I Only Have One Friendship Deal-Breaker

by Jacqueline Graham
Originally Published: 
PhotoAlto/Laurence Mouton / Getty

It’s not about me, or you.

If you are my friend, I accept you — quirks, idiosyncrasies, messiness, faults, struggles, whatever you come with. I accept your husband, and your kids. Our kids may or may not be besties, but I would always wish them happiness and success. I will listen to you rant about all the things we mommies need to bond over.

But my mommy claws come out when you start tearing down my kid.

If our kids are on a team together, I would honestly, truly be thrilled for your kid if he has success. I really would. If my kid is having a bad day, that isn’t about you or me, or your kid. It’s about my kid, and that would never mean that my sadness for my kid replaces my happiness for yours.

I remember way back when…we were trying to have a baby, and start our family. My husband and I went through testing because it just wasn’t happening naturally. We found out that we had “undiagnosed infertility,” perhaps the most frustrating, nebulous diagnosis in the world.

So we moved forward trying to conceive with the help of insemination and Clomid. It was a trying time, dealing with the highs and the lows of hopefulness and then disappointment each month that our dream didn’t come true. Then came the phone call. My friend — more recently married than we were, and not even trying to have kids yet — well, she was pregnant.

I had two choices: make it about me, or make it about her happiness. So I held my chin up and celebrated her joy and excitement for her pregnancy and first baby on the way, and talked about her. We laughed and cheered, and then we hung up and I cried. I mean sobbed. Tears I was able to contain while relishing her happiness took over. It didn’t mean I was any less happy for them; I was just sad for us. I would never tell her, still to this day. Because it wasn’t about me; it was about her sharing her life-changing, exciting news with her best friend, and me being there for her. My husband hugged me and cried with me and wiped my tears, assuring me that it would happen for us, too. And it did, about 6 months later.

As my babies became toddlers, my husband started pointing out how another friend, with kids about the same ages, was constantly talking about her kids and how they outdid ours. Like posting on social media “OMG, So-and-So did that last week!” about her kid if I posted something about mine, or “So-and-So has that [insert dress, toy, award] too” when I mentioned it. It didn’t bug me, because I honestly hadn’t noticed. I felt like it was a mommy bonding thing, like she was just showing her allegiance as a mom, and after all, both her kids were slightly older than mine.

However, as time has passed, I see clearly that this person, and others, definitely are not happy for my kids’ successes. They constantly compare their kids to mine, even when we live far apart and the kids aren’t even aware of each other anymore. The ones who are close by, even some I consider some of my best friends, feel the need to gloat about their kids, make excuses for their failures, but capitalize on things my kids don’t achieve.

I don’t get it.

If you are confused, let me offer a few examples. Our boys play baseball together. The boys play different positions, and would never compete for playing time against one another. My kid gets a hit, yours strikes out. I say nothing. If you say something to me, it’s: “Wow, the glare from the sun must have really bothered Timmy, and he probably couldn’t see the ball!” Okay, I say nothing. Poor Timmy.

I cross my fingers next time Timmy is at bat, hoping for better luck this time. I cheer if he gets a hit, and keep quiet if he doesn’t. I don’t move closer to you to make sure you know I saw his failure, but I will be cheering loudly and offering high-fives with his success. You, on the other hand, move closer when your Timmy makes a great play and my kid strikes out. I don’t make excuses for my kids. I don’t befriend coaches to get playing time for them. I don’t do anything except support them in the stands as a parent should. And if the day is a bad one, I encourage them with “You will get it next time!”

But these “friends”… they are quick to relish in our kids failures. If mine gets in trouble at school, that’s fodder for their conversation. And “Sally did a triple flip today in gymnastics, that’s a bummer that Annie has a broken arm and can’t compete.” Is it? Is it really a bummer, or are you showboating?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell. But someone who really cares about you and your kids will show it in ways that do not cause you to question their intentions. They know that we are friends, and our kids are friends (or not) no matter what they get, or how they perform, or what award they achieve. I may be sad for my kid, with her broken arm, missing the gymnastic competition this weekend. But that does not take away from my genuine happiness for your kid. I want all our kids to be great people, achieving their dreams.

Don’t make it weird. My kids isn’t competing with your kid. You are.

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