Our Kids Aren’t Friends Anymore and Now Her Mom’s Acting Weird

Dear Robin:

I live in a close-knit neighborhood in a small town.  My daughter “Claire” was very close to “Alice” since 1st grade but now they are in 6th grade and really don’t hang out anymore.  I’ve asked my daughter a few times if something happened between them and she assured me it had not so I’m not worried about it.  

My problem is Alice’s mom “Amy,” who I used to be very friendly with but now she gives me the cold shoulder at every school event and when I run into her around the neighborhood and our town.  We weren’t friends who did things together but we always had a great time chatting and now she barely speaks to me.

This is very awkward but I’m not sure I want to say anything to her.  What would you do?

Small Town Mom

Dear Small Town Mom:

Navigating the politics of preteen girls is tough enough without the parents getting involved.  I sympathize with your struggle and thank you for chatting with me last week.  Apparently Amy has gotten into it with other parents in the past over a variety of issues, which I’m sure pleases her poor daughter Alice to no end.

The only reason I am going to suggest you reach out to her is because I’d like you to make certain that your daughter Claire is being truthful about the end of the friendship.  

You described Claire as warm, friendly, and “the last person who would ever be involved in bullying” and I believe you, but I also know that we parents tend to idealize the behavior of our kids.  Sometimes the nice kid we know them to be is acting out in a very different way and for a variety of reasons when we aren’t around.

Today’s advice comes in two parts so I’ll be charging you double.

Advice Part #1:

1. You told me Amy doesn’t work outside the home.  Color me surprised that she’s so involved in her daughter’s social life!

What this means is you can stop by her house unexpectedly to speak with her about what’s happening.  I advocate the surprise factor because she seems like the sort of person who might ignore your phone call, text, or email, especially since you told me her reputation is to stir up shit and then run away.

Knock on the door, invite yourself in, and give her the following Robin DesCamp What The Hell is Going On with You speech:

Amy, I’ve noticed since our daughters have grown apart a difference in your attitude towards me.  We always got along very well but now you seem upset when you see me.  Is there something going on that we should discuss?  I’m concerned that your feelings may be based in something going on with our kids so please let me know if that is the case and how I can help.

At this point she will either:

  1. Confirm that your Mean Girl Bullying Daughter locked her in a bathroom stall and threw feces on her with help from It Girls Missy and Anna; or 
  2. Deny any knowledge of a situation needing your attention; or
  3. Claim you are crazy and she is not acting differently towards you – it’s all in your head.

And that leads us to the second portion of today’s advice!

But-Wait-Theres

Advice Part #2:

2. What you do from this point on is obviously governed by what you learn during your conversation with Amy.  In the interests of time, efficiency and my knowledge that people think I write too many words, let’s go back to our outcome options above:

  1. If Alice has reported to her mom that Claire has done something terrible, you owe it to both girls to get to the bottom of it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.  As I said before, even nice kids can be stupid assholes from time to time.  I remember once I threw an orange at some girl in the high school cafeteria.  In my defense, Karen G. made me do it.
  2. Do nothing further and ignore her if she continues to give you the cold shoulder.
  3. Do nothing further and ignore her if she continues to give you the cold shoulder.

I sympathize with Alice because as a mom I know the worst pain I can feel is not being hurt by others, but seeing my child hurt by others.  This is part of being a parent.  

Part of being a kid (and an adult, in fact) is experimenting with friendships and knowing which to keep and which to leave.  Sometimes people just grow apart from each other and that’s normal, but we parents need to reflect on our past and realize our kids are just going through what we did and continue to do throughout our lives.

Come to think of it, perhaps Amy is rejecting you personally and the disintegration of your daughters’ friendship is merely coincidental.  

Not everyone can like us (unless you are Mr. Patience and Understanding – and that’s his most annoying quality) and rejection by former friends and acquaintances is a marvelous way to winnow your tribe down to its core:

Who will be there when you lose it all?  Who reciprocates your kindness and generosity?  Who makes you want to be a better person?  Who engages you in lively and spirited debate about things that matter?

As I found out recently when a new friend suddenly fell away, we all try each other on for size and sometimes what seems like a classic piece (the black v-neck cashmere sweater, for example) turns out to be a trendy fad that can’t last forever (CROCS and jumpsuits).  

And that’s OK, because all of our relationships, regardless of how long we have them, make up the wonderful wardrobe of our lives.

Please let me know how the conversation goes and best of luck!

-Robin

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Scott C.

    I could have spent half my life trying to keep track of who my daughter likes this week. I gave up on that and only intervened if I thought there was something nefarious going on.

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