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My oldest friend is the mother of an adorable two-year-old girl. I was worried we’d grow apart when she got pregnant, but we’ve stayed close, and when her daughter was still a baby, she’d bring her along, and it was nice and easy and always great to spend time together. Now that her daughter's older though, she’s become a handful — to say the least. And, frankly, I don’t want to hang out with an annoying toddler! I'd much rather just have it be the two of us. But, my concern is this: Since all three of us hung out together all the time since her daughter was born, I think she might be surprised and hurt by my bringing this up now. Is there a way to sugarcoat it? Or, should I just keep my mouth shut?
Risha London Nathan, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Holistic Health Counselor
This is a tough one. The reality is that as we grow, some of us becoming spouses and mothers, you may begin to see a shift in relationships you once believed were invincible. Generally, I'm an advocate of open and honest communication, but sometimes it isn't the best policy — not when the matter is especially sensitive. Few things are more delicate that attempting to talk to a friend about her child or her child’s behavior; it's a touchy subject no matter how much sugar you sprinkle on it.
In this particular scenario, letting actions speak louder than words is probably preferable. Tell her you see how hard it is for her now that her mini-me is getting bigger and then ask if she could use a grownups-only play date. When she says “Hell, yes,” — fingers crossed — take the lead on making plans with a few of your mutual friends, and then get everyone to chip in for a babysitter. She will be grateful for this extra note of thoughtfulness, and you'll feel good, too.
Pointing out her toddler's annoying behaviors (toddler being the key word here), will not go over well, and I don't recommend it. It's hard to know what kind of offense she might take even if you're really, really nice about your request for her to leave the little brat at home.
Anyway, I don't believe the kid's tantrums or food-throwing is the real issue here; rather, it sounds like you just miss the way things used to be, and though this is a perfectly valid sentiment, you can't go back. This is a new chapter for her and a permanent life change. It's up to you to be flexible and understanding enough to accept that and act accordingly. That might mean spending more time with friends who have more freedom, or just riding out her kid’s terrible twos with her, letting her know you're there for her.
Parents of young kids are under a lot of stress and are doing often just their best to make it through the day without pulling their hair out. Social obligations are usually the first thing to go, so the fact that she still has the energy to make the effort to hang out with you in any capacity shows how much she cares about you and values your company.
Remember, the little one’s growing pains are temporary, so hang in there. There's really no denying the fact that kids change the dynamic of everything. Check in with yourself, adjust your needs for this transition, and be patient until the time comes to be the “cool aunt” who she confides in. Then, you’ll have two lifelong friends.