Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We're Not Gonna Be Super BFF's And All

A new couple our age and with similar-aged kids has just moved to Podunkville. For employment reasons, DH and I were expected to recruit them into moving here, and to help them adjust in the 5 days they've been here permanently. Like us 3 years ago, they've also moved from a big city to Podunkville, and are bound to be weirded out pretty soon after the initial honeymoon phase wears off. In the 19-months we've known them from afar, DH and the guy have gotten along well, and he has a generally favorable impression of the woman.

Up until sometime last night, I used to like her ok. My opinion changed right around the second or third time she announced to the 7 of us out to dinner last night that "[The college-bound teenage sitter we recommended who was watching their kids last night] kept saying how easy our kids are to put to bed. They go to sleep awake! You just put them down, close the door and walk out! The sitter was like 'You mean, I don't need to rock them asleep? OMG, they're SO EASY! Like the easiest kids I've ever watched!'"

Yeah, it must be nice when one's kids are so "easy," um, unlike our kids, who this sitter has been used to watching, and rocking, soothing, and cajoling to sleep in various ways, because our little angels unfortunately march to the beat of their own sleep drummers. I'll spare you the gory details and summarize with 3 words: Low Sleep Needs.

The thing that rubs me the wrong way about this woman is that she has the odd habit of making unsolicited comparisons like that, which never fail to make her kids or her choices look amazing.

One funny one she did on her last visit months ago was about baby names. Our daughters are only days apart in age. The couple's daughter is named Claire. (Perfectly nice, lovely, wonderful name BTW.) Our daughter has a far less-common name that is not the easiest for Americans to pronounce. But it's big in Germany or something. When asked how they chose the name Claire for their baby, she went on and on and on about how they hated each and every girl's name they came across, and Claire was "like, the only girl's name we could even remotely stomach."

Ha, ha ... so we suck, right?

DH tells me I need to keep giving her a chance, she's going to have a hard time fitting in, and will want to spend time with us probably pretty frequently early on when they don't know anyone, and being kind and welcoming (up to a point) is the right thing to do. I remember well how hard months 3 to 9 of living here were, and how lonely it was not to have any young-ish parent friends, which thankfully, we now have in spades.

It sucks though. I already can see how she is... which brings up a recent conversation DH and I had about being honest in friendships. The closer you get, the longer you've known someone, the more data points you have on them - you're in a position to be able to give them some insightful feedback, in theory. But we rarely do. Unsolicited advice sucks. We all have our own fragile egos (i.e. see the above anecdotes about sleep and baby names for the contours of mine).

DH has a dear friend whose first wife left him 5 years ago, very suddenly. Within a few weeks, he was already with a new girlfriend, and talking about moving in with her. He eventually married her about 2 years later, yet all of his friends had many unspoken doubts. All of his friends think wife 2 is a wonderful, gentle-hearted person, but who is just all kinds of wrong for him. Where I am going with this story? Since marrying her, his personality has completely changed. I should also mention that for the last 2 years they've been struggling with infertility - which is making both of them extremely depressed and anxious (they're both getting help). He is honestly not the same kind of person he used to be. DH goes on an annual guys' trip to watch baseball with him and 2 other guys they've known forever - there was talk of canceling because the friend has been such bad company lately, and wants to bring his wife along to their dinners, oh and needs to attend the wake of his ex-coworker's father one of the nights of the trip, etc etc

So I said to DH, who is thinking of not going, "Hey, what if you were just honest with him about the changes you've seen in him, and try to find out how he's really doing?"

DH says he can't do that - "we can't change people." Right, although (in theory) we can provide them with honest feedback in a caring way, and let them know how their behavior makes us feel - then it's their choice to do with that information whatever they deem appropriate.

DH's conclusion: Nope. People need to figure it out for themselves in their own time, while their friends try desperately not to rock the proverbial boat with too much honesty.

Yeah, I can see that.


NK: Style-ING w/ Children said...

I have a friend like that who always want to be the "better" one. It is exhausting, so I limit our interaction. And obsessively complain to hubby. Actually now she drives him crazy-er than me, because he gets so upset that i'm upset.

I'll tell you another story. This same friend got married a while ago and I did not speak up to tell her that he was all sorts of ways wrong for her. I hated his guts, etc. One daughter and 4 years later they are now divorced. I feel smug-ish that I predicted this, but at the same time very sad. There's nothing you can do. Really. Just watch the train wrack in the making and help pick up the pieces. Sometimes you can't say anything even when ASKED. Depends on the personality.


caramama said...

Oh, I'd have a hard time being around a person like that. I find that when I am around a person like that, I continuously point out how we shouldn't judge each other and how parenting is hard for everyone and how each child has their own difficulties. In other words, I try to shove how I wish they were acting down their throats!

I can see both sides of your convo with your hubby. One of my best friends and I have a neat aspect of our relationship. We like to play "couch psychologist" with each other and dissect why we do some things and analyze our decisions and even personalities. BUT we are careful to make sure that the other person is ready to have that kind of talk, and to let them know when we aren't. Just a week or so ago, my friend started down a topic where she was saying she could see my hubby's point of view. I stopped her immediately and said, "This is one of those times when I just want you to unconditionally support me and back me up." She immediately responded no problem and proceeded to have my back. But you have to have a very open relationship with each other and ability to self analize without getting really upset. And both people have to be careful about how they word things!

Anyway, I know it is a struggle to find good friends in Podunkville and to adjust to living there. LOTS of sympathy!

Maria said...

Well, people who are always doing the comparison thing are of course feeling insecure and bad about themselves and their choices, so maybe you can be flattered that she feels inferior to you? Maybe if you can stomach being her friend for the rough settling in period you'll see an improvement in her personality eventually…?

And yeah, I too had the friend with the 1st husband who was all wrong for her, and no, you can't say anything about it, but you can be nonjudgemental and supportive them when they need a friend later, and then you can secretly feel self-satisfied that you knew it all along.

Or is it just me who is mean like that?

Cloud said...

That sucks. I'd have a hard time kicking her to the curb, but that is because I am a bit of a doormat in that respect. But, yes, I hate people who think that their good luck in the various parenting sweepstakes is some how of their own making.

But maybe I'm grumpy because my kids are extra hard to get to sleep right now and I don't know why. And it is driving me nuts.

mom2boy said...

One more time with feeling... (blogger ate my two previous comments.)

I agree with your DH, people rarely change from outside comments about their behavior, especially when it comes to relationship choices.

Baby name lady - yes, raging insecurity. My advice was to either call her out (hey, that's insulting) or ignore it and just take her in small doses.

And Claire wil always be Molly Ringwald.

hush said...

@NK - You're so right: "There's nothing you can do. Really. Just watch the train wrack in the making and help pick up the pieces." Which sucks.

@caramama - "I find that when I am around a person like that, I continuously point out how we shouldn't judge each other and how parenting is hard for everyone and how each child has their own difficulties. In other words, I try to shove how I wish they were acting down their throats!" That's totally how I'm going to handle this woman's comments. Thank you!

@Maria - You're so right that it is due to insecurity. It'll be good for me to keep that in mind.

And no, you're not the only one who is like that - me, too sister!

@Cloud - If it makes you feel any better, my kids are in shitty sleep phases too. It really stresses our family because it is cutting into our evening couple time. Ugh.

@mom2boy - Effin' blogger! Ignore/small doses is what I'm going to have to go with - too close in employment situation for me to do the call-out though I soooo want to.

And I love John Hughes movie references! ;)

Anandi said...

I was just thinking "Claire is a fat girl's name" in response to your "friend"'s comment. not that I dislike the name, but because I'd have a hard time being quiet when someone made a comment like that.