“I’m glad to hear your son is happy, especially after all the problems he had,” said Aidan. Our children were friends during their first year of preschool, but weren’t in the same class for the years that followed. Sure, they could have remained friends, but preschoolers are fickle and Aidan and his wife never made any effort to keep the boys’ friendship alive.
As Aidan referenced the mysterious problems my son had, blood shot from my toes to my head and my palms got sweaty and hot. Since I had no idea what he was talking about, his comments didn’t seem kind.
“Huh?” I responded, assuming he’ll cop to a mea culpa and realise he was thinking of another kid.
He didn’t. Instead, he continued on.
“When our boys were friends, your son had all those problems,” he said, digging a deeper hole. “Good to hear things are better.” His words stung and I excused myself, walked away, and didn’t speak to him or his wife for the rest of the night.
That night I could barely sleep. My son never had any problems that expanded past normal kid stuff. But that conversation had me wondering what other people thought of my kid and whether my son and Aidan’s son didn’t stay friends because my son was somehow perceived to have issues.
I assumed Aidan or his wife would call or email me the next day and apologise for their mistake. They didn’t. I see them at soccer practice every week, surely they’ll say something then, I thought. Instead, they acted as if nothing had happened at all. Clearly to them, nothing had happened.
I think about the conversation a lot and can’t quite get it out of my head. I feel defensive and angry, but mostly protective of my kid. I still have no idea what he was talking about. And I still can’t believe that conversation actually happened. I’ve always lived by the rule that parents shouldn’t speak poorly about other people’s kids. But Aidan’s unkind remarks about my son remind me that we haven’t all agreed to that rule. It’s upsetting, but true.
I toy with the idea of saying something to Aidan and his wife. Truthfully, when our kids were friends their child had a lot of problems about which everyone in our circle of friends was kind. So it feels extra hurtful that they would speak so flippantly about my son when everyone was so respectful of theirs. But the truth is, I don’t know what confronting them would get me. They broke a cardinal rule, in my opinion, about speaking unkindly about other people’s children. I don’t want to be friends with them anyhow.
Kids should be off limits. Their parents, on the other hand? That’s another story.
Has a friend or acquaintance ever spoken negatively about your child to you? How did you react?