Dear Carolyn: I have a dear friend who’s loving, thoughtful and generous. Unfortunately, she spoils her kids rotten and as such has created a couple of monsters. Her daughters, ages 5 and 6, are shrill, disrespectful, demanding tyrants who love to play with my daughter (age 6), who is sweet and easygoing, but these girls are a bit much even for her. My friend calls me a lot to get together, and while I love to see my friend, I do not love having my daughter subjected to these awful girls, and she doesn’t particularly like going because they don’t always play nicely with her.
How do I deflect her requests for play dates without affecting our friendship? – Love my friend, hate her kids
I can see why your impulse is to maneuver around these play dates.
There’s a lot of wiggle room in the definition of “play nicely,” so, disclaimer time: If you feel your daughter isn’t safe around these girls, then you have to decline the play dates. Even then, though, you can buy time by suggesting group outings to kiddie movies, plays, concerts; each offers togetherness without interaction.
However, if we’re just talking about regular kids who get a little bratty, then your easygoing daughter could be good for these kids – and they for her. Your daughter is likely to quit their games if they don’t learn some self-control, and they’re likely to steamroll her if she doesn’t learn to assert herself.
This carefully orchestrated play date is only half of the last-ditch effort I’m proposing – the good-faith half. The other half is where you get to suggest the occasional kid-free outings, because you said yes to a credible number of play dates.
You may never warm to her kids, which will probably cool your friendship – but all these kids are but a year or three away from spending more time with their friends than with yours. Choosing to put the friendship at risk seems shortsighted when time is leaning your way.