A friend of mine, K, is going through a problem now in which a child in her son's class who has not been taught boundaries and limits is pushing all the kids away by his bad behavior. K encouraged her son to continue to be this child's friend, because she thought her son could help teach this other kid, but now it's all blown up in her face, and the child's parents are blaming K's son for "making the other kids hate" their son. When this all started a few weeks ago, I was going to put it up as a question here so we could all weigh in with some help, but now it's escalated so far that my only advice to K is to make sure the school knows that the parents are becoming irrational toward her family.
This is bringing up a lot of hurt for me though. When my older son (who is now in fourth grade) was three, a mom I'd been friends with since prenatal yoga class called me to tell me they were not going to be able to be friends with us anymore, and she wanted me to keep my son away from her daughter (who was in the same preschool class with her daughter) because they thought he was a "bad influence" on her. I now believe the girl had some sort of sensory disorder, as she'd sometimes freeze up when other kids came up to talk to her. Her mother was convinced my son had somehow caused her daughter to freeze up like that.
That call, in which the woman I'd spent so much time with helping each other through the first three years of our children's lives broke up with us because my son was "bad," was one of those snapshot moments. I remember every moment of telling my then-husband what happened, of telling the preschool teachers the children weren't supposed to hang out next to each other at pickup waiting for babysitters or parents, every minute of how much I cried at the rejection.
I don't think I handled it particularly well (I just shrink into myself when someone hurts me and wait for them to stop attacking me). I still think about them sometimes and wonder if the girl ever got over her freezing up problem, and if the mom ever made it through secondary infertility to have another child. I hope they did.
It hurts when someone thinks your child is "bad." It especially hurts when you know your child was trying to be a friend. I was extremely lucky that a few days after this rejection happened, another mom in the preschool class, J, stepped forward to ask for a playdate with my son (and by extension me). She is funny and confident and snarky and an absolute delight, and we are still friends to this day, even though our children went to different elementary schools and then I moved to the end of the earth in NYC and now to Michigan. I don't think she knows how important her offer of friendship was at that particular moment.
I am hoping that the situation that K is going through, with her child being scapegoated by this other child's parents, is over soon. I hope the other parents just back off and leave K's family alone. And I hope that K knows, like I *didn't* know, that it's not her fault and that plenty of wonderful people want to spend time with her and her family.
And I am hoping that you are all weathering the friendship changes that come with parenting. Have any of you been through a friendship breakup or the rejection of your child? How did you handle it?