Q. I am a single mom with two young sons, 5 and 8, who deeply miss two dear family friends. ¶ They call these women — now in their late 50s — their “aunties,” and it’s an apt description. They have been close to us ever since my first son was a baby. They took them to swim class, attended school events and even took them to Disneyland. Although this attention has been wonderful for us, I never asked for, or expected, such intense involvement. ¶They became the foster parents of a 2-year-old daughter — and will soon become her adoptive parents — and everything has changed. Now they are tied up with the life of an active preschooler and have less time for my boys and less interest in the details of their lives. This has left me grieving for the close involvement we used to have with them. Swim class, for instance — which had been arranged to suit my sons’ schedule — is now arranged to suit their child’s schedule, so the boys have to miss their lessons whenever there is a conflict. They also were supposed to take my sons to Disneyland but apparently they forgot about that as soon as their daughter arrived. Instead they took their new daughter to Disneyland. ¶ Although I love this child and am happy for my friends, I feel an enormous loss on my sons’ behalf because they adore these women. Although the boys don’t show any resentment about their child, they occasionally tell me that their aunties don’t have time for them anymore, now that she is here. ¶ How can I help my sons get through this tough passage? And how do I stop feeling jealous of the love, affection and opportunities that their new daughter is enjoying while my boys just hang around the house?
A. Life is never static, and when it changes, friendships have a tendency to change, too. You can rebuild this friendship, but first you have to tell these new parents how you really feel. A good relationship is built on honesty above all else.
First, ask these aunties whether you can drop by for a visit after they’ve put their daughter to bed and then get a sitter for your boys; bring a present for the child and a bottle of wine for the grown-ups, and go over there to tell them how much they are missed. They’ll probably be surprised to hear you say that because, like most new parents, they’ve been thinking about their child — and no one else — ever since she walked into their home and their hearts.
Don’t think that they were rejecting your sons when they fostered her, however; they simply needed and wanted a child of their own. Some people don’t need children to feel complete, but these women, like most people, wanted to be parents themselves. No matter how stressful motherhood can be, how much money it takes to feed and school them, or how much trouble they’ve gotten into, their children are the greatest blessings they’ll ever have. And with luck and love, this little girl will bless your friends’ lives, too.
You really can’t fault these women for bringing this child into their lives, nor should you resent it. Instead, they need for you to celebrate their good fortune, just as they’ve been celebrating your good fortune, and to do this from your heart. It will make you feel so much better.
You can do this best if you give them some of the simple, affordable joys of life, such as the sharing of simple meals or walks every week, invitations to Thanksgiving or to watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July, and free babysitting so they can go out for dinner occasionally and then spend the whole evening talking about their child.
Your sons will also feel better if you teach them to be givers, too, by asking your friends to meet you at the playground every weekend so your younger child can teach their daughter how to slide down the slide, pump a swing and chase butterflies.
And let your older son call their little girl every night so he can read a story to her. She doesn’t even need to see the books at the same time because the stories will let her draw pictures in her mind. Her “The Cat in the Hat” pictures will never look like something Dr. Seuss would draw, but she won’t care at all. Because now she, too, has someone to love, just as your boys do.
8 Send questions about parenting
Also at washingtonpost.com Read past columns at washingtonpost.com/advice .