My son and “Robbie” have been best friends since they were babies. They are both now in 5th grade. I have been friends with Robbie’s mom and dad for several years.
Robbie’s parents are now in the middle of a divorce that has recently turned rather nasty. Robbie has always been a cheerful young man, but he has understandably been depressed lately. To cheer him up, and create happy memories in this sad time, my husband and I have been taking the two boys out for social events like dinners and ball games. We often invite Robbie’s mother to join us. Recently, Robbie’s dad called us, upset that we were including his estranged wife in these events, and accused me of taking sides with her. Abby, the man moved away a year ago. He lives in another state, for goodness sake! I told him that, had he still been living near us, we would have invited him to events as well, possibly alternating the parent, or even including them both at the same time for the sake of their son. After all, he belongs to both of them.
He wouldn’t hear of it, though. He insisted that I stop “taking sides” as it was hurting him AND his son. I have no idea what to do. I don’t want to hurt Robbie or his dad, but I think he is overreacting. Am I being too careless? Or should I care at all?
Annoyed in Annapolis
When my first dad decided that he did not love us anymore, and Mom and I moved to our own home, we kept in contact with our stepson and his mom. We did this not because we were taking any “sides” but because love has no “sides.”
If Robbie is anything like my boy, he does not fully understand why his parents are going in different directions. He most likely does not want to take any sides because he loves them both. This is a mature reaction. Robbie’s only issue is that he is stuck in the middle of two parents who are not acting like they are adults at all. His father is the one with problem, and his father is the one who needs to grow up.
Mom and I talk about kindness a lot. Giving in to tyrants is never kind, so please do not do it. If Robbie gets joy from being with your family on your outings, then continue to invite Robbie and his whole family whenever you want to. In fact, I would call his father every time to personally invite him so that he may kindly decline each time. Then he can no longer complain that he is being excluded. Tell him that it is up to him to explain it to his son, if he so chooses.
Mom says to be kind and firm. Do not let him bully you into being unkind toward his little boy.