There’s two things I don’t write about.
I never write about the way people look. (Okay, I did comment on the Chrystal Gale wannabe. But if your hair is so long you can sit on it, my criticism isn’t your biggest problem.) But overall, none of us can control how we look. I’m no super model myself. Plus there’s so much people can control, like their shitty behavior. It seems like overkill to pick on them for the things they can’t.
And I try not to write about my kids, their friends or their friends’ parents. I write about me or my opinions. There’s no need to drag my offspring in to it.
I’ll break both rules now.
My son had a lovely group of buddies from one lovely family after the next. I’m only exaggerating about one family by calling them lovely. But before we get to them, you’ll need to know a few things.
Out of the group of besties, one boy had the misfortunate of being born to a mother who equated more worry with better parenting. The woman, Rita, seemed to be on some sort of reward system based on how much she worried about her kid. Maybe she was even doing a sticker chart and ten worries got her a free cup of coffee, or someone to pay for college. But in our little group, there was an unwritten rule to be forgiving and kind. About the kids, and each other. Rita included.
So when Rita’s kid, Davey, bit my kiddo on the stomach (full mouth bite, like the kind where you can count the teeth, through a sweatshirt and a jacket, which were zipped), I didn’t bat an eyelash. Some kids go through a biting phase, or other weird “Lord of the Flies” bullshit best ignored as a parent. The minute you get smug or judge’y about the biter or the pusher, your kid will do something worse. It’s best not to judge.
The “Lord of the Flies” stuff is usually much harder on the parents than the kids. My son was bit over 10 times, which meant ten teary-eyed calls or emails from embarrassed parents who couldn’t understand why their kid wanted to eat mine for dinner.
My son was never a biter, but he did have his famous “month of hair pulling.” Anyone within arm’s reach became his very own personal Holly Hobbie doll. So Davey’s bite, in my mind, was just like my kid’s hair pulling phase. It was just a phase.
And when my son asked why he got bit, I kindly said what I hoped a parent would say about my kid in a similar situation. “He’s learning not to use his mouth. He’s having a hard time.”
So that was that, or so I thought.
For reason’s I still don’t understand, Davey’s Mom decided I was the source of all her problems and waged a gossip’y, mean spirited criticism campaign against me. It got so bad a few of her own friends stopped being her friend, horrified by her random persecution of me.
By trade, Rita was a professional blame-shifter. This is to say when she wasn’t worrying, she was complaining. When she wasn’t complaining, she was blaming. Her problems were never her fault and there was always a campaign against her kid’s school, the restaurant they ate at last Tuesday or the parents of the kid who came over that caused her son to bite. She had a Phd in blame-shifting. Her roulette wheel had now stopped on me.
She just forgot to tell me. She told everyone else, but not me. Had she, I would have saved the stamp and not mailed her son an invite to my son’s birthday party. Or at the very least, I wouldn’t have been so surprised when she didn’t respond, show up or call.
After the party, a mutual friend explained the whole thing to me. “You know Rita,” our friend said. “She doesn’t need a reason. She’s crazy.”
But it was me who was crazy. After the party, I called Rita to find out why she was so mad at me.
Of course, she didn’t respond. So, I sent an email. She didn’t respond. I sent another email. She didn’t respond. Eventually I moved on. And eventually forgot about it.
I’m wasting time on Facebook when I come across Rita’s latest post, “Davey’s Birthday Party Photos.” From the photos it’s clear, all of my son’s besties were invited, all except him.
I get a lump in my throat. My feelings are hurt on my kid’s behalf. He loves Davey and would be heartbroken to know he’d been excluded.
“Mommy, whats’s that a picture of?” my son asks from across the room.
Only quiet when I don’t want him to be, my kid has stealthy entered my office and seen the party photos over my shoulder.
I can’t exactly lie. I’ve blown the photo up to the size of a billboard, the perfect aspect ratio to properly scrutinize a photo.
“No rhetorical questions, remember?” I offer while closing my computer as quickly as possible.
My kid starts to cry.
“Why didn’t you tell me about Davey’s birthday party? Why did you keep me from going?” he says through snot-tears.
I’m sort of impressed that his “go-to” response to make sense of the photo isn’t that he wasn’t invited. Rather, he’d prefer to believe there was a worldwide conspiracy to keep him from attending.
I could tell him the truth, but it’s probably not appropriate to tell my 6-year-old his friend’s Mom is a bitch. Plus, I’d hate for his feelings to get hurt. It’ll be hard for him to understand a Mom taking her feelings out on a kid. Lord knows I don’t get it.
So I take the bullet and tell him I forgot about the party, but that he was definitely invited.
My kid walks away, his feelings still intact. He’s content. But truth be told, I’m not. I want an apology, some vindication. Why does she get to say whatever she wants about me and I just politely take it?
Rita, like her son, is clearly having a hard time. She’s learning not to use her mouth. A biting kid is going through a phase. His biting mother is permanent. So I decide to give myself the public apology she owes me.
And what’s more public than Facebook?
I click on the “comments” section of Davey’s Facebook birthday party photos. There’s about 14 “likes” and a few, “Too cute” type comments. I add mine,
“Looks like fun. My kiddo would have loved to have been invited. Since he wasn’t, I showed him the photos instead.”
I sign it and press send.
Then I scroll up to the top and find the “unfriend” button under her name.
A message pops up. It asks, “Are you sure you want to unfriend this person?”
I wish I could respond, “Fuck, yeah,” but I just press “yes” instead. Even in friendship there are no rhetorical questions.