Published On: Tue, Oct 31st, 2023

Carolyn Hax: Soon-to-be parent doesn’t want to lose child-free friends

Carolyn Hax: Soon-to-be parent doesn’t want to lose child-free friends
Carolyn Hax: Soon-to-be parent doesn’t want to lose child-free friends

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My first child is due next month. My close friends do not have children. How do I avoid becoming one of those parents child-free people complain about, who suddenly no longer have the time or interest to sustain a friendship that doesn’t revolve around their kids?

Expecting: 1. Congratulations!

2. Find a good sitter and see your friends without your child always in tow (unless it’s necessary).

A small child requires attention. Axiomatic. Asking your friends to give you their social attention while your attention (actually or conversationally) is entirely on your child is not fair — unless they encourage you to do it.

3. Not dissing child-free people really helps.

There are many more things you can do on the margins, but those two are the big ones.

· My friends and I have an unspoken agreement: I show (or feign, if need be) interest in their kid-related issues, they feign interest in my non-kid-related problems, even though I’m sure they seem trivial by comparison. I respect that their parenthood requires extra flexibility from me, and they respect my lack of interest in being a parent. See if you can come to a similar spoken or unspoken arrangement with your friends.

Dear Carolyn: My 14-year-old suddenly — as of a few months ago — has terrible table manners. Hunched over their plate, shoveling, chewing huge mouthfuls of food, one knee resting on the table. They say “all” the kids they know eat like this and my rules are silly.

I don’t expect a fine dining environment at home, but watching my kid eat right now is gross, and I shudder at how they must eat at other people’s homes. My other kids are also using their older sibling’s example as an excuse to have poor manners. I politely request only once at maybe half of our meals that they sit up or take smaller bites, but my kid goes right back to being feral. Is my only recourse just to hope they grow out of this?

I Shudder: Kinda, yes, depending on your kid’s (or kids’) appetite for defiance. The system I use for choosing the hills I want to die on: Can I win? Will I regret this one when I have bigger ones to hold later? Will something or someone else — or my consistent modeling — fix this for me?

I particularly enjoy that last one when it comes to gross eating; I imagine a dinner date or other meal intended to impress, and foresee the manners resetting to what we taught them with an audible “snap.” Though I might be kidding myself.

Re: Table manners: Betcha anything the kid displays perfect manners in friends’ homes. Betcha!

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Anonymous: That’s the hope we all cling to. Other readers’ thoughts:

· Having two teenage boys myself, I would just laugh at the kid who suddenly developed bad table manners at 14 and say something like, “Your dates will love this. Tell them to send me pictures from the restaurant,” but that’s as far as I’d go. I agree it’s probably just a defiance thing, but their friends will probably take care of it.

· They know what table manners are, if you did your job years ago, so this is just chain-pulling. Roll your eyes and give it little attention, and it’ll go away.

· Anyone able to conform to decent table manners, but unwilling to do so, is showing a lack of rock-bottom respect for fellow diners. It’s especially egregious when those fellow diners are one’s parents. I would not tolerate or cultivate that mind-set for a nanosecond.

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