?? If memory serves me correctly, the daycare director was involved and all that. Now, I don’t think this little girl was particularly fond of my son, and she most likely still isn’t, but I believe her feelings were hurt. She probably didn’t feel unlike I felt when I found out the truth about Stacey’s “friendship” to me all those years ago. It’s not a good message, no matter who the deliverer, your like or dislike of them.
At first I was mortified my child would hand deliver such ugliness to another child. But then I had an epiphany–picture the whole light bulb over head and clouds opening up thing–Gulp, this whole thing was my fault. If I had respected my son’s guest list entries in the first place, there would have been no ugly note, there would have been no hurt feelings, and there would have been no embarrassing hoopla at the daycare.
I believe apologies were given along with discussions of sensitivity. Yes, your mom should not have invited someone without checking with you first, but it still should have been handled differently, better. From that day forward, I’ve always checked first before adding someone to an invitee list for anything in our family.
So… discoveries made here — I guess all things considered, the good intentions may be there, and Stacey’s mom probably did have good intentions, and I had good intentions as well, but ultimately it’s up to the kids if they will become friends or not.