Author Topic: I'd love to be your friend, but your kid stinks! (Literally!) (Long)  (Read 5236 times)

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Slartibartfast

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This is actually two etiquette situations in one, but I'm going to present both here because one doesn't make much sense without the background of the other.  I apologize for the double-length post, but think of it as two for the price of one  :P

background: DH and I have fallen in with a group of friends, most of whom are married with kids about the same age as Babybartfast.  We all call ourselves just "The Group" and often have social events open to everyone - the coordinator/host/instigator just sends out an email to the Group and whoever wants to come, does.  Obviously we're closer to some couples than others, and there are a few couples we probably wouldn't hang out with at all if they weren't "friends of friends" and on the same mailing list, but all in all it's great.

There are suddenly five other SAHMs in the group (I used to be one of two).  This spring, I sent an email to the other five moms asking if they'd be interested in holding a weekly playdate - only two of them have toddlers (Babybartfast is two) who would be old enough to actually "play," but it would give us all a chance to hang out and chat each week.  All five said they'd be interested.  At the same time, I met another mom "Andrea" - she has both a son Babybartfast's age and an infant daughter, she seemed like she'd be nerdy enough to fit in with the rest of us  :P  After meeting her a few times, I invited her to come to the playdate sometime.  (Specifically, I wanted to see if she and her husband would be interested in joining the Group - they're relatively new here and both neat people!)

Our playdates went pretty well for the summer - one of the other Group moms (call her "Kate") almost never came because she had her older boys all day and they wouldn't be interested in hanging around with toddlers, but she did show up once or twice, without her one-year-old, and stay for half an hour or so.  As additional background, Kate is kinda related to Bianca, another one of the playdate moms (Kate's and Bianca's husbands are cousins and their families hang out quite a bit).

So etiquette issue #1: we usually rotate meeting at various people's houses, and each week we'd just say "Who wants to host next week?" and go from there.  Usually the host would send out a reminder email to get a headcount the day before, but if that person didn't do it, I would.  In early September, I figured it would just be easier to send everyone an email with the next few weeks' dates, and people could sign up for something - this would give Kate a chance to pick a week if she wanted to host.  She chose a week I would be out of town, but hey, they don't need me to have fun!  :P  She never sent out a reminder email, and I didn't either since I was out of the state at the time and didn't think about it.  When I did check (still on vacation), I found a very PA email from Kate:

Quote
As you "might" know. I hosted the playdate this week. [Bianca] attended with a dear friend of mine that just had a baby I was hoping to introduce to everyone. Noone else came and i did not get any emails that anyone had not been able to attend... I was sorely upset about this. I know I am not able to attend alot of the playdates, but that is because I also work. I took great lengths to be home in time to see you all and spend some time together. I signed up for this date months ago when the scheduale went out. Because of this, i am requesting to be removed from everyones list of invites and I will obviously not be hosting any more of these. I am sure you understand why.

Now, if she had actually been coming each week, she would have known that out of the six other playdate moms:
- two had pulled out of the group due to other commitments when fall started
- one pulled out because her son started a special school
- I was out of town
- Andrea had never actually been to Kate's house, didn't know where it was, and Kate never sent out a reminder email or an address!

Even though she hadn't heard this in person, all this information had been communicated by email at some point prior.  I sent an apology email and basically said "since three moms have temporarily had to drop out, I think the playgroup has pretty much gone on hiatus for a while."  Never heard back, and for all I know, Kate is still mad at me  :-\

Leading to etiquette issue #2: when I was chatting with some of the other moms about when we might be able to re-start the playgroup (and what to do about the Kate situation), they expressed discomfort at having Andrea as part of the group.  As much as they all like interacting with her, she just . . . doesn't tend to her kids while in playgroup.  In particular, she lets her infant daughter scream and scream, and lets her toddler son run around with a sopping wet diaper, and doesn't do anything about it.  Even with hints from other moms like "Ooh, someone's stinky!  [Checking own child] Is that you?  Nope, Andrea, I think that's [Andrea's son's name]!"  Andrea just says "Ooh, probably!" and then doesn't do anything about it.  One of the moms even offered to change Andrea's son for her, since Andrea was holding her daughter at the time, but Andrea declined the offer of "help" and her son still stank.

Now honestly, I never really "noticed" this before - I say "noticed" in quotes because once the other moms pointed it out, I realized they were right.  And as cute and well-behaved as her kids are and as wonderful a job she may be doing in parenting in other ways, it's really annoying to have a kid "crying it out" while you're trying to chat with your friends.  DH and I hosted a Group Halloween party today - Andrea and her family came, and it was the same thing all over again.  For various reasons, we only had two other couples (out of a dozen or so in the Group) able to come - it was fun, but not the "get to know everyone in the Group!" I had hoped for.

So the issue here: I can't make the other moms like Andrea.  She and her DH aren't on the Group email list yet, although if I forwarded her email on to the guy who maintains it, he'd put them on there.  In almost all other respects I think she and her DH would fit in great, and once the kids are out of diapers I expect (based on how well-behaved her toddler usually is) there wouldn't be any problem with her kids fitting in with everyone else's.  However, if I keep involving Andrea and her DH in Group events, they'll eventually really need to be on the email list, and once that happens there's no graceful way of saying "Sorry, you irritate everyone else, so you're only invited to events at my house and not anything anyone else is hosting."  There's also the issue that I've only known Andrea since this spring - we really hit it off well, but unfortunately some relationships sour upon closer acquaintance.  Because of the nature of the Group, that would be really awkward.  (I will say, as a sidenote, that the few times we've interacted with them while Andrea's DH is present, the stinky diapers have not been a problem - having two parents for two kids helps, and he's good about dealing with issues as they come up.  They still let their daughter squall, though.)

So, eHellions, what on earth do I do?  I'm probably not going to see Kate all that much anyway - she's one of the ones I probably wouldn't hang out with if we weren't both in the Group - but I don't want her to hate me.  At the same time, if she's going to carry a grudge, she's welcome to it.  And I don't know a good way to deal with the Andrea situation, particularly when she asks (like she did tonight) if we're going to be starting up our playgroup again  :-\  Any advice would be much appreciated!

secretrebel

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Re: I'd love to be your friend, but your kid stinks! (Literally!) (Long)
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2010, 06:22:35 AM »
I think you need to separate your friendships out a bit so you can see a bit more clearly what's going on with each of them individually. It's something of a geek social fallacy that everyone has to be friends with everyone else so try not to worry to much if not everyone gets on.

It seems that you have the Group which provides you with a good social mix but you're not actually friends with everyone in the group, or would pick them as friends. eg Kate

You also have other friendships outside the Group eg Andrea.

Don't worry if others in the group don't like Andrea or don't want to invite her to their events. The Group is a useful resource but it's not the ultimate social arbiter. If Andrea hits it off with others in the group, fine. If she doesn't, don;'t worry about it. If you like her, keep on inviting her to events at your place. If the baby changing is an issue speak up and say "Andrea, your little one really needs changing, could you please sort him/her out because it's starting to stink the place up".

As for the playgroup, it seems there are a couple of reasons why the formal structure wasn't working for people. Why not say to Andrea (and anyone else) that for the time being you're just going to go with organising playdates informally. You can invite Andrea and whoever you want from the group, other Group members can invite you and if Andrea has friends outside the Group (she probably does) she can invite you and them.

Remember that with fun things like having a Group that these things are supposed to be fun, not a chore. If you're feeling uncomfortable with having to always fit in with what the Group wants it's not so fun. Do your own thing some of the time and have friends that haven't been vetted by the group. Oh and remember you didn't pick Kate but you put up with her antics to keep the peace. Your Group friends can put up with Andrea or speak up about the diaper changing.

CherryRipe

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Re: I'd love to be your friend, but your kid stinks! (Literally!) (Long)
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2010, 06:44:17 AM »
As for Andrea not seeing to her kids properly, what are the Group dynamics like?  Is it normal for people to feed/change/bandage/comfort/redirect other people's kids when necessary?  If so, I wouldn't see the problem with, "Andrea, you're busy with your daughter, so I'm going to change your son--no sense letting him get a rash!"  That's not a judgemental statement, all it's saying is, "Here's X Problem, and I'm providing Y Solution."  Besides, it'll all work out in the end, even if it's not that EXACT same scenario.  I don't quite remember, but....Babybartfast is about two now, right?  So, even if she's potty-trained, there might be a day (for example) when you're all at the park, and Babybartfast falls down and skins her knee, and you forgot to pack Band-Aids, but Andrea has some.  Andrea sorts out Babybartfast, and life moves on as usual. :)

P.S., if Babybartfast is two years old now, I think it might be almost time to pick a new pseudonym for her--maybe Toddlerbartfast, or Littlebartfast, or even just Daughterbartfast, because hey, she's not going to be little forever.

guihong

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Re: I'd love to be your friend, but your kid stinks! (Literally!) (Long)
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2010, 10:18:34 AM »
Well, Kate bit off her nose to spite her face, didn't she?   Maybe you have to pull yourself out of being the one who reminds everyone else, as it will be "Oh, I don't have time to send out a reminder, but Slart will, so that's done."  You're seen as de facto leader since it was your idea.

Andrea's a tougher nut to crack  :P (not that she's a nut, I mean it's a hard situation).  If you feel close enough to her, could you tell her tactfully when you're alone that you don't want to hurt her feelings and would love to have her participate in the Group (both true), but smelly diapers are unpleasant for the child and other people, and that conversation is difficult with a squalling child?  She might really bristle up at that, but it seems she's hunting for an invite to Group.  I think it's better to just get it out than avoid her and have her wonder what's wrong.

As for BabyBartFast, she might be 16 and still be BBF.  It just rolls off the tongue. 



Slartibartfast

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Re: I'd love to be your friend, but your kid stinks! (Literally!) (Long)
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2010, 02:34:44 PM »
As for Andrea not seeing to her kids properly, what are the Group dynamics like?  Is it normal for people to feed/change/bandage/comfort/redirect other people's kids when necessary?  If so, I wouldn't see the problem with, "Andrea, you're busy with your daughter, so I'm going to change your son--no sense letting him get a rash!"  That's not a judgemental statement, all it's saying is, "Here's X Problem, and I'm providing Y Solution."  Besides, it'll all work out in the end, even if it's not that EXACT same scenario.  I don't quite remember, but....Babybartfast is about two now, right?  So, even if she's potty-trained, there might be a day (for example) when you're all at the park, and Babybartfast falls down and skins her knee, and you forgot to pack Band-Aids, but Andrea has some.  Andrea sorts out Babybartfast, and life moves on as usual. :)

P.S., if Babybartfast is two years old now, I think it might be almost time to pick a new pseudonym for her--maybe Toddlerbartfast, or Littlebartfast, or even just Daughterbartfast, because hey, she's not going to be little forever.

*sniff* You're right, but I don't like that my baby is now old enough to argue with me  :P  (Today's argument: whose picture is on the penny?  I say President Lincoln, she says daddy.  Incidentally, any man with a beard right now is "daddy.")

The Group dynamic about kids - yes, we do parent each other's kids to some extent, but not usually when it comes to biological functions.  I.e. I will happily help my friends' kids get shoes on or bandage a knee, but turn the kids over to their parents when they want juice or need a diaper change.  I think I've changed other babies' diapers once or twice but it's much ickier when it's not your own kid, KWIM?   :P

CherryRipe

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Re: I'd love to be your friend, but your kid stinks! (Literally!) (Long)
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2010, 02:38:45 PM »
As for Andrea not seeing to her kids properly, what are the Group dynamics like?  Is it normal for people to feed/change/bandage/comfort/redirect other people's kids when necessary?  If so, I wouldn't see the problem with, "Andrea, you're busy with your daughter, so I'm going to change your son--no sense letting him get a rash!"  That's not a judgemental statement, all it's saying is, "Here's X Problem, and I'm providing Y Solution."  Besides, it'll all work out in the end, even if it's not that EXACT same scenario.  I don't quite remember, but....Babybartfast is about two now, right?  So, even if she's potty-trained, there might be a day (for example) when you're all at the park, and Babybartfast falls down and skins her knee, and you forgot to pack Band-Aids, but Andrea has some.  Andrea sorts out Babybartfast, and life moves on as usual. :)

P.S., if Babybartfast is two years old now, I think it might be almost time to pick a new pseudonym for her--maybe Toddlerbartfast, or Littlebartfast, or even just Daughterbartfast, because hey, she's not going to be little forever.

*sniff* You're right, but I don't like that my baby is now old enough to argue with me  :P  (Today's argument: whose picture is on the penny?  I say President Lincoln, she says daddy.  Incidentally, any man with a beard right now is "daddy.")

The Group dynamic about kids - yes, we do parent each other's kids to some extent, but not usually when it comes to biological functions.  I.e. I will happily help my friends' kids get shoes on or bandage a knee, but turn the kids over to their parents when they want juice or need a diaper change.  I think I've changed other babies' diapers once or twice but it's much ickier when it's not your own kid, KWIM?   :P

I don't really KWYM, because I don't have a kid--all bodily waste is gross to me.  As for the "Daddy" thing.....I see what you mean.  When I was three, I believed that the picture on the KFC bucket was of my dad.  I also didn't understsand photography/graphics that well, so I believed that he worked at KFC, and his job was to somehow project himself onto the spinning bucket, where his face would be projected for all the world to see, in order to encourage them to buy grease-laden chicken.

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Re: I'd love to be your friend, but your kid stinks! (Literally!) (Long)
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2010, 02:52:06 PM »
Just as an aside, I don't see Kate's email as PA at all, I think she was pretty straightforward with why she was upset and at whom (all of you). She also didn't hint about wanting an apology or being begged to stay. She might have been mistaken about some issues, but I don't see PA there at all.

Aquamarine

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Re: I'd love to be your friend, but your kid stinks! (Literally!) (Long)
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2010, 04:57:57 PM »
I can understand why the others are reluctant to have Andrea as part of the group.  Someone who doesn't keep their child clean or supervise them properly is really not someone I want around my own kids and I don't really want to deal with it either.  If the group doesn't care for her I don't see the problem with excluding her from the group, not everyone is a good fit, perhaps she should find another group.

It's a playgroup, the members shouldn't have to worry about tolerating things that don't seem to jive with the group dynamics and sentiments.
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CherryRipe

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Re: I'd love to be your friend, but your kid stinks! (Literally!) (Long)
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2010, 05:39:46 PM »
I can understand why the others are reluctant to have Andrea as part of the group.  Someone who doesn't keep their child clean or supervise them properly is really not someone I want around my own kids and I don't really want to deal with it either.  If the group doesn't care for her I don't see the problem with excluding her from the group, not everyone is a good fit, perhaps she should find another group.

It's a playgroup, the members shouldn't have to worry about tolerating things that don't seem to jive with the group dynamics and sentiments.

You know what?  You're right.  Today, Andrea might be failing to change her son when he wets himself (or worse).  Tomorrow, she might be allowing him to play in a mud puddle and track it everywhere.  In the future, the problem might be something more serious, or contagious, like untreated head lice.  I'm not trying to assume what she's going to do, or judge her negatively, but every parent has different values, and it seems like personal hygiene in children just isn't that important to Andrea.

TootsNYC

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Re: I'd love to be your friend, but your kid stinks! (Literally!) (Long)
« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2010, 10:48:15 PM »
I can understand why the others are reluctant to have Andrea as part of the group.  Someone who doesn't keep their child clean or supervise them properly is really not someone I want around my own kids and I don't really want to deal with it either.  If the group doesn't care for her I don't see the problem with excluding her from the group, not everyone is a good fit, perhaps she should find another group.

It's a playgroup, the members shouldn't have to worry about tolerating things that don't seem to jive with the group dynamics and sentiments.

You know what?  You're right.  Today, Andrea might be failing to change her son when he wets himself (or worse).  Tomorrow, she might be allowing him to play in a mud puddle and track it everywhere.  In the future, the problem might be something more serious, or contagious, like untreated head lice.  I'm not trying to assume what she's going to do, or judge her negatively, but every parent has different values, and it seems like personal hygiene in children just isn't that important to Andrea.

I agree with this. People ought to be able to choose to associate with people whose judgment they trust and whose and standards they want to be around. They are completely entitled to judge Andrea negatively based on what they see her do.

(for one thing, she can't take a hint--who wants to be in a mommy group with someone that obtuse? It's going to make all sorts of issues difficult in the future.

I think you owe it to the other people to stop inviting her. The group is clearly speaking; I think you are obligated to honor it. If YOU want to get together w/ Andrea at other times, etc, feel free.

Slartibartfast

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Re: I'd love to be your friend, but your kid stinks! (Literally!) (Long)
« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2010, 11:53:06 PM »
Part of the complication is that Andrea and I are in the same hobby group, which meets monthly an hour away - we've been carpooling for the last few meetings, which is great.  If/when it becomes clear she and her DH aren't really welcome in the Group . . . I'll still have to see her at the hobby meetings, at the very least, and it's not THAT big a hobby group.  I suspect for the time being I can get along with just sporadically calling her up to get together (just the two of us) and maybe occasionally inviting her and her DH to events at my house, but eventually it's going to come to light that their exclusion from the Group's email listserv is not just a matter of someone taking a while to add their names  :-\

secretrebel

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Re: I'd love to be your friend, but your kid stinks! (Literally!) (Long)
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2010, 07:35:13 AM »
Hey Slartibartfast, it seems as though you haven't responded to anything in my comment. Maybe it didn't speak to you at all but I did try to address some of the group issues. If I'm just way off base, I'm sorry.

To me it really seems as though the need for everyone to be part of the group is the problem here. Do you think Andrea is assuming she'll be added to the group list or have you told her she will be?

When you say:
"  If/when it becomes clear she and her DH aren't really welcome in the Group . . . I'll still have to see her at the hobby meetings, at the very least, and it's not THAT big a hobby group."

Does that mean that if she's not welcome in the group you don't want to spend time with her outside the group either? Or do you think things will become awkward and she won't want to spend time with you. Can't you say something like "not all my friends are in Group and you don't have to be in the group to be my friend" or don't you feel that way?

DangerMouth

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Re: I'd love to be your friend, but your kid stinks! (Literally!) (Long)
« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2010, 09:16:49 AM »
I thought that meant that the OP would feel awkward if it were obvious that Andrea was being left out of one group while still being part of the other?

ShadesOfGrey

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Re: I'd love to be your friend, but your kid stinks! (Literally!) (Long)
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2010, 09:34:35 AM »
can you step down from hosting it?  Then you can tell Andrea that you're not sure what's up, because you dont really organize it any more.
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Slartibartfast

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Re: I'd love to be your friend, but your kid stinks! (Literally!) (Long)
« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2010, 11:35:37 AM »
Oops!  Sorry, Secretrebel, I didn't reply to your post specifically because you pretty much hit the nail on the head - that's pretty much exactly what I did tell Andrea (that we should get together sometimes for an individual playdate, but the weekly group had pretty much dissolved).

I guess what I'm struggling with most is the group dynamic - if someone invites someone else to join your (hypothetical "you") established social circle and it just doesn't work out, becomes awkward, etc, would you feel that the awkwardness was their fault, at least to some extent?  Because the invitations to the Group all go out by email listserv, it's not as simple as individual members just leaving Andrea's name off their invites - if they send something out the Group, it goes to everyone.  And if it turned into a situation where Andrea and her DH loved coming to get-togethers but nobody else *really* wanted them there . . . I think I would feel responsible for that.  It would also be a much more awkward situation to resolve than it is already.  (And yes, she does know about the email list.)