DEAR AMY: I need advice on a friendship issue involving my 14-year-old son. My son has been friends with a boy since fourth grade. Our families have been friends, and my husband and I think the parents are good people. The boys go to school together and we are carpooling this year.
The friend has changed. Every day I see instances of him slighting my son. In the car, he is absorbed in his phone and barely grunts hello. When he gets to school, he hurries off and doesn’t walk with my son. He makes plans on the phone with other kids, obviously excluding my son (who is sitting right there), and later brags about how much fun it was.
In my opinion, he is either deliberately trying to hurt my son, or clueless about his actions. I don’t know which is worse.
The boys do talk some in the two classes they have together. They eat lunch with the same group, but it’s obvious that they are growing apart. My son’s priority is doing well in school; the other boy is more concerned with trying to be popular.
I would like to end the carpool arrangement, but it might make the declaration that this friendship is over, instead of letting the boys work it out (or end the friendship on their own).
The other option would be to stick it out until the end of the year, and then let the boys go their separate ways. I have not talked to the boy’s parents. I’m afraid of being too angry and judgmental about their son when I talk to them. What do you suggest? -- Carpool Mom
DEAR MOM: I realize how hard it can be for a parent to witness this sort of dynamic, but your son should be in the driver’s seat in terms of his own relationships, even if his choice confuses or frustrates you and even if he is not being particularly brave in terms of standing up for himself.
Ask him an open-ended question: “What goes through your mind when your friend ignores you in the car?”
Your son may give you the brush-off. Fourteen-year-old boys don’t always find it easy to express difficult emotions. If so, you can say, “Well, his behavior really bothers me. You are nice to all your friends, and I want people to be nice to you, too.” Offer him the option of you terminating this carpool situation now. Otherwise stick it out until summer break.
I don’t think there is any reason to intervene with this boy’s parents or worry about what they think. But there is no reason for you to be host to this unpleasant dynamic either.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been invited to two weddings (with so far only a verbal invitation to both) on the same day in October.
The first invitation came last month from a casual friend we have known for five years; the second came last week from a close friend we have known for 28 years.
I immediately said, “Oh, we have a conflict on that date.” She didn’t seem upset but wanted to know whose wedding trumped hers so I told her.
I feel we should go to the wedding we were invited to first no matter how close the relationship is with these friends. Do you agree? -- Cindy
DEAR CINDY: This is tricky because the invitations so far are verbal, the equivalent of a “save the date” whisper in your ear. I think you should wait to see if more permanent invitations come in (one or the other might have changed the date of the nuptials). Strictly speaking, the invitation you accept first is the one you should honor.
DEAR AMY: “Confused Partner” talked about “sister weekends” that excluded a sister-in-law. I can’t imagine doing this. My sister-in-law is as much of a sister to me as my “blood” sisters are. -- Disappointed
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: Many families draw a hard and fast line between “real” and in-law relationships. This can cause people to feel excluded, but realistically it is not always possible to change the way families operate.