a story about a “frenemy”

(Disclaimer: if you think this post is about you, I can pretty much guarantee that it isn’t.)

So, I have this friend. She was one of the first friends I made when we moved to North Carolina in 2008, and her daughter is Catie’s age, which was sort of our common bond. I knew she was a little weird and sometimes it was hard to have a conversation with her, but our girls liked each other and I needed to make friends in my new home state. I tried to dismiss the fact that she would sometimes call me and talk for literally over an hour about herself, and never once ask me anything about how I was doing.

Fast-forward to 2011, aka pretty much the hardest year of my life. I remember this friend coming over to my house in September, because she was going to help me get some things organized in my house when I was getting ready to list it on the market.

Let me put that in perspective: my husband had left me and moved 3,000 miles away. I had a completely traumatized 4 year-old who was waking up crying every night, a 3 month-old baby, a pretty raging case of post-partum depression (hahahaaaaa can’t imagine why!), my mom had dropped everything in her life to move in with me, and I was trying to sell my house and move. There’s a reason why most of that year is kind of a blur to me now, and it wasn’t just the sleep deprivation. It’s like my brain has blocked most of it out because it was so insanely stressful and difficult.

And it was then, in the middle of that Most Epic Shitstorm of my life, that this friend sat in my living room and said, “Wow, I can’t imagine how hard this must be on Dave.”

*record scratch*

I don’t remember what my answer was at the time, but it was something to the effect of, hey, you know, maybe this is hard on him, but he isn’t the one sitting here right now with a 4 year-old and a newborn and a house to sell, so I don’t really give a shit.

(Disclaimer part 2: yes, Dave and I get along fine now and everything worked out ok for both of us. I’m just talking about how it felt at the time. It was pretty much the worst possible thing you could say to a person in my situation.)

That was kind of the turning point for me, when I realized that this friend was not much of a friend at all.

When Dave and I split, I had a single mom friend who gave me some truly great advice, and she really helped me through a lot of that time period. One of the things she warned me about was the “TMI Curse.” It’s basically: now that you’re separated/divorced, all of your friends feel safe to confide in you about all of the terrible things happening in their own marriages, because they think you’ll understand. I have been privy to some truly awful bits of information that I really wish I didn’t know about my friends’ marriages.

This “friend” (the one who sympathized with Dave) was the first one to dump on me about all of the issues between herself and her husband. Although honestly, I’m not sure if that’s related to the TMI Curse, or if it’s just because she liked to talk about herself all the time anyway, so it was kind of a natural extension of that. Either way: lots of things I wish I could un-hear.

So, this seems like a pretty easy call, right? Cut her off and be done. Except: Catie really likes this friend’s daughter.

And this brings up another issue: as the kids have gotten older, I’ve noticed that this child’s behavior is atrocious. She’s rude and obnoxious, because both of her parents basically ignore her and don’t discipline her at all. So even though I know it isn’t the child’s fault at all, I still don’t really want her influence around my own kids.

Case in point: we were at a playground together once, and Catie was trying to include another little boy in their game. My friend’s daughter didn’t like this, so she started spitting (seriously: SPITTING) on him. When I caught her doing it — and yes, I was the one who busted her because my friend was not paying attention to her kid at all — my friend’s response was, “that’s not cool, you should say sorry.” And that was it. No enforcement, just… eh, whatever, small child, do as you wish.

What. The. Hell.

And believe me, I used that as a Teachable Moment on the drive home.
Me: “Do you know what would happen to you if I caught you doing what [kid’s name] did?”
Catie: “What?”
Me: “You would have to apologize to that little boy. Then you would have to apologize to his parents for being so rude. Then we would leave the playground IMMEDIATELY, and you would be punished when we got home.”
Catie: “Punished how?”
Me: “I’d take away your iPad.”
Catie: (big eyes because there is no worse punishment than that)
(long pause)
“…You know, Mom? I think [kid ‘s name] just forgot to use her words.”
Me: “Yes, she did. Don’t ever let me catch YOU forgetting to use your words.”

So now I’m in this weird place where I basically have to duck all of her texts asking if we can get our kids together, but I still feel like I’m required to invite her to things like birthday parties and other group events, or else she’ll see the photos on Facebook and get her feelings hurt.

(Oh, the last time we saw her, she asked my mom if Chris was “the boyfriend of the moment.” My mom was like, “Uhhh, no. He’s the only boyfriend she’s had since the divorce. There is no ‘of the moment’.” I mean, if you want to poke at me about my dating history, fine, whatever, but to my mom? Seriously? Why would someone do that?)

And she texted me about a playdate today, which was easy to blow off, since, you know, I have a job (a fact that she regularly seems to forget).

Oh, and don’t suggest dropping Catie at her house for a playdate and then leaving. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work, I still get sucked into an hour-long overview of her life while standing on her front porch. It also means that Catie will be exposed to her child’s behavior without me there to say afterward, “Hey, you saw how she did that? Let’s talk about why that’s wrong and we don’t act like that.” Damage control, you know?

So this is what it comes down to: I don’t know what to do with her. Cut the friend off? I mean, I barely ever speak to her now unless we’re at some type of event where both of our kids are present. Do I tell Catie that she can’t see her friend anymore because she doesn’t behave well?

How do people navigate these kinds of situations? How do you “un-friend” someone in real life?

4 thoughts on “a story about a “frenemy”

  1. We had a daycare friend like that. I honestly think DD liked the mom better than the kid. But they were both brats! Lucky for me, they were the same age but the other kid was going to start K at 6 while mine started at 5, and that helped a lot. Then the couple got divorced (ugly! Trying to get me and others to take sides!) and it was super easy to step away. My default was, BUSY. Regarding Facebook, if you block her on it, then she can’t know what you’re up to and have any feelings about it. Maybe she’ll even think you deactivated your account.

    If you don’t want to do the avoidant route, you could burn a bridge. Take her next call and say, “Frenemy, I’m reluctant to agree to time together because I’d like Catie to branch out to spend time with other kids. I often have to help her understand why she must never behave as BabyFrenemy is allowed to. I have also been uncomfortable with some things you’ve said to me and about me; that’s not how I want to be feel, so I hope you’ll understand that it’s best to part ways.”

  2. You could be direct & just say, “Sorry, but I can’t deal with your negative attitude any more, & I feel that your kid’s behavior is atrocious & am tired of constantly having to use play dates as a teachable moment.”

    Hahahahahahahahaaaaaa…. that can’t really happen, because Frenemy will play the martyr & still not get the hint.

    Yep, I’ve had a couple of those now (including a neighbor, which sucked because she always knew when we were home & I couldn’t escape). The easiest/least dramatic way to unfriend someone is to simply be as unavailable as possible all the time. Catie will make new friends, & while yes, some of them may be brats, at least they’re different brats, & now you know to tread lightly. AND if Catie isn’t available, maybe HellChild will make a new friend & they’ll just stop asking. She just had a birthday, so you have a whole year to wean these two out of your lives. Just… Be “busy.” All the time.

  3. Oy. I have dealt with this, last summer. My 9 yr old son had made friends with a boy at camp that was the sweetest, most polite kid to an adult’s face then the DEVIL to not only my son but my daughter as well. However, the parents had an amazing house with the most fabulous toys inside and out as well as video games galore, so any boy would be drawn to ignore demon spawn to get to this kid’s goods. After a couple of awful incidents the mom emailed me and said how lovely my son was and couldn’t wait for them to get together again. I had to take a deep breath and tell her (in an email, natch!) the truth. No more play dates because her son was so out of hand. She took it well enough and said hopefully next summer the boys would be more mature to play together. Yeah, I won’t count on it. But it wasn’t easy. Good luck. I think the ignoring her route might work well…

  4. I don’t have human kids, so use that as your grain of salt.

    I think I would talk to Catie first about how I plan to end a friendship with the mom so that she understands why that cutoff is happening. Boil it down to “we don’t get along” or “our friendship isn’t good for each other” or something more basic than the specifics, and that this very likely means Catie won’t see her friend anymore. And then tell the frenemy that it’s time to move on and you won’t be spending time with her or inviting her to events anymore.

    Just, I remember us no longer seeing people in my life when I was a kid and there was no explanation of why, people just vanished from my life, and I didn’t understand why and it really messed with my head. So, just think of Catie first and at least do her the courtesy of explaining what is about to happen.
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