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Friend tension

So I have a friend — J — whom I love. But she’s pushy. I’m pretty pushy, but she’s ridiculously pushy. She often gives direct orders on how I should care for my child. She who is childless. Mostly I ignore her or gently say, “I’ve got it, thanks.” But today she went over a line and I’m not sure I reacted correctly.

We- The Child and I — were out for brunch with her and I asked if it was okay to stop at Crate and Barrel on the way back. (Needed some prep bowls.) The Child behaved herself in a store full of shiny bright things all at toddler level, but when I scooped her up to go out she started spazzing, shouting “No, no, no!” to every suggestion.

I was perfectly prepared to just carry her out — it’s not the first time I’ve dealt with toddler meltdown, nor the last, I suspect — but J said, “Here, give her to me.”

I was willing to try it. Sometimes distraction works. But The Child began with the “No, no no nonono!” and added flailing to the picture. Then a flail landed on my nose and she got an “OW!” reaction out of me. So she hauled back to do it again. (This is a new thing — deliberate smacking. I’m unthrilled.)

As I was readjusting my glasses and about to tell her “No! Gentle with Mommy!” J stepped in — to do what, I’m not sure. But the nascent flail was about to smack J in the face. J grabbed The Child’s arm — perfectly reasonable, I think, to prevent face smackage, though she could have just stepped back — and then J crossed the line. She took two fingers and tapped The Child’s wrist.

Now, it was so gentle as to be perfectly soundless. The Child gets rougher treatment every time I pick her up to tickle her tummy. But the intent was to punish. The intent was violent. And that was something she has never encountered before. And I hope never will again.

I took a step back and said, in the calmest voice I have, “We do not hit.” J nodded, thinking I was talking to The Child. I remained perfectly calm and kept my eyes on J. “Ever. Not even a tap on the wrist.”

J looked at me with an unreadable glance and things were silent for a second. Then there was more “Nonononono!” and I busied myself with child wrangling. The walk back to the subway was fraught with unspoken tension. We all acted like it had never happened but J found every opportunity to “correct” me on a variety of things — she told me to lower my voice when we were on the train, she dismissed my idea for some friends’ honeymoon with a snort, that sort of thing.

I know I was not wrong to tell her not to hit my daughter. Let’s not even get into the absurdity of telling someone hitting is wrong by hitting them. It’s simply and completely and utterly and wholly and totally and other adverbs I can’t come up with right now WRONG to hit another person’s child, regardless of your or their position on corporal punishment. What I’m not sure is if I conveyed my anger properly.

I was calm and quiet, which is usually a good sign that I’m very serious about an issue. I’m almost never calm and quiet. I feel I got my message across clearly without histrionics and without damaging the friendship, but without leaving even a hint of a margin of doubt as to how I felt. I didn’t want to berate her but I was sort of astounded by the liberties she took. She’s a dear friend — for all her pushiness, she’s the one who came over when The Husband went to the ER for the shoulder, she drops by with soup when I’m sick, hell, she offered to scrub my bathroom after I had a miscarriage! She is incredibly kind and generous, thoughtful, and sweet. But she hit my kid!

Not sure if I should bring it up again. I think I handled it right and that there’s nothing else to say. But now I’ve got to manage to get hold of my anger at her. I have a temper and an astounding ability to hold a grudge. I can’t let that interfere with our friendship.

Unless, of course, she does it again.

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Categories: friends, motherhood
  1. August 24, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    I am not an expert. But my feeling is you handled it right. From what I understand the child isn’t in a stage when punishment will work as a deterant. The child is innocent and doesn’t know what she is doing. So, punishment is not the solution. What is needed is patience and understanding on part of elders. Such unforeseen rub-ins do happen with friends, I have had many myself. You should calmly tell her, that there is no point in punishing a kid like that.

  2. August 24, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    I also think you handled this well. She crossed a line, but her intent may have been good. My friend E actually suggested that we bite M when she found out he bit a kid at school, because her parents did that to her sister 30 years ago and she stopped biting. If J is who I think she might be, I’m sure her heart was in the right place, even if her head was not.

    I think a lot of childless friends have no clue, and therefore do what their parents did, because they lack the information that we have as parents.

    I probably would have flipped out though–and I’m not 100% opposed to giving M a tap now and then either. (It is a last resort, and not something I’m proud of, but there you go.)But if someone else did? Way out of line.

  3. C'tina
    August 24, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    I agree, you did the right thing. Next time it’s time to leave a store….tell The Child, “Let’s go home and clean our belly buttons!!” in a sing song voice…god–my boys are 10 and 6… and the whole redirecting schtick can get soooo tiring, at least for me…they are finally getting the idea that the reason/answer for about half of issues is “because I said so”. The other half we communicate and get our various points across,…then about 1/3 of that time is still “because I said so”, for now,with the option to revisit the situation after I’ve had something to eat. The other 2/3 is compromise and ways to earn privilidges TBD after I’ve eaten .

  4. August 25, 2007 at 2:17 am

    You did good!!

  5. August 26, 2007 at 12:45 am

    I don’t think you could have handled it better. J sounds a lot like my sister who doesn’t have kids. I usually end up fuming at her condescending directives on parenting with my son. She has really been there for us when we needed it, but that also makes her feel as if she has free reign over how to handle our kid, which is not really cool.

    You’re friend, if this helps at all, surely did not think she was doing anything harmful. I think her weirdness on the way back was due to some embarrassment on her part for her behavior. Clearly, if you were in favor of punishment, it’s not her place to dish it out.

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