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  • Why Don’t My Kids Understand How Cool I Am?

    By Meredith Bland
    meredith bland

    It took us ten years to get here, but it has finally happened: my kids no longer think I’m cool. In fact, they think I am really, truly, mind-numbingly uncool.

    It became official this morning while my daughter was looking at her iPad. “Oh, no,” she cried, “Gabe the Dog died!”

    “Gabe the Dog?” I asked, “What’s that?”

    “You know, the dog from YouTube? The one who barks songs?”

    “He did what, now? What songs? Like, popular songs?”

    Sigh. “Never mind, Mom.”

    And you know exactly how that “Never mind, Mom” sounded. This wasn’t a “Never mind, Mom,” as in “Never mind, Mom. I realize that a dog whose barks are edited the to the tunes of current hit songs doesn’t even make the top one thousand things you think about on a daily basis.” It was more of a “Never mind, Mom. I won’t trouble you with this because I know you need to focus all of your attention on making sure you can breathe with your mouth closed.”

    How did this happen? It seems like just the other day my kids were telling me they wanted to live with me forever, an idea that, yes, horrified me but also touched my heart. Now, all of a sudden, they don’t even want to go shopping with me for fear that I will do something humiliating like hold up a plain white tee-shirt and ask if they like it. Are they embarrassed because their mother, who has an appreciation for fashion’s classic, basic pieces, has foolishly offered them a suggestion? Or is it because I occasionally ask these questions using cool, old-school nicknames like “Benny Bear” and “Meggy Poo”? I think we can all agree that there’s no way of knowing.

    I could almost empathize with them if I was, in fact, doing something embarrassing. At some point, most children become humiliated by the fact that their parents live and walk amongst us.

    I certainly remember feeling that way about my mom when I was a kid. The difference is that my mother used to dance in the grocery store when they played songs like “The Twist” and “All Shook Up,” whereas when I dance in the grocery store, it’s to “Oops…I Did It Again” and “Billie Jean.” It’s completely different.

    I always assumed that if or when my kids did eventually become embarrassed of me, it would be because they were too young to understand what makes me such a rad mom. I figured that they just wouldn’t get how awesome it is to have a mom how swears not just out of anger, but as a necessary seasoning for everyday language. Instead, it seems that they understand exactly who I am and have still decided that I am a full-bore nerd, which is unbelievable because I just used “rad” in a sentence. Those kids see me out there living my best life, and they would still prefer that I not speak to other people in their presence.

    It doesn’t make any ding dang sense.

    It’s especially hard to accept all of this when you consider the journey I took to become such a cool mom. The fact is, I wasn’t particularly cool growing up. I wasn’t part of the popular crowd and I wore turtlenecks long past their shelf-date. (I even wore a turtleneck “dickie” for a while. Google them. They’re appalling.)

    But once I grew up and got out of college I did some really cool stuff: I self-consciously bounced around to Lauryn Hill and The Roots in concert. I rode on the roof of a car, holding on for dear life to the wrist of a boy who was using his hand to hold on to my more attractive friend. I told a Frenchman to go f**k himself, in French, in Paris, on New Year’s Eve, after he hit on my more attractive friend. I turned down cocaine, once, dammit!

    And therein lies the problem: I am so cool that I can’t tell my children all the reasons why I’m cool until they are grown and/or I am on my deathbed. Sure, I can drop hints about my coolness with comments like, “Oh yeah, I’ve had alcohol before.” But can I tell them about the time I drank so much strawberry-flavored alcohol that I threw up in a college shower after putting strawberry-scented shampoo in my hair the next morning? No, I cannot. And that story is awesome.

    Yes, I’ve done things these kids wouldn’t believe, because they’re 10-years-old and don’t know what a “hastily aborted threesome” is yet. No, I have to bide my time, wearing ripped jeans, calling them “dude,” and singing every word of “Rapper’s Delight” in the carpool lane till they are old enough for me to whisper in their ears, “Psst…while you’re getting my walker, I want to make sure you know that you should never get a tattoo in Ireland from an old man with bad vision and his drawing arm in a sling. Ask me how I know.”

    The high-fives are coming. They might not arrive for another ten years, but they are coming and they will be heartfelt and plentiful. And then these kids, these kids who say, “Mom, could you not do that” on an almost-daily basis, then they’ll be sorry.

    Meredith BlandMeredith Bland is a freelance writer whose work has appeared at Scary Mommy; Cosmo.comTime.com; Brain, Mother; and The Rumpus, among others. She lives in Seattle with her husband and two kids.
  • When a Mean Girl Excludes You From a Group of Friends

    What should you do when you’re being excluded by friends?

    UPDATE (2019): FIND NINA AND HER COLUMN AT HER NEW FRIENDSHIP ADVICE SITE

     

    Our advice columnist Nina Badzin is back with a dilemma from a woman who moved to her husband’s hometown and inherited his less-than-friendly group of friends. She likes some of them, but one “mean girl” in particular seems determined to exclude our letter writer.

    Nina is always accepting anonymous questions here.  

    her take mean girl

     

    Dear Nina,

    When my husband and I moved to his hometown, I knew nobody here. His group is generally very welcoming to all newcomers. I’ve seen strong friendships form among other newcomers and “old timers.” But as one of the first women in the group to have a baby, I was quickly left out. This was understandable (sadly) until other women also became mothers and still left me out.

    For nearly a year, a “powerful” or at least “controlling,” woman in my husband’s friend group has been excluding me, pretty blatantly, since she too became a mother. My husband and I have no idea why. It is pretty clear to us that she’s trying to engineer the social group to exclude me. She plans things without including me and without my husband now too, by extension. They used to be good friends.

    I do not feel I’m missing out on her friendship, but what upsets me (and my husband very much), is that she is trying to close the whole group off from us. My husband’s best friend has a fiancée, and naturally we two couples have grown closer as a group of four. The excluder is now becoming very buddy-buddy with this new fiancée, excluding me. It seems very deliberate. The fiancée is “new” and doesn’t realize this, of course. It is not her problem, but I can see how it will get awkward fast.

    There is so much more detail, but it is too difficult to explain in writing. Basically, our group dynamic is getting messed up by a self-centered person who fancies herself an “influencer.” Having no other family or friends around and the reality of how difficult it is to start from scratch making friends as new parents who are busy with our children, this situation is really harmful to us. My husband is so angry and upset and has tried to find out what the deal is, but it’s a mystery. I am not close enough to Excluder to ask her directly. What should we do?

    Tired of Getting Excluded

    Dear Tired of Getting Excluded,

    The Allure of His Friendship Group

    The temptation to make your husband’s group your group makes perfect sense. Almost 18 years ago when I moved to my husband’s hometown, I was distraught when I realized he had no such group to make for an easy transition to my new town.

    Although my husband (fiancée at the time) and I had spoken about that reality of starting over before we arrived in Minneapolis, I guess I thought he was being hyperbolic—as if by “no group” he meant, “only a few of them moved back to town or never left.”

    Nope. He meant no friendship group, not even a small one. He had been living away from Minneapolis for a decade already, and although he had a few friends from the old days, I really did have to create my own social life. And it was hard. On the positive side, I can tell you now, 18 years later, I feel very much at home in Minnesota. And it did not take more than a few years. I promise.

    I used to tell my new-to-town story with a “woe is me” slant, but now that I’ve read your letter, I’m going to stop telling it that way. Maybe it’s easier and better to start from zero; you get to make your own way with no expectations to be friends with people your significant other met at some point in childhood or adolescence.

    Mean Girls and Being Excluded By Friends

    I am thrilled you put “powerful” and “controlling” in quotes because in these cases of friend-group power plays, people only have the influence over us we hand them on a platter. Her power isn’t real. Her control also isn’t real unless you allow this situation to control you. She might control others’ actions, but you get to make your own decisions.

    It’s time to stop hoping your husband’s group will become your inner circle. Excluder sounds awful, but what are we to make of these women who are following Excluder? I also think it’s time your husband make some new friends, but as I said, you can only control YOU.

    I’m not even going to bother arming you with tips on dealing directly with Excluder. She’s a classic mean girl. I agree that it seems as though she doesn’t like you. We don’t know why. I want you to decide not to care. There’s no way you can ask her what her problem is without sounding paranoid or insecure. I want you to rise above needing an explantation from her. She would not likely tell you the truth anyway. She has her reasons and those reasons are her business. I am willing to bet those reasons are more about her than you anyway.

    Listen, not everyone has good chemistry. There were all kinds of women who didn’t care for me when I moved to town. Some still don’t, I’m sure. I learned to make peace with the fact that chemistry is mysterious and things don’t always work out as we hope. Friend plates get full. We say the wrong thing one time and people don’t forget. Haven’t there been people you didn’t want to pursue a friendship with for reasons you could hardly articulate? I know that has been true for me. We have to allow others the same space. The worst thing you can do for your social life is overly focus on this one group of friends. It’s time to let this crew go, and start your search for real connections.

    Your New Friends Do Not Need To Fall Into One Friendship Group

    This was a great question to run by mom who is often-quoted in this column. She met my father when she was a junior at Northwestern and he was a grad student. While my mom had come to Northwestern from Rochester, New York, my dad was raised in the Chicago suburbs. She, like me and like you, ended up in her husband’s hometown. Here’s her advice:

    “When I graduated from Northwestern, I had been married for a year. Suddenly my college friends left for other parts of the country, and I felt like I had no one left other than my husband—-no family and no friends. Tired of Getting Excluded needs to find new friends, and they don’t need to be in one particular group. She can join “mom and tot” groups. If she likes to exercise, she should join an exercise class. In other words, she should look for friends outside the “group.”  She can have a variety of friends who don’t know each other. She should pursue her interests and find others with similar interests. It takes a long time to form friendships. She needs to be patient and keep working at it. And she needs to be the initiator sometimes. Through the years, I often times was the one to pick up the phone and make dates. She shouldn’t wait for others to take the initiative. I still do that. If there is someone I want to be with, I make the call or email.”

    Be The Initiator

    My mom and I have The Initiator trait in common. If I waited for every friend to schedule a walk or a lunch or a couples’ outing with me, I would be waiting FOREVER. I actually think the key to a happy social life is adopting the initiator mentality and not keeping score—within reason. Meaning, if you’re making the plans with any particular person more than, say, four times, it may be worth letting that person know you’d love to be on the receiving end of the call (text, email, etc.) sometimes.

    I hope this all helps. I wish you the best in your new friend making endeavor. It’s like dating, but better, because you get to keep as many of the good relationships as you want. I have a good feeling that some new close friends are out there waiting for you to find them.

    Good luck and let me know how it goes,

    Nina

  • Just This I Cannot Share

    Today’s guest post is from Meagan Schultz, who writes about the times when pain cannot be shared, even during the closest friendship.

     

    just like I cannot share

    By Meagan Schultz

    I never would have thought there were things I would not share with my best friend. I would have called bullshit if you’d tried to tell me that in my twenties. We were BFFs before BFFs were a thing. If we’d believed in the sisterhood of blood, we would have poked our fingers a thousand times over for each other. Ours was a fierce love.

    It was like new romance when we met. I was twenty-four, she was twenty-three. I was the American in London, trying on adulthood like an oversized sweater with sleeves that hung to my knees. She studied English Literature at Cambridge, read voraciously, and worked in politics. I had a liberal arts degree that left me with keen observational skills and a gift for description, but little else. Working as a travel agent, I helped young affluent American students circle European capital cities again and again. It wasn’t a dream job, but I was living in London with a house full of Brits, one of whom was my boyfriend, and a sink full of dirty dishes. I was happy.

    She and I giggled like children and devoured each other’s stories over hummus and white wine at a Turkish restaurant in Soho on our first “date.” It was an unusually warm spring night and we sat outside on the corner, oblivious to the throngs of passersby on their way home from work, or to the theaters, or on their own first dates. We stayed as late as we could and hugged tightly when we parted ways at the bottom of Brixton Hill, both recognizing the intensity of the friendship we had just birthed together over grape leaves and pinot grigio.

    The next decade would see us growing into ourselves and each other like winding wisteria, inextricably bound by the vines of shared experience and reckless love.

    There was no secret safe between us. The boyfriend who brought me to the UK would later become the husband, but when he left me, it would be she who would pick up the pieces. She would knock on my door, soak up my tears and then take me out, knowing I did not want to go, but also knowing I did not know where else to be. She knew me better than I knew myself. And I loved her for that.

    So when she said to me, “I’m sorry, but you just cannot understand what I’m going through right now,” after the deaths of her twin boys, minutes outside of utero at twenty-six weeks, I nodded, but was quite certain she was wrong.

    I wanted so much to understand her. She had been my best friend for eight years. I wanted to carry her through this grief the way she’d carried me through mine. I tried with all my heart to understand, to feel her pain, as if she were my own twin. I read books, scoured the internet for hours reading stories of other mothers who had lost the children growing inside them, and tried to imagine what it must’ve felt like to wake with an empty womb once stretched for two.

    “It’s unbelievable how physical it is, the sense of loss,” she would tell me. “I can’t get used to the fact that this huge bump has gone but there is nothing, and I keep having this overwhelming physical urge to hold something against my chest.”

    I listened; I heard what she was saying, though I had nothing to compare it to then. I had no children of my own and could not yet comprehend the ache of a full breast and a broken heart. I had only lost a great-grandmother to old age, a natural death. I wanted with all of my being to slip into her shoes, to take some of the pain.

    At first I blamed her. It was her fault, I thought, that I could not understand. If she would only let me in, share her pain, unleash her sorrow, I could lift her up and out of the fog that was suffocating her, like I always had. If she would only let me try to make her smile, I could help dissipate the anger she clung to so desperately in order to make sense of her new childless existence. But I could not make her share and our friendship wordlessly shifted shape.

    It would scare me when she would not smile. I wondered if my old friend would return and whether we would ever share secrets late at night, lying in her bed, losing ourselves in fits of giggles under the duvet. If the sleeves of adulthood that once hung down my sides were inching their way up my arm as I grew into them, hers had been thrust into a hot water cycle and now threatened to choke her. She understood adulthood all too well, strangled by the impermanence of life, crushed under the weight of misfortune.

    Eventually life brought me back to the United States, and a new love kept me there. Three years later, when I suffered my first miscarriage, I would begin to understand why it was impossible for her to share. Though I couldn’t articulate it then, I understood that death is the great divider, keeping us apart and alone, even if we are still very much together.

    She understood well before I did, that some things cannot be shared.  

    I wish I had learned that lesson when she tried to teach me. Instead, I learned it when I had become the teacher, after my own losses. I could tell friends about my grief, as she had tried to tell me, but it was mine alone to hold. I see that now. Perhaps this is the one lesson in life we must learn by ourselves; the experience that we share only because we cannot share, until eventually, we can. But even then, the grief is our own, each of us coping differently, needing our own personal recovery plan, on the path towards a new normal.

    Though we are miles apart these days, my friend and I still share what we can. We’ve both found our new normal in our respective cities, with our own families, sending birthday cards when we remember and stealing late night glimpses of each other mothering on Instagram. Life continues to move forward as we knew it would. Where we once wished it would hurry along to move us away from the pain, we now hope it will slow down. Winter has come and gone, and we have finally grown comfortable in the bulky sweaters that once hung to our knees.

     

    meagan SchultzMeagan Schultz is a mother and writer living in Milwaukee with her husband and three young children. She’s been a contributing writer for MKE Moms Blog and WUWM’s Lake Effect Program. Her work has been published on Brain, Child, Literary Mama, Mamalode, and in several anthologies. She is also the creator of the 21-day E-Course “An Invitation to Grieve” for women who’ve experienced miscarriage(s). Between naps with reheated coffee, she occasionally blogs at http://www.meaganschultz.com

  • Learning a New Script

    Parenting a special needs child can be challenging, with its own joys and triumphs. It can also be lonely. Unfortunately, parents of special needs children often find that their own friends, colleagues, and acquaintances can lack empathy or basic kindness in all sorts of situations. In this guest post, Alexis Calabrese writes about how she learned a “new script” for how to find her own network of support.

     

    Alexis Calabrese

    By Alexis Calabrese

    It’s airless in the gym which is odd because it’s a huge space, high ceilings and glossy wood floors recently shined to glow like a mirror. A door opens and sunlight streams in along with a faint breeze and the smell of fresh cut grass.

    “Thought you could use a refill.” Karen smiles as she hands me a large plastic cup, dripping wet and brimming with iced coffee. I slug down a third before coming up for air.

    “Thank you. I mean, seriously, this is saving my life right now.”

    She nods and takes a sip off her own cup. Within minutes the room fills with moms and a random dad or two. Loud, buzzed on caffeine, shorts and sneakers mixed with yoga pants and flip flops. It’s Tuesday at 10:05 a.m. and we move like a swarm around tables and clipboards. I yell out some orders, hand out a floor layout and the swarm parts.

    “Hey VP!” It’s Michelle, my neighbor. “Are we still going with the green bunting or did we decide gold streamers?”

    “Gold!” I yell back, checking my list. Sweat trickles down my back, and my t-shirt goes all damp and clingy. We work down the hour, tossing around memories as we arrange chairs, memories of the past six years, pushing our kids into and now out of grammar school. I see the President of the PTA make her way through the crowd.

    “Go! Get out of here. I’ve got this.” Kimberly’s toned yoga arm waves me off and I shout over my shoulder that I’ll see her tomorrow for our final event, the 4th grade end of year celebration and the last day of school. She high-fives me, holds my hand for a beat and mouths the words thank you.

    The hallway is cool and soft compared to the loud heat of the gym. I shake my hair out of a pony tail and catch a glimpse of a class coming out of the music room. It’s my son Owen’s class and I wait to watch him pass. He’s in deep conversation with Jackson, one of his best friends. They’re talking about a video game, I can tell by the hand motions. He bends to scratch his leg, and I see that he’s adjusting his leg brace, a stiff plastic orthotic that runs just up to his knee. I tamp down the impulse to help him and dig at my cuticles instead. He quickly tightens the Velcro strap and keeps moving with the line of kids, his gait awkward but steady. No one stares. It wasn’t always this way. He’s worked hard to become one of them. He explains his diagnosis with patience, holding up his wrist brace and ankle-foot orthotic as props in the story.

    “Babies can have strokes you know,” he’ll say defiantly. “I know because I had a stroke when I was a baby. And now I have a disability called hemiplegia.”

    It’s a prepared script we’ve worked on together so that he isn’t stumped every time someone asks him questions. Hemiplegia is easier to say than cerebral palsy.

    Owen disappears down the hall and I make my way out of the building toward an afternoon of endless conference calls and a prickly meeting with my boss. I should be prepping for the meeting but all I can think about is Owen’s smile, the comfortable back and forth with Jackson, the baseball hat worn backwards. I breathe in the sweet smell of lilac in the June air and wave to the landscapers trimming back bushes, yet another committee at work.

    Later that day, I’m in the kitchen, high heels kicked into the corner, when I get the call. It’s Karen. She’s in a rush but blurts out an invite. She’s hosting an “end of year” party with a few other moms tomorrow. It will be held at a local pool club, the one on the far side of town. Boys only but moms can stay if they want. The cost is five bucks for pizza and a juice. I swallow hard, holding back my excitement as best I can. I tell Karen how thrilled I am to get the call, how thankful and sweet they are to think of him.

    “Of course!” She responds. “We were just talking and I said, ‘Hey, let’s include Owen!’”

    “Oh?”

    “Well, the Evite went out over a month ago so we weren’t sure if you had other plans.”

    “Oh.”

    “We would have invited him sooner but well you know, this time of year is so crazy and…”

    I let her sit in the silence of that uncomfortable moment.

    “I’ll have to get back to you,” I finally say. “It’s a little last minute.”

    “OK,” she says. “I think we’ve got like 50 boys coming so we hired extra lifeguards. I hope the weather holds out, I think it will…”

    She continues to talk, nervously and too fast, but it doesn’t matter. I stop listening.

    50 boys. There are 103 kids in Owen’s class. I know because that number is imprinted into my brain from every single PTA activity I’d been planning for the past months.

    If it wasn’t all the boys in the grade, then it was close. Too close.

    I call my husband.

    “Let O make the decision,” he says calmly. “If he wants to go, we should let him.”

    “I’ve worked with these people every day for months, planning a million different events for their kids, for our kids and there’s no way, no way they forgot about him. They just didn’t invite him, they left him out on purpose!”

    “Just because you have coffee with them and joke about laundry doesn’t mean they’re not assholes.”

    He’s right, of course. But it’s more than that.

    These are my friends. For years I’ve walked next to them down the wooded path to school, listened to stories about family, carpooled and raised a glass or two during a mom’s night out. Our boys hung out in different circles. Sure, our struggles were different, but we were all in it together, weren’t we?

    After dinner, we tell Owen about the party. He tells us, while slurping up the last of an ice cream cone, that he has another invite.

    “Jackson asked me to come to his house for a swim party,” he says. “His mom is gonna text you.”

    And sure enough, there’s the text from Jackson’s mom lighting up my phone. It should have made me feel better knowing there was at least one other kid that hadn’t been invited to the big party. But it didn’t. Jackson has Down Syndrome and was one of the four boys in Owen’s inclusion program who, I found out later, didn’t make the cut.

    I wish I could say I circled back to Karen and the other moms to ask them about their decision, to try to understand why they chose to leave these boys, my boy, out. But I already knew the answer.

    I’d been in the trenches for so long, consumed with how much my son had overcome, I was blinded by how far he’d grown apart from his typical peers. His world wasn’t made up of lacrosse practices and STEM camps but EEG tests for a newly diagnosed seizure disorder and road trips to see yet another orthopedic specialist.

    If I thought about it, I couldn’t remember the last time I shared any of the details of Owen’s medical issues with these moms, these women I called friends. A space had settled between us and I had a hand in creating that gap, ignoring their lack of interest and concern by glossing over the difficulties of our day to day.

    I watched as the gap grew, as the calls for playdates dwindled and the kids who once teetered with Owen on training wheels, now veered around corners on muddied bikes, the sound of laughter trailing behind them. I had lost sight of those connections, or perhaps I just shut my eyes. Either way, whatever we had back in those early days, was long gone.

    Now, I don’t give my time to the PTA but instead help out with the SEPAG, the district’s parent group for kids with disabilities. I listen to other parents whose kids struggle to make friends, to stay socially afloat and learn from them. We attend workshops and team up with advocates to help improve the social ties between kids with disabilities and those considered typical. I try not to let the past haunt me. But I do want it to guide me, to help me find my voice, so that when the next situation comes along, I’ll have my own script ready to go.

    alexis calabreseAlexis is a native New Yorker now living in New Jersey where she works as a Creative Director/Copywriter. Finding the time to write is her biggest challenge, so she has reluctantly become a morning person and one of those ridiculous people who tap out stories on a phone. She believes the right concealer is everything, can spend hours lost in a Twitter hole and believes in big magic–the bigger the better.

  • Conscious Unhovering

    unconscious hovering

     

     

    By Lizbeth Meredith

    “Don’t ever do this again, Mom,” came the angry text from my youngest daughter. “It’s so inappropriate. . . I don’t need your help.”

    Home for a college break, she was texting from her post at a coffee shop, waiting for the blind date I’d set her up with. And getting more anxious by the minute.

    She rarely meets young men on her own. Of course she needed my help. True, my only marriage ended in divorce and my publication of a misery memoir, but I’ve got good instincts about my kids.

    “Where did you meet him?” my daughter had asked when I first gave her my pitch. I spared no details in the retelling.

    Our eyes had locked from across the room. I was on a date, but as soon as I saw him, this tall, dimpled, olive-skinned young man, I knew he was the one. For my daughter, that is. I left my bewildered date in the dust, practically lunging to meet this young man. I introduced myself, hoping I wasn’t being too obvious. He told me he was from New York. He was Jewish, something I’ve long equated as synonymous for higher intelligence. And he was here in Alaska, volunteering in a theater camp.

    So perfect, I thought. My youngest daughter loves volunteering.

    I wasted no time asking about his dating status.

    When it comes to my own dating life, I’d sooner jump out of a moving car than to be that forward. But there was something exhilarating about the potential of presenting my daughter with her soul mate.

    “Are you single?” I asked without shame, quickly adding, “You seem around my daughter’s age. Maybe she could show you around town if you’d like.” I interpreted his stunned silence to be a green light to proceed.

    “She loves volunteering. She’s home on a college break, too. She likes hiking and biking and animals.”

    And before I knew it, I was pulling up my daughter’s Facebook account on my iPhone, thumbing through picture after picture, and singing her praises.

    I could see by the slow smile that spread across his face as he looked at her pictures that he was warming to the idea, so I kept talking.

    “She paddle- boards with the sea lions and tent camps among the buffalo in Kodiak. And she loves kids.”

    The last part was a lie, but I wanted it to be true. My daughter babysat once as a teen, and asked if insurance would cover a tubal ligation shortly afterward. But I wrote it off to her youth.

    “She’s beautiful,” he said, confirming my suspicions about his intellectual superiority. “I think I’m in love with your daughter.” Ha! I knew it! Matchmaking is in my genes. I may be a failure at love in the matter of romantic love myself, but I like to think I’m a carrier.

    As he entered his contact information into my phone, I couldn’t help but notice that his large head, his curls, and his prominent nose matched my daughter’s gorgeous Greek features. My grandchild might get stuck in the birth canal, but nothing a C-section couldn’t cure.

    My daughter’s initial reaction was less enthusiastic.

    “Mom, that’s weird,” she told me. “It’s creepy that you pulled up my Facebook page. Don’t do that again.”

    But her stance softened once I pulled up his Facebook page. And how could it not? With a deep dimple and sparkling eyes, he was positively adorable. Anyone could see that.

    “His name is Ian, just like the Greek girl’s love interest on My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” I told her, “It’s a sign, don’t you think? And he’s Jewish. You can raise our family’s stock with him since you’re from hillbillies on both sides of the family.”

    My family roots are from rural Kentucky. Her dad’s side are from a tiny map dot in Greece. With this winning swirl, I worry my future grandkids won’t find value education or a full set of teeth. I was only half-joking. She still wasn’t laughing. After more stony silence, she issued her verdict.

    “I’ll go to coffee with him this one time,” she told me. “You’ll have to pay me. But it’s still inappropriate.”

    There was that word again.

    Who decides what’s appropriate when parenting adult children? How did I miss that lesson?

    Here’s the thing: When our children are young, we parents are expected to manage every detail of our kids’ lives, even before they’re born. How are we supposed to flip that switch, just because the kids are grown?

    When it came to my own daughters, I nursed them, pushing past my need for personal space and giving up every tasty food I’d previously enjoyed so they wouldn’t be gassy. As they grew older, I blended their foods rather than buying baby food in jars. I was a single mom by the time they were both in diapers, and did the heavy lifting for choosing their schools, registering them for sports, weighing in on their choices of friends. All the stuff parents do.

    Back then, my friends described me as being active. Involved. Engaged. All glowing terms. But after the girls were 18, I was suddenly considered anxious. Inappropriate. Controlling. Or worst of all, enabling.

    Ugly words, if you ask me.

    Why is it that all the things that make a parent good as our child grows up are suddenly considered terrible after the child turns 18? And why isn’t there as step-down plan or some other curriculum for parents when their kids are nearing adulthood?

    Like maybe we could stop “helping” with their science homework by eleventh grade and let them select their own clothes for school by twelfth. Baby steps to get us parents ready for the hearbreaking journey ahead.   

    I’ve tried giving fewer opinions and less advice. But after so many years of offering it freely, the gems crop up in unexpected places like the little bits of blubber that pop up when I put on Spanx. When my mechanic mentioned he was filming a commercial for his business, I insisted he cut his hair. I spent a half hour lecturing my favorite barista on the importance of college, oblivious to the mile-long line behind me. I admonished my boss for not taking her mother on that once-in-a-lifetime cruise to Iceland that her mom had been wanting. I can’t help myself. This unspent input is just too great not to share.

    I’m working on finding that happy medium. And I’m open to advice.

    I’m also cutting down on the time I Facebook stalk Ian. Sure, I’ll admit to enjoying the videos he posts, and I’m warming to his girlfriend of the last three years. She seems nice.  Her comments under his pictures are always witty and kind. But of course, she can’t measure up to my daughter.

    It’s been eight years since Ian and my daughter had their one and only coffee date. I wish it had been more successful, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet. Both he and my daughter, though in long relationships, remain unmarried.

    I figure I’ll unfriend whichever of them marries the wrong person first. And my next book will be called Conscious Unhovering: Transitioning Appropriately for the Everyday Parent. Once I learn how to do it.

    Surely somebody out there will find my advice useful.

    Lizbeth MeredithLizbeth Meredith is a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska.
    Her memoir Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters is a 2017 silver medalist at the IPPY Awards. Her work has appeared in Sunlight Press and on Jane Friedman’s blog. You can find her at lameredith.com, on Twitter @LizbethMeredith, and on Facebook.
  • When You Regret That You Hired a Friend

    Nina is back with a dilemma about whether to hire a close friend and what to do if you’ve already hired a friend and the situation isn’t working well. Can the friendship be saved? Would you hire your close friend as a realtor, lawyer, financial planner, and so on?

    Nina is always accepting anonymous questions here.  

    Nina Badzin hertake

    Dear Nina,

    I need to fire my realtor, who is also my friend, because she messed up in representing me while I was trying to sell my home. I’m not mad at her, but I cannot risk similar mistakes next time we have an interested buyer. 

    The problem is that I like her and want to remain friends. How should I communicate that we need to stop working together, but that I want to stay friends? I’m inclined to share my exact thoughts of where she messed up in a way that can be constructive for her if she chooses to accept the feedback. Not that I’m a real estate expert by any means.

    Either way, I don’t think it was wise to hire my friend in the first place and it seems best to back out now before the friendship is damaged. Or will the friendship be damaged anyway when I give her the news? Is it too late to rectify this situation?

    Should I ask her to meet in person, or will that put in her uncomfortable spot as she receives the news?

    Thanks for any advice,

    Home Seller in Ohio

     

    Dear Home Seller in Ohio,

    Some will say you never should have hired your friend in the first place. Period. And I see you’re also thinking the same thing at this point. However, I want you to know I’m very sympathetic to your initial decision to hire her. You have this friend who could probably use the business so how could you not hire her? I assume your thoughts went something like that at the time. I know that’s what would have been going through my mind.

    Why We End Up Hiring Friends

    Most of us cheer on our friends and celebrate their successes. If you’re that way too, it’s hard not to put your money where your mouth is. Not hiring a friend would require you to outright say (or imply), “I wish you the best in your real estate business, but I’m going with someone else.” That’s not easy to say or do when you know your friend’s business depends on commissions from every single sale.

    Why Not To Hire a Friend

    Your letter serves as a cautionary tale for those of us who worry about how hurtful and awkward it would be to not hire our friends for these kinds of services. But then we have to ask ourselves what’s worse? The initial conversation of “I don’t think it’s a good idea to work with friends?” Or, what you’re going through now—the need to fire her?

    Oops! You Hired a Friend and Want to Fire Her

    Now let’s deal with your current predicament.

    It’s not too late to save this friendship. Keep the conversation simple, short, and unemotional, which means you’re better off with a phone conversation rather than meeting face-to-face. (NO texting though!)

    An in-person meeting would allow for too many follow-up questions and you don’t want to end up saying too much. Explain that you were hesitant to hire a close friend for such a personal and financially fraught situation. Apologize to her for not listening to your gut right away about mixing friendship and business. She has probably had other friends hesitant to hire her. Mixing business and friendship is not an uncommon concern!

    I understand your desire to explain what she did wrong and tell her the whole truth—you are friends, after all— but if you do that you risk her asking you for another chance to get it right. And wouldn’t you then be in a worse predicament? I would get out now, before any more damage is done to the house sale, but more importantly, to the friendship.

    I also ran this part of the question by my husband, Bryan, who is 100% less emotional about such matters. I figured his two cents would help since I would likely end up losing money on our house while seething the entire time and eventually resenting my friend forever before I mustered up the courage to end the situation the right way.

    Here is Bryan’s take. “Home Seller in Ohio: You’re this agent’s friend, not her boss, mentor, coach, or advisor. For what it’s worth, there’s no reason to feel any responsibility to tell her what she did wrong. Her professional development is up to her. If she made mistakes with you, she’s probably making them with other people, too. Over time, she’ll realize something isn’t working and will likely have several people who stopped using her. I’d let her mentors and clients who are not her friends tell her how she can improve.”

    I would add that since you’re not a real estate professional, she may truly not want to hear what you have to say anyway. Keep it simple. Focus on “friendship first” and then GET OFF THE PHONE.

    Best of luck!

    Nina (and Bryan)