A friend in my neighborhood asked me over last week to catch up and take a walk. I would describe her as a good friend (though not a bff), who has always seemed generous, smart, caring and interesting. I’ve been going through a pretty hard time lately, and she noted that I seemed down. As we walked, I explained that my oldest child was heading off to college, and that I had been spending a lot of time thinking about the family life my husband and I had created with our kids, and how I feel so regretful that our kids do not get along. I have a fraught relationship with my own siblings, and one of my main goals as a parent was to do better than my parents in fostering close and loving connections between my children.
I got teary as I finished telling my friend this, because we’d just had a pretty unpleasant final vacation together before my son leaves for school, and I was distraught. AND THEN, my friend said something like “yes, sometimes my oldest daughter isn’t so nice to my son, but still they are fiercely loyal to one another…” and went on for at least the next five minutes (which felt like an hour), describing all the ways her kids love and defend one another. How, when both sisters are in a swimming race, the little brother will literally run back and forth between the pool lanes so he can watch them both. How, when he is swimming in a race, the two sisters cheer him on so loudly, that other people in attendance always laugh. How anyone who says anything unkind to the youngest, will be met with fierce rebuke by the others. And on. And on.
I was so taken aback I couldn’t think of anything to say. Is my friend in fact a ruthlessly competitive person, and I just never knew? Was this a one-off mistake, where she just started rambling and forgot the source of the conversation? And do I say something now, after the fact? Or let it slide and see if anything like it happens again before re-assessing the friendship?
Oh no, she didn’t! Your friend broke so many of the unspoken rules of female friendship in one fell swoop, I don’t know where to begin. Female friendships are held together by (among other things) empathy, support, compliments, confessions, problem solving, chocolate, wine, and when needed, let’s be honest, a little white lie or two. Nothing wrong with that!
First, I will try to be kind and give your friend the benefit of the doubt, even if I don’t really believe she deserves it. Let’s assume that what you told her made her uncomfortable in some way – some people are really uncomfortable with other people’s duress – and so instead of responding with compassion and empathy, she launched into a wholly inappropriate, somewhat cruel game of child-rearing one-upmanship.
Or perhaps, she is one of those people who always has to bring the conversation back to themselves, no matter how tone deaf and ham-handed. Either way, inexcusable in my book.
Being a good friend means putting yourself in your friend’s shoes, listening and offering emotional support whenever needed. Sometimes we slip up, of course, and say something we shouldn’t but that is why the good Lord gave us ears, to hear ourselves. But, one must be listening in order to hear, mustn’t one? So, so many people are lacking in this ability. Very, very smart people. It’s remarkable.
But back to your situation. Your friend has revealed something to you. She is a bad listener. And only you can weigh what this friendship is worth to you. If you want to maintain this friendship as anything more than a superficial one, I believe you have to say something to her in order to improve your relationship. If, on the other hand, you’re OK with letting it go the way of flotsam drifting along the Evanston/Skokie canal, I say let it go. Kudos to you for being so aware of your feelings and sitting with some tough ones.
I will say that it is way too early to conclude that the kids will never get along, and that you have failed as a parent. In all likelihood, the kids will get along better as they get older. You just have to live long enough to see it. They are their own people and one of the hardest parts of parenting is realizing that you may not always like everything about your kids, despite the fact that you always love them. When it comes to this crappy friend, regardless of what you decide to do, keep your expectations low and your boundaries high.
My sister-in-law accidentally re-gifted a gift I gave her back to me! This hurts my feelings in so many ways. First, she obviously didn’t like what I chose for her. Second, she didn’t even remember that I gave it to her. And third, she gave me something that was just lying around her house.
I don’t know how to handle this. Don’t tell me to forget it! I tried and I can’t!
Let’s keep this in perspective, shall we?
I get that you are frustrated by your sister-in-law’s seeming insensitivity. She should definitely do a better job of keeping track of who gave her what! That’s on her. But you can’t blame her for not liking the gift you chose for her. Gift giving is all about the gesture and the thought that goes along with it and, should the receiver really like it, icing on the cake.
As for giving you something that was just lying around the house, perhaaaaps she is in financial difficulties? Of course she could also just be plain old lazy and cheap, I admit. However, re-gifting isn’t always a bad idea if some real thought goes into it. Try to think of it as another form of recycling. In the long run, I wouldn’t lose a lot of sleep over this one. But if, while counting sheep, you are itching for revenge, I suggest keeping this regifted item in good shape until her birthday and then…. re-re-gifting it!
Why, oh why, do women wear heels?
So that they have an instrument (stiletto) with which to impale through the eye the male person who invented them.
P.S. I was once told, “you look so nice….from the ankles up.”
Dear Gabby appears in the RoundTable every Monday. Yes, Gabby is an advice columnist – but not just any advice columnist. Because that would be boring! Gabby combines wisdom with wit. And a pinch of snark. She is not a trained therapist by any means, but has seen and loved many in her day. Her aim is to make you think while she makes you laugh. Gabby welcomes all questions and queries and is only too happy to hear your opinion, no matter how much it may diverge from hers. Write to Gabby at email@example.com.