Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A No Win Situation

(Picture courtesy of hainsworth.com)

Anne and Sue once were extremely friendly towards one another when Anne had two children and Sue had one child. Sue would routinely bring her child over to Anne's house so that all the children could play together.

Anne routinely did acts of kindness for Sue and was a paradigm of thoughtfulness. Relations between the two, however, began to become strained when Anne had another child and Sue only had one.

While Sue's tendency for overparenting remained somewhat latent when Anne had two children, it became fully manifest when Anne had her third child. It became evident that Sue viewed Anne's second child with a bit of contempt and made sure to always wash her child's hands with Purell lotion after her child had contact with Anne's child.

Picking up on this negative vibe, Anne's child grew to dislike Sue and the occasions when Sue would bring her child by since she was the quintessential "helicopter mommy". Anne's child would sometimes act out towards Sue's child since Anne's child could not yet verbalize displeasure with the hovering. Interestingly though, Sue's husband (Steve) did not hover and Anne's child would not act out towards the the child during the occasions when the child was being watched by Steve.

The negative vibe was not a figment of Anne's imagination. It was palpable even to Anne's husband and other neighbors who could feel it in the air during the occasions Sue brought her child by.

Sue became pregnant with he second child and a deep freeze ensued in her relationship with Anne. If they were together in a group of people, Sue would speak to everyone with the exception of Anne. If Anne walked into a room, Sue would walk out.

Despite all of this, Anne still attempted to restore the relationship and brought the issue up directly with Sue face to face. Sue did not even acknowledge the problem and suggested that it was Anne's issue.

Months passed by and Sue had her baby. Wheeling her stroller over in front of Anne's house with her two children, Anne's child once again immediately sensed the negative vibe and acted out towards Sue's older child.

Anne now feels at a loss since there is a no win situation. What does she do?

1. Go inside every time Sue brings her children by? [downside: this makes her a prisoner in her own neighborhood].

2. Let her child continually go after Sue's child so Sue will not desire to come by anymore [downside: this allows a child to misbehave, the opposite of what Anne is trying to instill in the child]

3. Tell Sue directly not to come by if she is going to be hovering. [downside: direct confrontation is unpleasant]

4. Force herself to act friendly to Sue. [downside: Anne feels she is being fake by doing so]


At May 15, 2007 at 8:24:00 AM EDT, Blogger torontopearl said...

OY, what a situation... REALLY a no-win situation.
Let Anne just be civil, say hello --as no doubt she would-- but not prolong any contact, if that's at all possible. If Sue begins to sense any change from Anne, let her confront Anne. It isn't a healthy situation all around -- with the original green-eyed monster hovering by Anne when she had two kids and Sue only had one.
Sometimes actions speak louder than words...

Thanks to you, I now have another word in my vocabulary -- Helicopter Mommy. I never heard the term before; I'd coined my own and called that type of person a "Hovercraft!"

At May 15, 2007 at 9:22:00 AM EDT, Blogger Unknown said...

If direct confrontation is unpleasant and not productive, it might still be useful (depending on the situation!) to send a note. Composing the note and revising it a few times can lead to something worth sending.

At May 15, 2007 at 10:31:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just had a flashback to my childhood: my "best friend" had a younger brother who used to torment us unless his Mom kept him out of our hair.

I think this is the kind of situation that will sort itself out naturally as the kids get older (at least, I hope so). Kids of different ages and sexes often simply don't play together very well.

Are the kids all together in the same room or yard? Can they be separated (e.g., the two older kids go to a different area of the house to play)?

Instead of waiting for "drop-in" visits, perhaps Anne could arrange a play date at Sue's house for the older kids; or, at Anne's house, maybe Child #2 could have a friend of his own age and sex visit at the same time.

If the kids are all together, could Anne have some "special" toys or activities in reserve, such as an arts & crafts project, so they all could work/play side by side, noncompetitively?

The key is to keep Child #2 happily occupied so he won't be jealous of the friendship of the older two.

And, by the way, I'd look for ways to keep the visiting Mom (Sue) occupied, too, so she won't be hovering over the kids.

And, sadly, it sounds like the relationship between Anne and Sue has really soured, even though Anne has done her best to revive it. They may be members of the same community, but there's no need to force a friendship where none exists, especially if the kids aren't getting along either. It may be best to just "let it go." Anne can remain cordial and say "hello" when they meet, without encouraging the kids to play together at all.

Time may be Anne's best ally; as the kids get older, they won't need the same level of supervision. And as Sue's family grows, she may learn to relax a bit and let the kids work out their own solutions.

At May 15, 2007 at 7:40:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thank you all for your feeback.

Shoshana (Bershad): I forwarded your reply to Anne and she thought your advice at the end of your comment was very helpful.


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