Recently I had, for lack of a better word, a situation, with another mother. This situation resulted in me, to put it bluntly, losing my shit.
I am not ashamed to admit it. I was seething. I was practically vibrating with incredulity. I furiously messaged my husband who was away at the time, my fingers flying over the keyboard.
“Who does she think she is???” I typed. There were lots of ALL CAPS and copious !!!!!!!!
“What kind of mother thinks it is ok to say to another mother that her child isn’t good enough? What kind of person is too stupid not to at least come up with a plausible lie?” Followed by more !!!!
I had fantasies of marching the offending mother through the school yard with a Game of Thrones bell, tolling Shame! Shame! Shame! behind her as she made her way into the cafeteria. I composed scathing emails filled with righteous anger. I authored imaginary text messages using words like What and The and others that end in uck. My thumb hovered over the send button.
More than anything though, I dreaded telling my son he wouldn’t be attending a party he had been talking about for weeks. A party the rest of his group of friends would be attending. A party he had been originally (apparently conditionally, provisionally) invited to. I prepared myself for his upset.
Then something funny happened. When I told him, he shrugged. My son merely shrugged. He said it was ok. No big deal.
“Did something happen between you two?” I asked him. He shook his head. My son is a good kid, but he’s not a cyborg. If he’d done or said something to offend his friend, enough that his friend didn’t want him to come to party they’d planned and talked about, well, then I needed to know. Yet he could think of nothing and nor could I.
And in that moment, my ten-year-old son, with nothing more than a shrug and a shake of his head proved himself to be more mature than both the other mother and me.
For that alone I owe the other mother a thank you. Her actions reminded me my children continue to surprise me, each and every day. Sometimes they surprise me with their tenacity. Sometimes with the solutions they imagine, solutions I could never dream of. And sometimes they surprise me with maturity that belies their years, with a forgiveness which outstrips my own.
This was one of those times.
So for opening my eyes once again to the goodness in my child, for his capacity to forgive, I thank her.
We spoke about the whole thing for a while.
“You know what?” I said to him. “Your friend is an ass. And so is his mother.”
And then we laughed. No, it’s wasn’t my finest let’s-not-call-other-people-names moment, not my best turn-the-other-cheek lesson, but it was a moment of raw honesty with my son. And yes, I admit in my moment of pettiness, it made me feel better.
For that moment of unfiltered honesty I shared with my son, I thank her.
“It’s no way to treat a friend, is it?”
“Nope,” he answered.
“I think you’re a better friend than that.” I said to him.
“You don’t need to worry about me,” he said. Then, in true ten-year-old form, he asked if he could go on his iPad.
Sometimes it takes someone acting like an ass to remind you of what you’ve got. My son is better than pettiness. He is a good friend, one who goes out of his way to make friends with the new kids. Every year I’ve had parents seek me out and pull me aside to whisper their sons were grateful for his friendship, that he made them feel at home. In fact, she herself was one of those parents not that long ago.
Sometimes as a mother you forget, you forget how kind and nice and decent your own kids are. You get caught up in the sibling fighting and the bedtime struggles, the day-to-day whining and constant demands.
So thank you for the reminding me what a great kid I’ve got.
At the end of the day, as my son reminded me, it’s really not a big deal. I can see now that my reactions were exaggerated, my indignity a bit over the top. A bit. Maybe she just doesn’t like my kid. That’s ok, I get it. There are kids I’ve met along the way who have rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe she was nervous about numbers. Maybe she doesn’t like me. Maybe she doesn’t like how often I swear or my tattoos or whatever. I’m sure, in her mind, she was trying to do the best by her own child. I can’t find fault with any of that.
Thing is, you can do all those things without putting another child down or stepping on their feelings. It’s never ok, never classy or tactful or advised or any other big word you can come up with to say to another mother, sorry, your kid didn’t make the cut. Your child isn’t good enough.
And for that I thank her too, because the message–both the actual one and the one it implied–made it clear to me that for all my tiger mom feral anger, for all my Game of Throne influenced fantasies, I am better than that.
I’m raising my sons to be better than that too.
And it’s working.
21 Comments Add yours
Wow. Just…wow. You’ve got a much better attitude following this insanity than I ever had. I still get ridiculously pissed off when I think of some of the #%$! other moms said to me on occasion over the years. Yay for you, and yay for your son!
Eh…don’t give me too much credit. I was pretty mightily pissed off for a long time. Enough so that I had to let a few weeks go by before revisiting this in written form ;-).
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Fair enough! You had serious provocation.
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Nothing cuts to the bone like people being mean to your child. While it does prepare them for the cruelty of the world it also makes it harder for them to be nice people. Glad he could shrug it off. I would only hold a grudge for twenty years.
My son honestly didn’t care. He was a little confused as to how he could be invited to a party and then not invited, but otherwise, he shrugged it off. I, on the other hand, was outraged. This was not the original piece I wrote (because of course I would write about it–hell hath no fury like a mother whose child is scorned..unless it is a mother who writes and has a public forum for her anger). I had to take a few weeks away from it. So while I won’t hold the grudge for 20 years, I did seethe for a good long while. But like these things often do, it turned into a teaching moment for me. We were able to have a whole series of conversations about respecting friendships and feelings and the best and not so good ways to do things. And he laughs every time I say “ass”. Which is a nice side-effect.
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It was years ago now, but I do remember it well. I was in my late 20s at the time. It came to my attention that a friend of mine was holding a party at the swimming pool of his townhome community one Saturday. A party to which I had not received an invitation. Through the grapevine, I learned that it was not an accidental omission. Same general circumstance as your story Dina – there was no event. What made it worse was that a week after the party I bumped into this “friend” and he tried to spin me not being invited as an accident. The truth eventually surfaced – the gossip mill in the expat community always gets a hold of the truth in the end, doesn’t it? His wife decided that I – as well as several of his other guy friends – were undesirable and she forbid him to associate with us. Its not like we were heroine addicts or breaking laws left and right. We did, however, do horribly evil things like keeping him out past 8pm a couple Fridays a month! What was deliciously dysfunctional was that he liked us and still covertly hung out with us … he’d go home and lie to her, saying he was out with his boss! Eventually she found out (the darn gossip mill did him in) and it was if he dropped off the face of the earth. He was banned from doing anything beyond going to work and then going home.
Moral: Not being invited to a party has nothing to do with you and is not a reflection on you (assuming you’re not the person who drinks the liquor cabinet and then ralphs in the bathtub).
Ironically (don’t you just LOVE irony?), I am, and have been a vocal opponent of the “every one should be invited to the party” parenting trend. This was not so much about the being invited as the manner in which my son was uninvited, with a message that essentially said he wasn’t high enough on the pecking order to come. I’m sure that part of the reason I was so outraged was blind maternal instinct (Who DARE not love my son???), but a lot of it was simple open mouthed astonishment that someone would think it’s ok to say that! I feel bad for your friend, though. Anyone who is in any relationship that controlling is doomed to a life of hiding and resentment, in my opinion. Did the relationship survive?
I also do not think everyone should have to be invited to every social event – be it adults or children. But in my case, the attempt to spin the choice as an accident – and the reality is it was a large party outdoors with a not particularly exclusive list of attendees – that initially left me miffed. But when I learned it was because of his wife, well, it quickly morphed into being more humorous than anything – especially among me and the other blacklisted guys. It made us feel like some kind of bad ass gang. The word “whipped” was frequently used.
The last info I have is the couple had returned to their home country, and they had two sons together.
For what it’s worth, I think your initial reaction was absolutely perfect and not immature in the least. What would have been immature would be to lack the self-control to text or email vitriol to the other mother or not calm down in the end. We can take offenses directed at us with all the maturity that comes with age, but offend my child? Hell -ucking No with infinite exclamation points.
Oh….it was close. Likethisclose close. If I had to make a guess, I would say that it had more to do with me than my child, but what a lesson to teach your kid. It’s ok to dump on a friendship because of issue about not being good enough. The thing is, if there was a falling out or something had happened, I would have totally understood–to a degree. Again, one of the lessons you teach your kids is that if you invite someone to a party, barring extreme circumstances, you don’t go around un-inviting them because of some slight–real or imagined. At least, that’s what I would teach my kids–do teach my kids.
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Conditional invitations isn’t something I was ever allowed to give out, and my kids won’t be giving any of those out either. It’s unfortunate your son had to experience this. It’s unfortunate for his friend too, because he will suffer the loss when he loses friends for how he treats them.
Yes—I agree. And that was almost the thing that pushed my message sending over the edge–letting them know that this was no way to make and treat friends especially as they would be moving and seeking those relationships. But the inner bitch in me had enough sense to stop….just.
I feel so sad on your son’s behalf and thank goodness he is sensible and has a great sense of self worth. Absolutely one of the best things you can give your kids. I have 3 daughters who have all been snubbed or left out at some point in their growing up. I just tell them that they haven’t find their tribe yet, their place in which they truly belong with people that think and act like them. That is definitely something that being a serial expat has taught us – some places you will click with people, and some places you won’t. I’m very blase about invitations nowadays – happy if they happen, no skin off our nose if they don’t.
Thanks, Liz. I do think these things are good life lessons. In this case, it seemed to be a bigger life lesson for me than for my son ;-). But it led to a whole series of discussions of how to treat people, friends, and others and how important it is to value and respect those things. So, on the whole, it worked out better than my initial hell fire mother anger would have thought.
“he asked if he could go on his iPad”
I didn’t know that parents existed who did that to their children. Kudos to you!
As others have commented – what matters is that you did not lose your self control, and remained polite with that other person. Just the way you will remember behavior for a long time, so would the bystanders have if you had lost it at that moment.
My feelings about screen time are famous throughout the land….I struggle with it daily–but as for now, they are still monitored and limited and require permission, yes. In the end you are right, of course. Having sent off an angry email or letter would have served no real purpose. I mean, except making me feel better…for 20 minutes until I regretted it 😉
Oh Dina….For me there is almost nothing as painful as someone/a group hurting your child. I totally get it. Especially when we as their mothers, know how special, wonderful, amazing, awesome and talented they are. I’m sorry this happened. I know your kids, and they are sweet, cool, wonderful boys. Keep on keepin’ on… They are going to remember how you raised them. 🙂 🙂
Thank you. I guess judging by the fact that I’m still talking/writing about it, those feelings took a while to fade. The end result of course was a good one–it’s always good to be reminded of how much you LIKE about your kids rather than what about them drives you crazy (all caps, !!!!). I guess in this case it was just so gob-smackingly rude that it threw me. I still maintain, even if you don’t like my child (or me) or don’t want them in your house or life, there are more tactful ways of making sure it doesn’t happen. It was another lesson for me–make sure to teach my kids how to respect the feelings of others in a classy way. There’s never a need to be mean–whether it was intended that way or not. Ok, sometimes you have to be mean to get a point across, but this was not one of those times ;-).
Just a note on the way you were probably taught to interpret “turn the other cheek.” In actual context, when you slapped a slave, you used the back of your right hand. If the slave then turns his cheek, he is forcing your to use the front of your fist, which means you would be treating him like an equal. Yep, that Jesus fella was tricky.
Ah, good to know. I love learning little contextual tidbits. So…knowing that, I could have slapped her or punched her if I counted her as my equal? Hmmmm….decisions, decisions… ;-).
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Ah, ethics. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.