Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Critical Mom's Guide to Your Kids' Friends

"Andreas* has been acting even weirder than usual," said my middle child.
"Well, that's not surprising," said I, "his mother just remarried two days ago."
"Yeah--he wanted her back with his father and now she's married to this old guy, seventy years old!" 
"Why is that?" says my eight-year-old daughter.  "Are you and Daddy going to get a divorce?"
We are sitting around the table together eating chicken curry. 
"No," I say.  "I love Daddy.  We are not getting a divorce."
"But Andreas's parents did.  Prove that you love Daddy.  Kiss him."  So I stand up, walk over to my husband, who is chewing a mouthful, and wait so he can swallow.
"You should kiss him now!" yells the eight-year-old, for whom only a kiss is proof positive that the prince is still in love with the princess.  The ten-year-old has figured this out and one eyebrow creeps up.
"No, Mommy doesn't love him!  They're getting a divorce!  She just wants his money!  She married him so she could use him out!"  The latter is a makeshift translation of a German verb, "ausnutzen," which means to use a person.  The eight year old looks worried, so, having already kissed my husband, I get to kiss him again.  The eight-year-old looks reassured; the ten-year-old bored, since he had been hoping to get his sister into a snit. Meanwhile, Andreas invited our middle kid, his best friend, to the wedding, which Andreas had announced as something "really boring."
Then there's Gina.  Gina's Dad is a single father on welfare who appears to have attention deficit disorder; he's constantly in motion and when we once talked about him going back to school he said he could never sit still that long.  He dumps Gina at school by seven a.m. and picks her up at five p.m.--the latest possible, and if the school had aftercare until six, he'd leave her there until then.  Gina clutches the arm of any available adult and has the saddest face I've ever seen on a child.  She told us her mother left her after her baptism.  Once I picked her up at the school's aftercare program because my daughter had invited her to play at our house.  She was in the middle of a drawing, apparently very concentrated, surrounded by crayons of every color, and I hardly wanted to interrupt her.  But when she saw me she sat straight up and asked, "When can we go?"  When I answered "Now," she crumpled her drawing, tossed it over her shoulder and gave a happy sigh. 
Justus was the one who acquired a scar through my middle son.  Before the scar, my son was invited to Justus's seventh birthday party, which consisted in letting little boys run around the garden until they dropped from exhaustion while the mothers enjoyed coffee and cake.  Justus wandered in after a while and said, "I need the bathroom."  His pants were completely soaked with pee.  His mother just laughed, "So how come?" she asked.  Apparently Justus made a habit of peeing in his pants, and his parents made a habit of finding this amusing.  When Justus was invited to my middle son's birthday party, his mother wouldn't let him come, because my kid had boasted that plans involved watching a DVD of one of the Star Wars films geared for older children, 12 and up.  No such plans existed, but Justus's mom would not back down. 
The fattest children always arrive for a play date with huge plastic bags of gummy bears and chocolate-covered marshmallows.  And I thank them, offer them sliced apples and cucumbers sometime during their visit, and once they've gone upstairs to play, the candy goes right in the garbage pail.

*no real names


  1. Gina would give up art for human connection. The poor kid.

  2. It is so hard to deal with kids and their friends going through divorce. My daughter's best friend went through it, and I swear my daughter acted like she was in a family meltdown as well!

  3. Yes! That's it! Whenever some awful thing happens with their friends, they're aware that the same thing could, theoretically, happen to them. Well, we're the same, I guess. When the Yoselyn Ortega murders occurred, I obsessed about every babysitter I had ever hired in the last fourteen years.
    Maybe your daughter is especially sympathetic--she wants to help her friend, and maybe feels like she can absorb some of the pain. Just a thought--I could be in left field here. Thanks for writing!