When you don't like your friend's kids
When you don't like your friend's kids
10:41 (GMT+2), Sat, 30 June 2012
Tertia tries to remember that, even though she doesn’t love her friends’ kids as much as she loves her friends, they do go home at the end of the day.
They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your friend’s children.
And it’s the truth, I tell you. Just because you really like your friend, doesn’t mean you’re really going to like the way she parents or really like her children. And it’s darn hard. It’s hard because ordinarily you wouldn’t want to be friends with the parents of a child who whines all the time, or who fights all the time, or who’s a rather precious little so-and-so. And yet nothing will break up a friendship faster than dissing someone’s parenting methods, or even worse, dissing their children.
I would never be so foolish as to assume that my way of parenting is the best way. My children are far from perfect (close, but not quite 100%). But there was a reason I chose to parent the way I do, and having to spend an afternoon, evening or weekend with children who do everything you specifically ask your own children not to do is challenging to say the least.
It was different when you were just friends, before the kids were around. Then it didn’t matter if your friend was the anal, clock-watching, anti-bacterial wiping germ-phobe. But when you add a few snotty nosed, sticky fingered little people to the mix, it’s suddenly a whole lot trickier. Suddenly it isn’t as much fun visiting. Over time you start to visit less, and the friendship starts to dwindle.
My children are still young enough (and my friends cool enough) for our different parenting styles not to have interfered with our friendship, but I can see the potential for significant friendship damage if things were different. If you were a very strict parent and your friend was a laid back, do-as-you-please kind of parent, it would probably drive you crazy to have her kids in your house. If you allow your children to jump on the bed and lie with their feet on the couch, it must be extremely uncomfortable to visit your friend, the Neat Freak.
We all have our ‘things’ – stuff that we can’t stand, things that we like done a certain way. We have different rules about tidying up, eating, having a snack before dinner, being a tattletale, how much is too much in terms of sweeties/TV/shouting/whining/messing, etc. My ‘thing’ is whining – I can’t stand whining! It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard for me. My kids don’t whine. They can cry, shout, demand, or stomp their feet, but they can’t whine. That is probably the hardest thing for me to handle. But then again, I’m sure that some of my friends must have similar things to say about my children. Perhaps they’re too naughty or messy. Perhaps to them, I’m too soft, laid back or indulgent. I hope not, but as I said, I’m not so foolish to believe that I’ve got this parenting thing waxed.
There are ways to deal with the friend-kid combo – there are rules that apply at each person’s house: In Aunty Susie’s house, we don’t jump on the couch. In Aunty Mary’s house, we don’t ask for sweeties or treats. Definitely no shouting at Aunty Kathy’s house! And if at all possible, no whining at Aunty Tertia’s house. The other solution is to count to 10 and be grateful that it’s your friend’s child and not your own who’s doing the shouting, crying or whining. It’s either that or a break-up with your friends, and good friends (and drinking partners) are extremely valuable. So count to 10, relax, and remember that at least at five o’clock, they’ll go home again.
Personal Blog: www.tertia.org
Winner: Best Blog in South Africa in 2008, Best Personal Blog in 2009, Finalist in Best Parenting Blog in 2010. RESOLVE Hope Award Winner for Best Book 2011