Is friendship salvageable after being critical of friend's child?

Jamie - posted on 07/17/2012 ( 7 moms have responded )

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My oldest and dearest friend's oldest child is a boy 1 1/2 years older than my first child, a daughter. When we would get together, which required an over night stay at each other's houses due to living 4 hours away from one another, her son would bite, push, kick, hit, and emotionally torment my daughter. At first, I thought it was a stage he was going through, but the attacks over the years only became more cunning and vicious. Soon it went from physical attacks to include psychological attacks where for example on one occasion he whispered in her ear that he was going to take her favorite stuffed bunny away from her when nobody was looking and dismember him. Her son had problems with other kids at school and play group too.
My friend was struggling as well with all of it and would call me in tears not knowing what to do. She loves her son, but didn't want to take him to be seen by a professional. I did my best to point her in the direction of a mental healthcare provider for him, but nobody in her family would even recognize that there was a problem and she wanted to see it as him just acting like a boy and would get over it.
She came to visit for a birthday party and her son stood up while my daughter was opening presents and slugged her right in the face. That same day I walked into the room and my daughter was in the fetal position as he was getting a running start and preparing to kick her in the stomach again. I tried to talk to my friend about it and her response was that there wasn't even any blood spilled. I let her know how flawed i felt that thinking was and hoped for some resolution, but I knew what a terrible position she was in. The very next visit was at her house and in the presence of the grandmother and the boy's father he continually ran into her with large toys and such.
I went home and my husband put his foot down. He had heard enough. I felt guilty for not having protected my daughter and I began to draft a letter to my friend regarding her son that was harsh and to the point. I sent it the next day.
We talked about it and it's been about 3 years. We visit rarely and never with my children, but the damage has been done. I feel I let my daughter down and my friend and wished I had handled the entire situation differently from the beginning. I rectified the situation with my daughter, but I'm not sure if my friendship is salvageable at this point. Any ideas?

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Kelina - posted on 07/18/2012

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have the two of you tried a girls night to try and get closer again? going somewhere where you can talk and have fun might help. Be kids again, go mini golfing, do things together that you liked to do when you were young, it might help you get past the awkwardness of it and talk.

Stifler's - posted on 07/17/2012

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I wouldn't want to be her freaking friend anymore. LOL. I'd want my child as far away from hers as possible.

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Laura - posted on 07/20/2012

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As uncomfortable as this situation is for both families, please encourage your friend to get professional help for her son. I have a son that had some pretty sever behavioral issues, and found out that he was Autistic. The situations kids have socially now will make a huge difference to them as adults. There is a ton of help out there, please encourage your friend not to wait. I hope the 2 of you can still be friiends. Friends are like a gift from God, dont throw her away! Good luck!

Monica - posted on 07/19/2012

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Based on how you say that you drafted the letter, it doesn't sound as though you were demonizing the child but instead stated a hard truth that needed to be said. Standing up to our dearest friends and loved ones is probably the hardest thing any of us have to do. Nevertheless, you do no favors to your friend by keeping silent, and as a mother you not simply stand by and pretend that it was perfectly okay for your daughter to be abused. It's your job to protect her, even if she didn't feel the need to be protected. That being said, the truth can hurt, but it can also be the impetus for change. If your friend has indeed gotten the help her son needs, then your letter may have been the catalyst to help your friend work harder to find a resolution to her son's issues. Now that things have calmed down, this would be a great time to get together without the kids and begin repairing the bridges of friendship. Go to a place and/or do an activity that brings about good memories. Keep the conversation light and positive and don't initiate conversations that might bring up old resentments. Focus on how much the children have grown and changed and focus on their achievements. Over time the awkwardness will fade and your friend may feel relaxed enough to give you a clearer picture of how her son has progressed and what he still struggles with. Which will in turn help you decide how and when (or if) the children can be reintroduced to one another.
Good luck!

Jamie - posted on 07/18/2012

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Thank you for your thoughtful replies. She did listen and wanted to understand thoroughly. As you can imagine, she was hurt deeply by what I had written. To be clear, my letter wasn't embellished, it was a statement of what had transpired in the past and that I couldn't expose my kids to that anymore. That I cared for her deeply, but I had to protect my children. She told me that she understood that I didn't want to have my children used to attempt to develop her son's conscience. I wasn't sure what to say to that.
Also, she truly did everything she could short of medicating him to modify his behavior. I would joke that she had researched for her son and tried so many different avenues that she could have earned her Ph.D on him. I don't know how he ever had the opportunity to do any of this stuff either, because she is such a hawk eye when it comes to him ( She also has a set of twins that are 3 years younger.). He has been diagnosed with ADHD since and is taking medication now. She says that he's getting better and maturing and I'm happy for that.
We've been like sisters since we were 12 yrs. old and shared every major milestone in our lives. It's evil to demonize a child in my opinion, and I'm not proud of that.

Kelina - posted on 07/17/2012

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that depends did she listen? has she acknowledged in any way that what her son was doing was wrong and she should have dealt with it? is he still a vicious little monster? or did she deny the whole thing and still lets him get away with this behaviour? If the latter then I'd say no. When you're a parent your kids come first even if it means that putting them first means acknowledging some hard truths. If she's refusing the knowledge that her own eyes and people are presenting her with, then chances are she won't forgive you for telling it to her until she does.

Elfrieda - posted on 07/17/2012

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I don't know if you can be her friend after basically saying, "Your child is evil." I can imagine spending time together apart from kids or when they're older, but it would be easier if you lived closer together. I have friends who have rough kids (not to the extent that you describe, but not so I trust my toddler around them) and I just don't let them be together without me watching. Also I have cuffed the girl in the head (in front of her mom) for trying to knock my son over with a wooden child's table, or scolded the boy for throwing rocks. I'm friends with their parents, but we're not going to be really close if I can't relax because I'm afraid their children will harm my child, and if they feel I'm too protective of him. Maybe in a few years things will change, but we're friendly for now but not super-close. But if I told them "your children are horrible and I hate them" I can't imagine us staying friends. (also, I don't hate them, I just think they need better boundaries) Some things can't be un-said, but maybe she can move past it especially if she's gotten help for him and she sees the improvement in the past 3 years.



edited to add: the boy DOES sound evil. Definitely keep your daughter away from any alone-time with him, but if you do it politely maybe you can still be friends with his mom.

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