There are plenty more (the response to “I’ve put on so much weight” is always “no you haven’t!”), but these two are my touchstones. Mess with them at your peril.
When their child becomes an issue that will affect your friendship, you have to say something.
I have a friend I’ve known for 30 years. We’ve been through thick and thin together – studying, working, dating, marriage and children. My pre-teen son is the same age as her daughter, an only child. But because I have an older child, one who has crashed through the crazy adolescent years and turned into a pretty great young adult, I can see problems looming.
Her daughter, quite frankly, is a challenge to be around.
She doesn't look you in the eye, or respond to your attempts at conversation. She doesn’t want to join in any family activities, like going to the park or hanging out over a meal. Organising any joint outings is tricky – she likes hiding in her room and listening to music or playing computer games. Her mother forces her to come out with us, but it’s obviously an effort and there’s always conflict, between her and her mother, her and the other kids.
We pretend not to notice, but it makes everyone tense.
I totally understand the dynamic and I have huge sympathy for her mum. She works full-time and the last thing she wants to do every day is have an argument with her daughter. I remember bouts of full-time work when my kids were little – you have so little time with them every day, it’s much easier to just suck up the bad stuff. Most days, I just did the household chores after they were in bed because I wanted them to go to bed with a cuddle and a story, rather than an argument about their room.
Mother/Daughter fighting is common in their teen years. Watch the clip from Gilmore Girls below.
Disciplining children is thankless and exhausting and a parenting chore for which the reward is way, way in the future. I’ve spent years of my life muttering “say please”, “say thank you” and “what do you say to Mrs Green?”, usually through gritted teeth with a forefinger poked sharply in the child’s ribs.