Chart Number 226

September 2, 2016

By Ekta R. Garg

As the kids get older we’ve had some interesting challenges to deal with when it comes to friends. The girls’ friends as well as our own friends. Sometimes managing both can get a little tricky.

Recently we decided on a social outing with some friends of ours. These friends have two children, both younger than Ten and Eight. When we told Ten and Eight we were going on this outing, they both rolled their eyes. The problem? They don’t like one of the kids.

The child can be boisterous and bossy at times. I watched once as she marched up to a group of adults and demanded to be included in the conversation. Her abrasive manner may come across as cute while she’s in single digits, but it’s going to be a downright pain when she’s 15.

My husband and I really like these friends, so when we first met them and discovered their children are relatively the same age as ours we thought the friendship would be a natural fit. Makes sense, right? The parents all like each other, and the kids would have enough in common to entertain one another. But after several get-togethers, Ten and Eight still have the same opinion. And, as in so many other things, they definitely share it.

When it came to this most recent outing, we tried to explain that sometimes socializing meant getting together with people who wouldn’t necessarily be our first choice for companions. Occasionally we’ll run into situations that require us to interact with people vastly different from us. They grumbled and complained about it, and by the end of the night they had actually survived (imagine that! :>)

The grumbling doesn’t stay in the kids’ camp, however. It certainly traverses to the parents’ side with decided stomps of glee. Sometimes my husband takes the flag of gleefulness and waves it, because often I’m the one dealing with the parents we don’t like so much.

Of course, as is the irony of life, the kids of those parents are close to our children. And it’s not necessarily that I outright dislike those parents so much as it is that if given a choice…well, you get the picture. Not that the kids do, of course, because I can’t show it to them.

Recently I texted the mother of one of the girls’ friends to set up a playdate. We exchanged three or four texts, and the mother’s responses were the same: gruff. I got a little annoyed. Here I am, on a sunny Saturday morning, texting to ask whether her daughter would like to come over, and she’s using abrupt responses with no provocation whatsoever.

In the case of this particular mother, it didn’t surprise me. We’ve had text exchanges like this before, so I knew this was more a matter of how she uses digital media. Maybe no one’s ever told her how she comes across. I certainly won’t. I did get a little peeved, however. When she meets me in person, she’s pleasant enough to talk to, although occasionally I have my own urge to roll my eyes. So not my first choice.

After the aforementioned social outing, my husband and I talked about how the kids don’t like the children of our friends.

“I tried to tell [Eight] that it’s okay, sometimes you just have to overlook things in other people,” he said.

I know what he’s getting at, and at its core it’s a principle I agree with: respect other people. Be gracious in dealing with them. A person’s weaknesses or even their circumstances can often pull them in one way or the other and rub others the wrong way without that person meaning to or even realizing it. Most people, in their heart of hearts, don’t want to harm others.

After we talked, though, I kept wondering just how much leeway we should give people.

Does that sound mean? Or intolerant? Is it right to remain quiet when the person in question says mean things or makes a mess? It’s one thing, of course, if that mess means leaving Ten and Eight’s rooms in a disaster by the end of the evening. What happens in later years if that mess becomes more subtle, more internal?

How far do we tolerate one another? And what does that even mean, “tolerate”? When is it okay to speak up and when should we flat out ignore what bothers us? Does that line to cross change with each situation as it comes up? Or from person to person?

We will definitely be socializing with our friends in the future, so there’s really no way of getting around dealing with their little girl. And barring any major fight my daughters might have with the friend whose mother has trouble texting politely, I know I’m going to have to see her again in the future.

Maybe we just deal with it. Life isn’t about perfection, right? So much in this world doesn’t make sense—the wars, the violence, sometimes even the politics. If we have to deal with rude people occasionally—who have demonstrated that they really aren’t malicious at all by nature but, in fact, may just be naïve when it comes to social etiquette—then maybe letting it slide is our solution.

Maybe that’s the definitely of tolerance.