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Carolyn Hax: Mom friend can’t resist their daughters’ teen dramas

(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)
3 min

Hi, Carolyn: I have a 14-year-old daughter who has a nice group of friends and is generally doing well in school. Over the years, I have become close to some of the mothers of my daughter’s friendship group. I think it is important for our relationships with each other and our daughters’ relationships to be kept very separate. I don’t get involved in the daily teenage dramas, and I try to think of the girls as evolving personalities — to not judge them by adult standards, but instead listen and help them navigate the ups and downs in a kind, responsible way.

One of the mothers — whom I do really like and value as a friend — does not share this philosophy. She will text or call whenever she feels her daughter is being left out, once called one of the girls “a little b----” when she felt she had done her daughter wrong, and just doesn’t have the same boundaries I do. I have explained once that I will only get involved in my daughter’s day-to-day friendship dramas when (a) I feel a child is in an unsafe situation or (b) I feel as if there is serious bullying.

My friend doesn’t realize her involvement is making it worse for her daughter, and I don’t think it’s sending the best message to our kids. Not sure where else to go from here. Advice?

— Very Separate

Very Separate: One place you are absolutely obligated to go, if she ever calls any of these girls “a little b----” again, or anything even close, is to your flat refusal to stand for that term. “Whoa. I get that you’re upset, but this is a child. Not okay.” Don’t budge a millimeter on misogyny like that.

Because you’re responding to your friend’s invitation to join her in these conversations, you also have standing to explain why you respectfully decline. Make your statements as pointed as your comfort levels allow:

“What I hear is the normal learning process of 14-year-olds. Let’s give them room to figure it out.”

“I see my role as teaching [daughter’s name] not to fall over each time the wind changes direction.”

“I don’t see an emergency here, and you know my rule.”

“I don’t think it’s good for [daughter’s name] when I get this closely involved.”

“Whoa. They have to be 14; we don’t.”

As always, the right tone is the one that’s right for you and for your friendship, so modulate accordingly. But stick to the “I” or “we” format regardless. You’re not saying that she’s making it worse for her daughter, or that she is sending a bad message to your kids. That’s your opinion, but you’re not the parent police. (Though, if she asks for your opinion, offer it tactfully.) You’re saying what you believe and, in situation-specific detail, why you won’t join her on any given road or will make an exception.

Whether this persuades your friend to take a step back is up to her. I hope it does.

Regardless, she will have to take a step back if she wants to talk about your daughters’ social lives with you. Those are the limits you’re entitled to set and owe it to yourself to hold. She can either adapt or fight the friendship into extinction. Her call.