Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Carolyn: My husband and I were friends with another couple who lives in the neighborhood. Several years ago, the wife stopped speaking to us. I have no idea what prompted her behavior. I tried reaching out, but she never responded. I asked a mutual friend and she was equally confused. Her husband will make small talk, if we’re passing by, but I’ve never asked him what happened. My husband and I are not comfortable with confrontation, so we just let it go.
Our kids are nearly the same age and often play together. My former friend still doesn’t speak to my husband or me, unless there are other parents around and then she'll make small talk.
Last week, she emailed to invite our kid to her kid’s birthday party. My husband and I don’t know what to do. Neither of us wants to go, and our kid is too young to be dropped off. We don’t want to skip the party and stay home, as every other kid in the group is probably invited — and our kid will feel excluded. Do we go out of town just to avoid the situation?
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Should I Attend?
Ever read a situation and wonder how it’s possible that people don’t see how weird their behavior is?
Total multiyear lockdown on a onetime friend, except to issue an invitation. OK.
As tempting as it sounds to flee for the weekend, joining this neighbor in her weird alternative universe for one afternoon would serve your kid best.
Why? Because you share a neighborhood. That’s everything.
I’ve seen a lot of these neighbor-suddenly-stops-speaking-to-me stories in my inbox over the years, and I can’t recall even one where the kids’ friendships weren’t severed as a result. The fact that your kids have kept playing together through this cul de sac cold war is remarkable. It jacks up the weird to another level, but it’s remarkable all the same.
It’s commendable on the part of Ms. Silent Treatment USA, even — it’s only fair to say. Cul-de-war shunnings are extremely painful for the children caught up in them, because they get to watch out their windows as everyone gathers without them.
So don’t risk it. Go, play along, hold your kid’s place in the crowd.
Re: Party: If the kid is out of diapers, ask another neighbor to watch both kids. In my community, one parent has supervised two kids at a single party for all kinds of reasons.
Elegant, thank you.
My kids are grown now, and as they grew they quickly forgot friends from the days when they were “too young to go alone” to parties. Skipping this party will not make or break your child socially. I vote for shielding the whole family from toxic people.
Thanks. I’d agree for any party except a neighbor’s.
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