#1158: “What do you owe a former friend when you end a relationship?”

Dear Captain Awkward,

FYI: she/her pronouns for me and “Amy”

I had a falling out with a friend and do not want to try to repair the relationship. I am wondering what I owe this former friend, in terms of an explanation for why things have gone cold between us.

This friend and I are members of a parenting social group. “Amy” and I have kids the same age, and everyone has been friends for 4 years. Our kids are still too young to have 100% independent friendships, so if your kids decide they like each other? It requires the parents facilitating the relationship and means the parents sort of have to become friends, too.

I’ve come to realize that Amy isn’t the type of person I’d pick as a friend for myself. While she has several great qualities, she can also be very rude, cheap, thoughtless, and insensitive. If you point out “Hey Amy, what you just said/did was rude, cheap, thoughtless, and/or insensitive”, she’ll respond “I’m from Europe. That’s just how Europeans are”, which seems like a bullshit excuse to me. Sometimes she’ll even excuse her behavior immediately after she’s done something thoughtless. So, she *knows* she’s done something out of line, but she’s preemptively telling you to get over it, because Europe.

I’ve been ignoring her periodic rudeness for the sake of the kids’ friendship until recently. Last week, she made an insensitive comment about my kid and told me that her kids didn’t consider my kid to be a friend. Which sucks, because my kids *did* consider her kids to be friends. I don’t think “my kids don’t like yours” is a temporary, little-kid-moodiness thing, where they say they aren’t friends one day and then back to being friends the next. She totally meant that her kids disliked mine and have for a long time. Which is confusing, because if your kids don’t like my kids, why the heck are you inviting us over to play and for multiple kid parties every year? Why do you extend us invites and accept our invites? What’s that all about, Amy?

Since telling me that her kids don’t like mine, Amy has been extra friendly with me, texting me, liking alllllll my posts on social media, and generally buttering me up in ways she never has before. She texts to see if we want to come over (No), how we are feeling (Fine), do we want to meet at the park? (Can’t), are we coming to her kid’s birthday party next week (No, thank you). She knows something is up, and will eventually ask why I’ve distanced myself.

Do I owe her an explanation? I’m 100% done with the relationship at this point. I don’t like her, her kids don’t like mine, so there’s pretty much nothing keeping us together, in my opinion. The “Good Girl” part of me feels like I should explain why I have put distance between us, but I know that she’ll just blame the whole thing on me not understanding Europeans and try to “fix” things by shoving her kids at mine via more play dates. I don’t know what her motivation is for wanting to keep this non-friendship going, and I don’t care to find out. I’m done.

What do I owe her?

-Not Chasing Amy

Dear Not Chasing Amy,

I think after yesterday’s post, this week has a theme of “You don’t have to work so hard at people who regularly piss you off,” so thanks for this!

As far as Amy goes, you could keep avoiding invitations forever, and it’s not that you owe her an explanation, but it might be kinder to everyone if you give one. Try this as a script:

“Hey Amy, thanks for all the invites, but since you mentioned your kids don’t like playing with mine anymore, I just haven’t been very interested in getting us all together. Why force it?

Maybe the kids will bond again next year when they’re in school*, who knows? Until then, don’t worry about including us, let’s let everyone take a nice long break! 

Hope you have a wonderful holiday season and that [Birthday Kid]’s party was the best time. Take care, Not Chasing” 

Then I want you to make a filter so she can’t see your social media posts, and unfollow hers. Keep cheerfully declining any invitations that come your way. You told her you wanted to take a break, so, take the break!

Amy might try to tell you that she didn’t really mean it or that her kids didn’t mean it about not liking your kids, like, she may act pretty surprised that you took her words seriously. It’s okay to maintain your distance, like, “Oh, weird, you seemed really insistent about that when we talked, and it definitely made me question why you wanted to hang out all the time if they felt that way. Now that I’ve had a chance to think about it, though, little kid friendships and Mom-group friendships aren’t meant to last forever, let’s not force it! Of course, I’ll still be glad to see you & catch up at [the library storytime/swim class/parent group events/other kid’s parties/public/social things where Amy is unavoidable, etc.], no need to make it awkward on ourselves! But yeah, I think a break is the right choice for me as well as the kids. I’ll get in touch if anything changes.” Keep your tone pretty bright/neutral if you can.

I don’t think you’ll ever really get a satisfying explanation from her about what’s going on, or that she’ll agree and understand where you’re coming from, so just focus on saying your piece with as little emotional engagement and worry as possible. “Let’s take a break!” and “I don’t really want to get together, but I’ll get in touch if anything changes” are not mysterious statements (even in Europe)(Que será, será!)(C’est la vie!)(That is a joke, people).

*As much as you’re done with her, you don’t want to create a situation where your kids or her kids are the only kids in the class not invited to stuff.

Good luck! Hopefully this all blows over with a little bit of time.


258 thoughts on “#1158: “What do you owe a former friend when you end a relationship?”

  1. She’ll respond “I’m from Europe. That’s just how Europeans are”

    Ok, well, even IF (big if) that’s true you’re (presumably) not in Europe, so….

    1. All the Europeans I’ve met have been quite lovely and not passive-aggressively judgmental or rude (at least, no more so than any other nationality I’ve met), so….???!!

      1. I once had a French grocer get seriously angry with me because I confused my fruit, asked him for a dozen pineapples (I was after bananas), and he understandably thought I was fucking with him. Otherwise, barring the odd touchy boy, Europeans are perfectly lovely.

        French grocer, if by some chance you’re reading this, I’m really really sorry. My bad.

        1. *looks up from her French translation*
          Oh, that’s a mistake I would totally make! (Seriously, what kind of language needs so many homophones and quasi-homophones?! French, you know we love you, but come on!)
          I’m sorry that happened to you, it’s always really awkward when you mix up words at the grocery store. And then if you get flustered, explaining takes longer and you end up holding up the line and/or seriously annoying the staff 😦

        2. Banananas. I totally see how that happened, not your fault. Perhaps deliberately confusing bananas and pineapple is a long-standing French joke used to piss off grocers and you were the fifth person to do it that day.

        3. Heya, random French reader here! I had to speak the two words aloud to myself before I figured out how close they were. Funny how I never noticed that before! Now I’ll think of it when I’m buying one or the other.

          1. I keep them straight by that kid’s show with the pinapple: “Tu es un ananas!”

            (Too lazy to log in fully but it’s the same sistercoyote)

        4. Thank you for bringing this up. I was at the grocery store just now and a French-speaking person approached me in the canned fruit aisle looking for ananas, and so I was able to point him to the pineapple. Otherwise, I’d have led him off to find bananas.

          You learn all sorts of things in a CA thread!

      2. Yes that excuse had me rolling my eyes! I live in Europe; Europeans are just normal people who are no more or less rude/thoughtless/cheap than anyone else. I’ve met lovely Americans and shitty Europeans, and I’ve met lovely Europeans and shitty Americans. People are people.

      3. Yes that excuse had me rolling my eyes! I live in Europe; Europeans are just normal people who are no more or less rude/thoughtless/cheap than anyone else. I’ve met lovely Americans and shitty Europeans, and I’ve met lovely Europeans and shitty Americans. People are people.

        I live in Scotland and the only real cultural difference that was an issue is that I have had to ask my friends not to use the “c-word” around me because I find it upsetting. Everyone has more than happily accommodated me on that.

        1. Yeah this. I mean, you do get cultural difference. I’m a complete stick-up-the-arse English person who gets stressed if people queue wrong, and I’ve worked with a lot of people from other European countries who are more blunt than I am – I soften my phrasing a lot more than most of my Italian or German clients, for example. But none of them act like Amy. She’s just rude.

    2. Yeah, I’d love for OP to call her on that with ‘Well…when in Rome…’ followed by a pointed awkward silence.

    3. Where is this mysterious Rude Europe? I’ve never met somebody who was rude and European and the rudeness came from being European instead of just being an asshole.

      Obviously customs and manners can differ, but most functional adults know when somebody’s just used to doing something differently and when they’re being curt, dismissive, racist, etc.

      1. As someone from North America who now lives in a Scandinavian country – said Scandinavian country can be pretty rude, by North American standards. Much more brusque, less likely to smile, and a strong sense of cultural superiority (coupled with a sort of disdain for individualism.)

        And I’ll bet some of what the LW is identifying as ‘cheap’ comes down to not wanting to tip, since it’s not so customary in many European countries; but if you’re in a country where it IS customary, you kinda need to get over it and learn to tip. While it’d be great if all countries just started paying service workers decent wages, you’re not gonna make that happen by stiffing your waitress.

        1. No, it’s not about tipping. It’s stuff like she never brings a gift to other kids parties, but 100% expects you will bring a gift to her kids’ parties. And she’ll complain that she wants more social events for the kids in our Parent Group, but then also complain that she has to pay any money to do these events. LIke, I dunno what to say, Amy. Finger paints cost money! The zoo costs money! If you suggest to her “Hey Amy, maybe you can come up with some frugal ideas for events for the kids since you didn’t like the cost of this event”, she’ll tell you “No, I don’t feel like organizing, hosting, or planning those things. I’d rather you do it”. She both doesn’t like the free events (“My kids are bored by those things!”) and also doesn’t want to pay for events (“It’s too expensive if you have more than one kid!”).

          1. Yeah, you don’t need this woman in your life.

            She’s jerking you around because she’s gotten away with it for so long and she can’t stand the idea that you’d take control by calling off the “friendship” for her. You can explain if you want, but, personally, I’d worry about getting sucked into a debate (another way for her to get traction on you). If you think you can tell her, “You said your kids didn’t like mine and I think it’s clear that we don’t have the same priorities in terms of [cost of activities, whatever]”, and then ignore her protest, go for it. Otherwise, drop her like a hot rock and move on.

          2. Heyyyy, her cheapness gives you more “outs”… now you can just book your kids into events with some costs (and pay for just your kids right away) and if she asks afterwards you can tell her about it and she can book it too, or not. You don’t have to send her links or anything you can tell her to “just check the zoo’s website”. I’ve done that, or if badgered, I will agree to send a link (but I never get around to it) and just say “oh sorry, I didn’t have time” if asked. “Sorry, I don’t have time to organize events, we are going on X date. Go see the zoo website.” can be a reverse script.
            I just tell them to “go check out the website or call the them, the zoo/museum/place have the answers to any questions about the event”. Odd, how I keep forgetting these things. 😉 I just keep directing them away from me. It makes it all their effort to join an event I’m doing.

      2. I found people in Amsterdam incredibly rude. Some really nice ones, but by and large, very rude. Have heard some say “oh, we’re just being blunt”… dude, I’m blunt, what they were, was just plain rude.

        1. The Netherlands is generally a rude country… with rudeness justified as “bluntness”. Though in a customer service context, it seems to be getting a bit better with the younger generation.

          1. Eh, there are flavors of blunt that I think are still rude even if you are allowed to reciprocate. If someone calls me ugly to my face I don’t care if I’m allowed to call them ugly right back; it’s not gonna make me feel any better.

      3. Exactly. I’ve known a few obnoxious people from different countries, but in EVERY case they were self-absorbed assholes that used cultural differences as a flimsy excuse for bad behavior.

      4. Going from western US to Europe for study abroad was like getting slapped every day until I learned to fit in. Some of it was anti-US sentiment. A lot of it was cultural, such as delight in sarcasm and wry humor, refusal to express appreciation under most circumstances, and general stoicism and silence. No one suffered fools gladly. There was great pride taken in frugality. All of this worked for them, but clashed with generous, friendly, wide-eyed American ideals, and it could definitely look like constant rudeness and cheapness when standing alone in the US. Heck, I married one of the locals and I have to admit he still often seems rude to me when he’s just being normal, and even kind, from his perspective.

        1. Some Europeans might take this characterisation as pretty damn rude, you know.

          This one has.

      5. Personally I’m always a little surprised by the stereotype that French people are rude, because in my experience the French are, for the most part, lovely. My perspective may be skewed because I speak French, but even as a scruffy backpacker most people I met in France were polite and helpful.
        Now, I will admit that people in Paris were more likely to be brusque or impatient than people in the countryside or in smaller towns, but I also found this to be true in London, Rome and Athens.

        1. It’s not just you. I had enough French to ask, politely, “Parlez-vous anglais?” and to order ungrammatically off a printed menu, and everyone in Paris was polite and helpful, even when I was reduced to nouns, gestures, and “thank you.” (Then I got back to the U.S. and wound up telling just about everyone I knew that nobody had been rude to me, because they all asked how I had dealt with this nonexistent rudeness.)

          1. I didn’t even know French rudeness was supposed to be a thing. When I was there everyone was super polite.

          2. That is a big part of it. Even if you’re not fluent enough to converse, acknowledging that you’re in someone else’s country and asking them to speak your language is a favour to you goes a long way. A lot the “tourists suck” mentality comes from the all-too-common ones who turn up in a foreign country and expect it to be Disneyland.

          3. It used to be more of a thing from what I understand. My grandfather learned French from his French-Canadian mother, and he told me how when he first when to France as a young man, particularly in Paris they would pretend not to understand his colonial accent and generally be a bit snooty. He went back decades later when his French was much rustier and found the people much more pleasant. Reputations don’t always keep up with change.

          4. Ah, mountains-are-cool, that makes sense. French snootiness specifically towards Quebecers and other francophone Canadians sometimes actually is still a thing now.

        2. Because most Americans can’t tell the difference, “Parisians are rude” became “French people are rude”. But, I mean. Even the rest of France apparently doesn’t like Paris that much. There’s a slur against French people that I won’t use, but I looked it up because I was curious about its origins.

          Originally it was said against Parisians because their city was built on a swamp.

          (N.b., I’m only second generation American — from France — on my father’s side and I know perfectly well there are charming Parisians both because I’ve met them and because, well, all generalizations are false.)

          1. Right! I think “Parisians are rude” and “New Yorkers are rude” and “Big City people are rude” stereotypes all come from the same wellspring: City people do stuff a little faster, and because so many strangers are crowded in one place all the time, we keep pretty firm personal buffers in place. It’s a kindness to not be in people’s business all the time, it’s a kindness to keep the deli line moving, it’s a kindness to be quiet on the subway, it’s a kindness to give people what space you can and not force interactions beyond a quick hello.

    4. That’s a bizarre thing to say. Countries in Europe differ in culture and norms A LOT. Generally Europeans don’t like when their home country is just called ‘The Europe’.
      Like, is she from France or Belarus? Italy or Finland? Ireland or Hungary? Pretty big difference! To me it’s just weird that she would just say that as it explains anything.

      1. Maybe she knows that it doesn’t actually explain anything, but she’s had good luck using it as an excuse on people who *don’t* know that it’s not really an explanation. So she keeps getting away with it all, because she can just throw out this excuse and most people she encounters accept it.

      2. Right? I grew up in Germany and it’s a relatively low-context language/culture compared to others, so there were sometimes issues with visiting students from higher-context cultures who found Germans to be uncomfortably blunt or direct, but they weren’t deliberately trying to be assholes.

        Amy just sounds like a jerk.

        1. And even within Germany there are differences. The people from Berlin are known to be particularly blunt, it’s called the “Berliner Schnauze” (Berlin snout). People from other parts of Germany think they are rude. I grew up in the south of Germany and wouldn’t dare being as direct as the cliché Berlin waitress.

          And from the other side, people from less direct countries can seem a little fake and over-the-top. My boyfriend has to deal with a lot of Americans for work and feels that they are rather too fond of saying “awesome” and describing everything very positive. I reckon there’s probably a code for when things are “normal awesome” as opposed to “actually awesome awesome”, but if you don’t know that code you’re just confronted with a lot of sunshine while knowing it can’t really ALL be sunshine, there’s GOT to be a catch somewhere, only you aren’t able to tell.

          1. As someone from a high context culture. You bet there are. Knowing the code is second nature to me but we do give leeway to people who didn’t grow up here because we know that people don’t know to NEVER take the last of something unless you’ve asked everyone multiple times if they want it, or want to split it. And even then if it’s something really good? That last one will just lie on the plate….

          2. I put a high value on tasty food, so it makes me sad to think of the last of something really good sitting there forever and possibly being wasted when someone could have enjoyed it. 😀

          3. And, Oranges, there are cultures where leaving that last of something is considered just as rude!

          4. I was checking out of a grocery store in Massachusetts once and the checker asked how my day was going. I said “fine” (which would be the most enthusiastic acceptable answer in Ireland, where I live) and she said “what would it take to get it to GREAT?” It was waaaaay more intense an interaction than I was expecting in the grocery check-out!

          5. Wow, that would get a flustered non-response from me most of the time, and some sort of “How is that your business?” response if I wasn’t too taken aback.

            Though on the other hand, my natural demeanor for those sorts of causal contacts is automatic-cheerful, and I always ask “How are you?” in return, which not everyone does.

    5. LW can respond, well I’m from (wherever she’s from) and that’s not how I do it. Bc who gives a poo where you’re from if the person you’re talking to doesn’t do it you can’t force them. It’s the bully’s argument. ‘I don’t want you to put my head in that toilet ‘. I’m from Europe it’s what we do. ‘I don’t like when you hit me’. I’m from Europe it’s what we do. Put it that way and bring from Europe becomes a convenient excuse to topple any boundary. Cultures vary but people are people. Human nature isn’t so different wherever you are from. LW your instincts are good. Just restrict and unfriend, and keep backing up. Try ‘I’m from x this is how we end friendships. Don’t worry you’ll get used to how we do things here.’

    6. I would say, “I think it’s less a ‘European’ thing and more of a ‘you’re an asshole’ thing.”

  2. The kid thing socializing thing is really hard. I’ve worked really hard to give my kids some regular playdates, but after a while I just couldn’t hack the endless parent parade of stuff that I didn’t want to deal with. I think it is definitely true that these relationships don’t last anyway and it’s a kindness to just be upfront about it (even if she acts weird) and then just give yourself permission to check out with filters or whatnot. I try to teach my kids that we don’t have to be friends with everyone, we just have to be nice- and now I extend that to parents as well. As a bonus, once I stopped trying with some parents I wasn’t fond of, we found other (more fun!) things to occupy our time. The time of little kidlets can be really isolating for parents though. Jedi hugs if you want them.

  3. On the topic of not owing Amy anything, and not actually *needing* to get into the nitty gritty details of why ya’ll don’t mesh as a single playgroup – The holidays are coming! You have a built-in, culturally relevant, ENDLESS list of small-talk excuses for any specific thing. You’re baking, you’re shopping, the kids are doing , there’s family coming in, you’re going to see family, you’ve just been SO BUSY lately and you really need a BREAK that particular time slot, etc etc etc. Rinse and repeat for whatever is relevant to your own situation.

    Basically, if you don’t want to get into it, you don’t have to and you shouldn’t. You can keep light-hearted refusals going for a minimum of 2 months, maybe 3, without ever addressing the pattern. And hopefully she gives up before then.

    1. I didn’t realize the brackets would get wiped out – this is supposed to read “the kids are doing ~something time-sensitive and holiday relevant~. 🙂

  4. I have European parents from different countries and eras and European friends from various places. This does lead to confusion and hurt feelings sometimes. I am still figuring out what is “typical” in American communication. I find that cultural differences usually lend themselves to interesting conversations like “Oh, we tend to be blunt in X country, but we notice people in Y country get hurt when we communicate like that. So we try this instead…” To me, consideration for other cultures includes honoring the appropriate local customs when it comes to manners. Does everyone say please and thank you here? Then do that. When in Rome…

    Anyway, we have differences within American regions that can cause confusion and hurt feelings. I consider it my work to figure out the underlying intentions when something jars me that someone else says, and especially give them the benefit of the doubt if we don’t share a common cultural background that I’m familiar with. That said…telling someone your kids don’t like their kids is a problem in any culture. What was the intention? What was the goal? Where was the follow up to problem solve? Where was the empathy to your feelings? (At least she didn’t say it to your kids!) Without any of that it seems like either a put-down or a demand (not a request) for some change in behavior on your part or your kids without clarifying what it is and giving you choice about whether to do it.

    I am also reminded of a friend of mine of British descent who told his wife, “I’m British, I’m not good at talking about my feelings!” She was of Japanese descent and responded, “Well, I’m Japanese, so I’m not either!” And then they got down to solving the problem at hand.

  5. Europe…iiiiiiiiis not homogenous, culture-wise and it strikes me (as an Irish person) as very weird to say “I’m European” instead of “I’m from the specific country I’m from”.

    1. I was thinking so myself. I know people from several European countries, all of whom report different social customs.

      1. SO MANY different cultures. Even countries that seem really similar really aren’t. My ex-girlfriend thought I was *really* rude for not asking her 3 times whether she wanted a glass of wine the first time she came over to my place (so rude that she still tells people the story, it was 8 years ago!). My English sensibilities said you never offer alcohol more than once. Her Irish sensibilities said you have to offer food and drinks multiple times because it is polite to refuse the first (and maybe second) offer.

        1. I’m with you. As an Australian who hardly ever drinks (and never drinks wine), I’d be pretty annoyed if someone kept asking me and it would actually make me wonder why they are so obsessed with drinking.

          1. Yep, as a Canadian (who does drink!) offering alcohol over and over reads like you’re trying to push them into drinking. It’s a bit of a delicate topic, so, don’t push!

          2. It’s the one time in Minnesota where we’ll only ask you once. (All other things three times minimum….)

          3. Minnesota
            This seems sort of like a person to person thing. My personal opinion offering anything multiple times can be a double edged sword. If they really wanted the thing but were not sure if it was really okay it gives them a chance to change their minds without having to ask after they turned it down. If its something they don’t want, they have to turn it down multiple times and it begins to feel like they are being rude to refuse.
            I think a happy medium is offer and if they refuse say let me know if you change your mind, or its here if you change your mind.
            If someone offers you something and you turn it down to not impose either don’t impose or let them know you changed your mind don’t get mad because they did not only offer you the thing but also do an anxiety inducing dance to prove its really okay.
            Unless you were in Ireland she was a jerk for getting mad.

        2. Yeah, Irish custom is to ask at least three times on everything so you can do the polite refusal dance. Parts of the north of England have it too, but we may have exported it there via migrant workers. I don’t think I’d keep retelling the story if I’d misjudged the ask/guess culture status of my host though, that just seems petty

        3. My American mother when she moved to Ireland hated this custom. When she offered a guest tea, she always followed with ‘In this house, you get asked once. If you say no, you’re not getting tea.’ She was actually very blunt now that I think of it – quite unlike her! We kids found it hilarious and rather sensible but in a region where people from the next county were considered ‘blow-ins’ it probably reinforced her ‘foreigner’ status even after decades living there.

        4. Oh, the double and triple offer thing can be so confusing.

          In the American Midwest it’s pretty common to offer beverages twice – I’m so used to it that the first time I traveled and someone offered me tea only once I was so confused. I was waiting for the second “are you sure?” and it never came.

        5. Oh yes. dinner guests(who drove)
          Partner: offer drink everytime a glass is empty and, when refused, every 30-45 min thereafter. Because that is how you signal to your guests thaty they are still welcome. If the offers stop then the guests are supposed know to leave! Dutch.
          Me: Offer alcohol before and with dinner and maybe once or twice after and then stop as drink driving is hugely frowned on. And never ask after first refusal. Oh, and you indicate time-to-go by talking about how late it is, or how early you have to get up. CA, USA

          I was freaking that he was pushing them to drink more than they wanted, while he just wanted everyone to feel welcome. Both culturaly ingrained, unverbalised responses that we had to work out later. Now we offer coffee or tea as well and use our words to indicate welcome.

    2. I assumed the “I’m from Europe” was a paraphrase by the LW to add anonymity by not naming the specific country?

      But yeah, I’m British and I think it is a big reach by Amy to blame her annoying personality traits on an entire continent!

        1. Yes, I was trying to be vague with some details for anonymity. Amy does say she is from a specific country.

          Amy has lived in the US for over a decade and has an American spouse, which makes the excuse of “I’m from ABC country, I can’t help it” even thinner.

    3. This occurred to me as well. I’d guess either she is drawing on European background while also being substantially from the country where LW is (like that exchange student who spent one semester abroad and that became their excuse to do things) , OR possibly her background includes multiple countries/a small country/a country that gets a lot of weird questions in LW country so “European” became her default way to describe herself.

      But it doesn’t matter why she uses that descriptor, what matters is Amy iclashes with LW, who does not have to keep being friends with her.

    4. Exactly what I was coming here to say. Most Europeans I know get very ticked off if Americans or others lump them into a homogenous group of “Europeans” rather than realising that Europe is made up of over 50 countries, with very different cultures.

  6. Amy’s not wrong that manipulative shit-stirrers exist in Europe, as they do everywhere, but she’s overgeneralizing from herself and/or the people she knows. Plus, “Europe” is not a monoculture. Someone from Norway has very different attitudes and expectations than someone from Hungary. I think she’s probably banking on Americans (I’m assuming the LW is American, but I think Canadian/Australian/New Zealanders fall into the same trap sometimes) being impressed that she’s from “Europe” and deferring to her because Europeans are so much more sophisticated than people from North America/Oceania.

    At a push, I could imagine that there might be linguistic subtleties that are causing problems—even if her English sounds perfect and she seems to be able to interact in English without any problems—there is often a lot of nuance that goes into people’s word choice that is hard to grasp if you’re not familiar with whatever the conventions are. This can also apply to native speakers of the same language, but who are from different places. However, that doesn’t really matter if the LW has been interacting with her for four years and she doesn’t seem to have improved at all and is in fact pre-emptively making excuses for herself. It’s also clear that Amy knows she crossed a line this time, or else she wouldn’t be trying to butter the LW up.

    I don’t think the LW owes Amy an explanation, and I doubt that Amy doesn’t actually know why the LW has pulled away. The Captain suggested good scripts for the LW to use if Amy tries to force the issue, but I’d be surprised if she did. I would highlight to the LW that she should be as friendly and polite as she can be around Amy to avoid being cast as some sort of bully when Amy is recounting her misadventures in being a poor misunderstood European to their mutual friends and acquaintances.

    1. I agree about the linguistics part, but if that’s the problem, why is the excuse “I’m European” and not “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize x was a rude expression”? In a foreign language it’s understandable to get straight to the point and use simple expressions, in your native language it’s easier to focus on how to make it sound friendly and polite. Also some languages don’t have all the politeness words that other languages do, and it can be hard to remember to add something that doesn’t exist in your native language, like in Finnish we don’t have a direct translation for “please” and because of this many Finns forget to use it in English. But if these things cause problems, you should explain this, not refer to some vague “European-ness”. As has been said many times, Europe is many different cultures and languages.

      1. That’s so interesting! Does Finnish include the “please” in the declination or inside the verb, then? Or maybe it’s a bit more like the tu/vous in French? (Curious language geek here)

        1. As an American with family in Finland, I could never bring myself to use the little bit of Finnish I knew because ‘not being able to say please’ was just paralyzing to me (also I was a shy teenager at the time, so that didn’t help). My relatives told me to just ask for what I wanted, and I could not.

        2. Typically Finns use just the question for normal level politeness (“annatko suolan” /can you pass the salt), conditional if you want to be more formal (“antaisitko suolan” / could you pass the salt), and some construction of “would you kindly” for extra politeness / getting the askee’s attention (“olisitko ystävällinen ja antaisit suolan” / could you be kind and pass the salt).
          “Kiitos” (“thank you”) does a lot of the same function as “please”, and there’s an expected phrase “ole hyvä” (literally “be good”) when handing something over, that’s the difficult part for me in English – I know it’s “there you are/go” but it just feels so clunky!

          Singular vs plural second person also does a lot of lifting, but plural you is nowadays seen as very formal and usually reserved for unfamiliar old people, and customers. It used to be more common to the point where there is an idiom for shifting to singular you. It’s not so much politeness indicator as formality indicator.

          1. How interesting! I’m a native English speaker (USian), and I feel like “Can/could you pass the salt?” in English is perfectly polite. The point is that you’re making it a request, not a command. If you need to ask for something major or that you know is an inconvenience, then I feel like it’s appropriate to use some additional language that addresses that: “Is there any way you could [x]?” “Would it be at all possible to [x]?” etc.

  7. This might just be me, but it sounds like LW’s kids are still interested in this friendship. All we know is that Amy said her kids aren’t interested and the LW is tired of Amy – what if LW’s kids still want to hang out with Amy’s kids? I know it depends on their exact ages, but “young enough not to have independent friendships” doesnt necessarily mean “too young to pick friends”. LW should check in with them about it. If the kids agree, that’s one thing, but if they’re still into the friendship, who cares if Amy says her kids aren’t? She’s not being painted as a reliable narrator except as to this one thing. Like, I get that LW is sick of Amy, but why should her kids suffer not seeing kids they perceive to be their friends? If Amy’s kids really dont want to see them, it should be pretty clear on observation.

    When I was a kid, I had one friend whose parents my parents despised for many good reasons. Eventually they cut off all contact except what was necessary to set up playdates, etc. That girl is still a good friend of mine now that we’re adults. I would have been heartbroken if my parents had decided that I wasn’t going to see her anymore just because her mom secretly declared she didn’t like me (something that would have been in character for her to do regardless of my friend’s opinions) and my parents decided they were using that as a reason to stop entirely.

    1. From what I understand, all the kids are under the age of four, so I think parents DO get to make decisions for themselves like hey, let’s hold off on special “just our family & theirs” play dates until the kids are old enough for the drop off & leave kind (vs. the kind where the parents all have to stay and supervise/socialize together). If Amy says her kids don’t want to play with the LW’s kids anymore, we do kind of have to take her word for it (she gets to decide that for them), and we don’t have to go around Amy to verify with her toddlers. I think the LW has already put in a lot of time to make sure her kids have a good social life, the parents are part of a larger group so there is still a possibility for them to see each other, plus day care/kindergarten are coming soon.

      I know a fair amount of little kids (thanks, Commander Logic, for making cute new people), and I think if we told one of the WeeLogics at three or four that they could never play with one of their buddies again, the kid would get upset and cry at the thought, but if they just happened to see the kid less, they would notice the kids that they did see.

      We have an older question where the parents do want to help older kids keep the friendship intact even though they don’t want to spend time with the parents, which I think applies better to your comment.

      1. “but if they just happened to see the kid less, they would notice the kids that they did see.” As the parent of a 4.5-year-old, I’m very much seconding this comment. At that age, kids get pulled out of daycare with little to no notice a lot (oh, parent lost a job/grandma can take care of them now/etc – a lot of adult reasons for kids to stop going, but there you have it), and the kids just kind of roll with it.

        (Good thing, honestly, ’cause even if they weren’t rolling with it there’s not much we could do to change that…)

      2. For what it’s worth, I’m LW #244 from this old letter, and despite my best intentions and all of the great advice I received on that thread, I ended up not being able to support my kids’ desires to remain friends with the other kids.

        Captain, I hope it’s OK to provide an update of sorts, as it might be relevant to the OP and commenters?

        After I tried to take some space from the other parents, they escalated to stalking and harassment that went on for Six. Miserable. Years. It finally culminated in “Marjorie” showing up uninvited to a holiday open house I was hosting and letting herself into my home to corner my spouse in the kitchen and demand to know why she wasn’t invited.

        After that, I sent her one final email telling her that she’d crossed the line and to leave my family alone. I blocked her on all social media and on my phone. She still comes up to my children in public places when I am not there and tries to pump them for information about our family. The stalking and harassment have mostly subsided but have never completely stopped. I’ve since found out that she and her husband have done the same to a number of other families in our town, so at least we have a support group of sorts. I’ve ended up making some nice new friends as a result of Marjorie and Lance, so that’s the silver lining!

        Sometimes it’s just not possible to facilitate a friendship between your kids and the children from another family, no matter how much the kids like each other. I wish I’d given myself permission years ago to cut the cord, but I was trying to do right by my kids. Luckily they are old enough now to understand the reasons why. In the end, it’s been a good lesson for them about what healthy friendships look like.

        1. An update is very within bounds, and I’m SO SORRY you had to deal with more stalking behavior from these people. Yikes!

        2. That also sounds like not a safe family for your kids to be around, even if your kids like their kids. It’s great that you tried to do what you could but totally reasonable to cut them off!

        3. I just went to the archives to read the original letter. Wow! SIX years? OMG you have the patience of Job. I would have told her in no uncertain terms to fuck right the hell off waaaayyyyy sooner.

      3. Plus at this age their sense of what friendship is, is still pretty amorphous. Like, my kid claims that a child she hasn’t played with in over a year and whose playdates always entailed my child getting upset at being bossed around is her “best friend,” but the child she plays with almost weekly and loves to see and eagerly runs out of the door to greet is “just” a neighbor. At preschool age, they’re still trying on the idea of what a friend is, what you do with friends, etc.

        1. I really enjoyed the “Mom, I made a new best friend! Can she sleep over?”
          Oh, that’s nice. What’s her name?”
          “I don’t know.”

      4. “I think if we told one of the WeeLogics at three or four that they could never play with one of their buddies again, the kid would get upset and cry at the thought, but if they just happened to see the kid less, they would notice the kids that they did see.”

        Can confirm. My son’s best friend (& only friend with a house we could walk to, whom he got along with like two peas in a pod in spite of Friend being a real handful) moved away when they had both just turned three. Son continued talking about Friend as his friend in the present tense, even mentioning that he liked to visit him (seemingly forgetting he hadn’t done that in two months–the eternal now of childhood!)… enjoyed the large toy tractor Friend had left behind for Son’s use since they were moving back to the city… and gradually stopped talking about Friend and started talking about Other Friend more. That was it. No tears ever, not even whining or “Why can’t he come over?” I was surprised.

    2. LW still gets to have boundaries for herself even if her kids still want to hang with Amy’s kids. Parenthood is a constant tightrope of balancing your own needs against your kids, and while our cultural narrative says moms should always sacrifice our own desires, privacy, inner selves, sleep, sanity, health, safety, and even lives for the sake of our kids, the cultural narrative is bullshit. LW gets to say that dealing with Amy is a godawful pit of voles and she is done. The kids can reconnect when they’re older. (Or not. My family moved between states following post-docs for my dad for my entire childhood. I said goodbye to dozens of best friends. I turned out more or less okay, and have healthy long term friendships as an adult. Kids are resilient and can handle more than most adults give them credit for)

      1. “…while our cultural narrative says moms should always sacrifice our own desires, privacy, inner selves, sleep, sanity, health, safety, and even lives for the sake of our kids, the cultural narrative is bullshit.”

        Seriously, thank you so much for this. The narrative that having boundaries and a sense of self-preservation = Bad Mother is toxic and sexist.

  8. I think the Capt nailed a great, simple answer that doesn’t put significant blame on anyone. Little kids can be that way, let’s just take a break, see you next year at school.

    She realizes that she’s upsetting you with her comments and actions. She may push for more or “better” reasons. For the sake of the kids, I’d stick with the above script.

    However, if I didn’t have to worry about future school socialization of my kids, and it was just me, I’d be more inclined to say “yeah, Europe, but you’re in New York City now and we don’t do that.”

    OP, you don’t mention other kids/ famlies, so I wonder if she’s already alienated others and is trying to salvage this relationship. Even if that’s the case, I still think the Capt”s script’s are valid! You are not required to try to explain to her what the problem is. You dont have to be her friend, or try to get all the kids to get along. It appears she’s already aware of the problem (Europe). You’re allowed to walk away gracefully and see what happens when schooltime comes round.

    1. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if OP is the last, or one of the last, parents to put up with Amy’s shenanigans. And the desperate flurry of wooing is because there’s nobody else to call.

    2. Funny you should mention it, but after this incident with Amy, I found out she’d done the same or similar things to 3 other mutual friends. Two of them put her in time-out for a few months because they were tired of her nonsense.

      She’d also been cornering our mutual friends to ask them “Did Letter Writer talk to you about why she’s mad at me? I just don’t understand!” Which is more nonsense, because I told her flat out “When you say your kids don’t consider mine to be friends and don’t like them, yet invite us to do friend-things, I feel confused.” Her response started off with “Oh, I didn’t mean it like that! I’m just so blunt and I can’t help it, because of my country of origin! You need to tell me when I’m being too blunt!” and then shifted to “Well, what I meant was that you and I are friends, but the kids aren’t best friends, which is basically the same as not being friends at all”, and then shifted again to “Actually, this is a little bit your fault, Letter Writer, and maybe a bit your kids’ fault too, because REASONS” and then settled into “I didn’t really say that and you blew this out of proportion, Letter Writer”. Like, multi-paragraph text messages of non-apologies and angst and feelings for literal days. I didn’t read most of it and still haven’t.

      As for the birthday party, I ended up going because my kids really, really wanted to go (ugh). They’d seen the invite, so the cat was out of the bag.
      The party was at Amy’s house, and it was unremarkable..UNTIL…

      I was sitting next to one of my kids, and out of nowhere, the Birthday Kid comes up to my kid and says “Oh, Letter Writer’s Kid! You are my BEST FRIEND EVER!”, hugs my kid, and then takes off. I looked at my kid and said “What did Birthday Kid just say to you?!”, (like, did that just happen?!), and my kid made a face, shrugged and ran off. Amy spent the rest of the party buttering me and my kid up. “We’re so glad you came! We are so lucky to have you as friends!”, and nudging her kids to make a fuss over my kids.

      I can’t prove it, but I feel pretty sure that Amy put her kid up to that scene. I don’t put much stock into kid-declarations of best-friendship because it can change so rapidly, but NO WAY did that happen spontaneously!

      1. “You need to tell me when I’m being too blunt.”

        I know I’m zeroing on this one thing instead of the whole thing, but this irritates the hell out of me.

        No, you need to behave yourself, full stop. This is so reminiscent of males who tell women that they need to XYZ because poor little testosterone bearers just can’t adult. It’s sick.


        1. Exactly! And like, I *am* telling you that you are being awful. I’m telling you *right now*, but I guess you want me to remind you beforehand “Now remember! Don’t be awful!”. I don’t want to be responsible for all that.

        2. Also, “blunt” means “rudely honest” which means the blunt things she’s saying are supposed to be true. If she says “my kids don’t like your kids” when, in fact, her kids like your kids, that is not bluntness. That is some weird other thing entirely. (Dishonest and manipulative and cruel.)

      2. Ugh. Sounds like she gave you the classic Responsibility Shrug Dance. “Oh, crap, you mean you actually called me on my behavior?? But I didn’t do that/say that/mean that! These are all the ways you read the situation wrong. Actually, scrap that – this is all about YOU…” Owning your behavior is such a crucial piece of Adulting.

      3. I have a Dutch friend who apologised to me if she is ever too blunt, and occasionally checks in to see if she’s crossed a line… but she never has because she’s not an asshole. The flip side of her bluntness is that she will come right out with a compliment, too. I think that is a crucial kind of thing to watch for – is all her behaviour influenced by that trait or not.

        From your other comments, “Amy” sounds like someone I would be fading out of my life or down to small doses. I agree with you.

      4. I guess I live in one of the “blunt cultures” and it doesn’t even work like that! “Being blunt” is not saying things you don’t mean, it’s saying things you mean, just not nicely. Someone saying her kids don’t like your kids when they actually do is not being blunt, it’s lying.

    3. My mother has some serious mental health issues (NOT an excuse for her behavior), and she acts a lot like Amy. It’s like she can’t help herself. She attacks people who are actually nice to her, and then tries to pull them back into her life when they act reasonably and put her at a distance. Sad, but now on LW (or anyone!) to placate.

  9. Europe is pretty large, and I’m sure that “not being rude” is a world wide phenomena anyway.

    1. “I’m from Europe! That’s just how it is there!”
      “Don’t worry, we have assholes here too. Your meaning was perfectly clear :)”

  10. This sounds like something I dealt with a couple years ago. A close friend started getting flakey and uncommunicative for a while. I figured friendships do that, but then Friend tried to bring me in sort of a sideways way into Big Drama– like, we hadn’t really talked about our lives for several months and all of a sudden they needed to tell me details I did not want to know, and that honestly made me think less of them as a person. I more or less shut down my involvement in the Drama, trying to channel my inner Cap, saying that I should not be involved and Friend shouldn’t worry about my reaction to said Drama and just do her thing. Friend went their way, I went mine. Awkward, but over with, right? Wrong. Three months later I got a baffled-sounding email asking if we were okay.

    I went through about ten drafts of a response, from a detailed accounting of the ways all of this was Friend’s fault to a terse “nah,” and ended somewhere in between. I did mention that I felt that Friend had been the one to stop investing in the friendship rather a while ago, and since then I still sometimes I wish I’d been more blunt. Like I was letting Friend off too easily or something. The brain weasels just really want to make sure that Friend knows they did wrong to me and I am innocent, which is, I think, not helpful for anyone. It’s hard to let go of the pain of someone hurting you and then acting confused about why you’re hurt.

    What I’m saying is, as much as I’m sure you want to close the door on this whole thing, there’s a decent chance Amy will come looking for answers at some point, either out of real or feigned confusion. I think it’s great that you are comfortable enough to say that you’re 100% done with her, so I hope that if/when she resurfaces you can shut her down with Cap’s fantastic templates and not have to deal with too much resurfaced annoyance/pain. You’re doing the right thing for you and your kids, which is the best you can do!

  11. LW, you already know this, but let me as a European in the US confirm this for you; Europe is a big city. There’s millions of people in it. We are not universally rude, thoughtless and cheap. Duh.

    That being said, I do catch myself sometimes falling back on “cultural differences” because they are real, but let me tell you, I can feel the temptation to make that into an excuse (rather than a reason) when I don’t feel like making the effort to deal with my own little nasty quirks. There is such a thing as cultural differences that make communication difficult on subtle and hidden levels! But “I’m from Europe so I can’t be expected to behave within accepted social parameters of my host country” is bull. Don’t buy it. Europeans are individuals too, and while we may face some challenges integrating into the US, at the end of the day we too choose how we behave and how we use our words! Shocking, I know. I finally accepted that, for example, to most Americans breasts are always sexual in every context and I need to wear a bra to counteract my happy-go-lucky European bounce. Fine. Cost of integration. I can deal. It’s these little daily decisions that matter in the end.

    Good luck detaching yourself from this person. She sounds like a pill.

    1. This. “I’m from X” might explain the behavior, but doesn’t excuse it and certainly isn’t a free pass to not suffer the social consequences if you don’t adapt accordingly.
      Amy is free to continue being “European” but people around her are equally free to decide they don’t want to be around “European.”

  12. As people have already said, what on earth does she mean by ‘I’m from Europe’? There is most definitely no one size fits all rule of ‘European’ behaviour (I’m British and our social rules are different from area to area of the U.K. let alone when compared to other countries) and even if there was one set of rules, if the kids have been friends for a while, hasn’t she had time to learn the rules of where she lives now?

    1. She’s just a rude person and using that as an excuse. There are rude people everywhere and friendly people everywhere. I would like her to say that in front of another European person who could go “Nope, that’s just you. You are rude, not Europeans”.

      1. Yup. Someone I’ve long since cut out of my life (only put up with her because she was dating a good friend) would be ridiculously rude and screw people over with her selfishness, then excuse it with, “I’m Italian, that’s just how we are. You need to stop disrespecting my culture.”

        When I had enough and was ready to torch that bridge, I drove her up the wall by posting an e-card pic to the social media page all our group used that said “Stop saying ‘I’m Italian’ when you mean ‘I’m an asshole.'” (That post got so many “likes”…NO ONE except the person she was dating cared for her.)

        Spoiler alert: when she says she’s “Italian,” she means that some long-dead relatives of hers immigrated in the 1800s from Sicily (which isn’t mainland Italy, and most of the Sicilians I know dislike it if you lump them with the general Italian populace), doesn’t speak Italian except for a few random food items and swears, has never been to Italy, and knows nothing of Italian culture beyond mostly-Americanized “Italian” food and those culture festivals that make it look like Italy has never left the Renaissance era. Pretty effing sure actual Italians and Sicilians from the actual regions would never mistake her for anything but an Asshole-American.

        1. *massive eye roll* my parents are both first-generation kids and we see some interesting cultural dynamics when extended family is together (Irish and Italian) but that’s about it…and both sets of grandparents have now been in the US for way longer than they were in Europe.

    2. To be fair, that can take a looooong time. I’ve been here four years and I’m only now starting to grasp some basic stuff.

      Sure, “don’t be rude” is something most people are taught early on, but the definition of what constitutes “rude” differs a lot depending on region. I’m from a country where the people are consistently described as reticent, quiet and aloof in American travel guides. But that depends on your perspective. From my perspective, and that of my countrymen, it’s actually considered polite and kind not to talk about personal things or act too close the first few months you know someone. It’s considered fake and obnoxious to act in the American sense of friendly with someone who is an acquaintance rather than a true friend. You don’t share personal stuff or chat or offer opinions or reveal yourself with acquaintances, you save that for friends who have opted into that relationship with you. It’s taken some psychological adjustment for me to switch from “this person is frightfully forward and intense!” to “yeah that’s how it is here how nice.”

      It takes time! That being said, that’s a REASON for certain communication mismatches, and it should never be an EXCUSE the way Amy seems to be using it.

      1. That was something that jumped out at me too, the differences in what is considered “polite” or “rude” across cultures.

        For a fairly innocuous example, I grew up in South Carolina, and I address my parents (and really pretty much anyone, especially if I don’t know their name) as “ma’am” or “sir” unless I’m calling them their name or a socially acceptable nickname (i.e. calling my mother “Mom” if I’m speaking to her or “Mimi” if I’m speaking of her to my daughter).

        A British friend of mine finds that incredibly odd, because (as Friend says) the only people who call their mother “ma’am” in Great Britain are the Queen’s children. My friend is an ordained priest of the Church of England, and she laughed when I told her that if she were to come to my city (not in South Carolina any more but still the Southern US) and conduct a church service, people would address her either as “Rev. [Surname]” or “ma’am” unless she gave them permission to call her “Rev. {First_Name]” (which is what most of her parishioners call her) and possibly even after having permission to address her more familiarly, especially as regards “ma’am.”

        On the flip side, a different British friend of mine works as a schoolteacher, and I find it truly odd that British children call their women teachers “miss” and men teachers “sir.” When I was still in school, my teachers were “Mrs./Ms./Mr. Surname,” unless the teacher was a substitute and we students might reasonably not remember their name. Just calling your regular, day-to-day teacher “miss” or “sir” would come off rude, the implication being you couldn’t be bothered to learn their name.

        But those are reasonable differences in customs. I agree that Amy’s behavior doesn’t seem to fall into “reasonable differences in what is considered ‘polite’ or ‘rude’ across cultures.”

      2. Hell, my wife grew up in Florida and I’m from Boston. Our views on ‘Bostonians are cold and rude/ giving each other space and just trying to get shit done’ and ‘Southerners are polite and pleasant/ intrusive, overly-familiar and exhausting even in basic transactions’ are extremely well-documented. You don’t have to go internationally to have those debates.

        (Of course, we now live in Australia, where American-ness in its broadest sense is a tool to be wielded with great care and caution because it is easily weaponised, and it’s a whole other deal. But you… learn how not to be an asshole, basically, and go from there. It’s a process and it can be challenging for sure, but it’s hardly an insurmountable problem and I give deep and lasting side-eye to anyone who tries to tell me differently.)

        1. Yeah, haha, my friend from New Jersey and I have had many discussions about his perception that Californians (of which I am one) are generally way too friendly and fake-seeming with total strangers, whereas I perceive it as a general goodwill towards our shared humanity and, dare I say it, interconnectedness. Which is weird because he’s way more extroverted than me! It’s just we have very different perspectives on the value of small talk.

          1. Native Californian here too (currently living in Seattle) and I am way not friendly in that kind of way.

          2. Even between north and south CA there’s a big difference (I grew up in the Valley, moved north age 9 [to within sight of the Camp Fire, actually! Everything is currently awful.])

            But hoo, yeah. I’m painfully shy and I’ve had people from other states think I’m a bubbly extrovert for being my version polite (“Hi Cashier Person, [generic compliment or friendly smile] [exchange of goods and money with optional small talk].”). On the other hand, my head is filled with endless pterydactyl screams when I have to deal with people who’s version of polite is endless molasses-slow pleasantries (‘oh dear god we have already exchanged obligatory niceties, PLEASE GET TO THE POINT I HAVE STUFF TO DO.’)

            I’m not sure I had a point except that I find the intercultural differences fascinating.

      3. Heck, have you heard of Minnesota? Because you have just outlined why everyone else thinks us rude/stand-offish. It’s just… not done in our culture*. It’s not just America/Europe that have differences. They just tend to have larger ones.

        *Culture varies by region. Not all Minnesotans are like this. etc etc.

          1. Really? I’ve heard that we’re passive aggressive and hard to become friends with. Aka we have a higher-context social language and tend to value social cohesion more than other places?

            As for the hard to become friends with. I’m assuming it’s because we don’t want to “put ourselves forward” or “put someone through the trouble” if they don’t want to hang out with us. Ahhhh the joys of a guess culture*.

            *There are benefits also, but no one ever talks about those….

          2. I have no idea if this is true, but I wonder if ask/low-context is more associated with demographics that move around more frequently and guess/offer/high-context is more associated with demographics that tend to stay in one place. It seems like guess/offer/high-context could be great if you are already embedded in the culture, share its values, and like the people but difficult if you’re just getting started out or if you don’t want the same things the people around you want for you. And it seems like ask/low-context might be easier to get started in because you don’t have to spend as much time figuring out what’s okay to ask or how to “break in”, but also maybe less intimate in that you can’t count on people just knowing you. But again, I have no real idea, I just always find these cultural differences fascinating.

          3. The way I heard it was high context cultures usually spring up in places where the work of survival depended greatly upon group cohesion. Eg. China: If your neighbor hogged water and didn’t work in the community field, it meant that the entire social group would have lower chances of getting enough food since rice needs a lot of tending and a lot of water.

            Low context usually springs up in places where there are a lot of people with different social customs and/or the work is more individualized. Eg. New York, a bunch of people in a small space where there’s no way of knowing the customs of all of them and a constant stream of “new” and evolving cultures. Also where the success of the group as a whole doesn’t rely so much upon everyone doing the work equally.

      4. “…in the American sense of friendly…”

        Not to split hairs but this stereotype is just that, a stereotype. Sure some people are that but it varies widely by region and in many cases it is more just being polite than anything like an immediate intimacy.

        Seriously I am sitting here thinking about it…I’ve lived in 43 of the 50 states (from Hawaii to Alaska, to Maine, and points in between), and I can’t think of one place that on the whole has a “let’s be bffs immediately” thing as part of the regional culture. Sure some regional stuff is more/less reserved, but the immediate bff thing…I think that’s individuals not “Americans.”

        1. But to someone from a more reserved culture, America on the whole probably does feel like it has a “let’s be bffs immediately” vibe – the whole point is that the judgment is relative.

    1. I’m terrible at giving kid-friend-parent advice but clicked just because that nym was so amazing.

  13. Noting this: As a parent, it’s my job to protect my kids. Keeping them away from other kids who don’t like them & don’t want them around is an obvious one. Even if Amy was lying outright about her kids not liking mine, that lying alone would be reason enough to keep my kids away–not even for my own sake (although that’s enough right there), but also because *clearly SHE doesn’t welcome my kids. End of story.

    You can hope she improves her dysfunctional relational skills with time; I know I’ve made changes after doing dysfunctional things that led to painful feedback in my life. It’ll be up to Amy to decide how to handle this feedback. My kids, though, won’t play any part in her personal growth arc. That’s not their job.

    1. This. This. This.
      Someone in Amy’s family is not beneficial towards LW’s children right now, whether it’s Amy’s children or Amy herself.

    2. This was my thought at well. Either she’s telling the truth that her kids don’t like mine, in which case they don’t need to hang around together, or she’s lying and just said that as a mean-spirited thing to say by one mother to another. In either case, it’s an indication she’s the type of person you don’t need in your life. And if she demands to know why you’ve withdrawn, just shrug and say “I’m American!”

      1. “And if she demands to know why you’ve withdrawn, just shrug and say “I’m American!”

        LOL +1

  14. LW, kudos to you for taking your kids out of Amy’s orbit before they hear more of her “European” BS, directly or from her kids.

    Captain, that is great drama-squelching advice! Amy can chill in cooldown for a good while, as with any badly-behaved brat who likes saying mean crap to get a rise.

  15. maybe it is just me — but I got the feeling Amy is buttering up LW so that the birthday kid has another present at the party. Capt provided a great script on this one…including both the Que será, será! / C’est la vie! portions, but that is maybe cause I tend to think THAT way 🙂

    1. I wondered if Amy had perhaps overstated or just flat-out invented her children’s dislike of the LW’s children, and now she’s having to field questions from her kids about why they aren’t getting to see their friends anymore.

      1. I thought this too which is why I love the Captain’s suggested script SO much. I assume that what Amy wanted was for LW to get insecure/upset about why, maybe ask for more information about what her kids did, and basically fall into the “courting friendship” role. But doing the cheerful “oh, this thing you said means actually we shouldn’t hang out!” is so great because it takes away the presumption that Amy managed to upset LW, and also very clearly demonstrates the move backfired severely.

        1. Yes, this what I thought Amy was trying to pull as well. She wanted the LW to try harder not pull away

      2. I think it is projection; the kids are fine, but Amy doesn’t like LWs children.

        Years ago my dad used to take my toddler daughter to the park during the day when I was at work. One day when I wasn’t at work I went with them, and dad told me that my daughter prefers going to the park with just him, and without me.

        I knew for an absolute fact that this wasn’t true of my daughter. It was true of my dad.

    2. I think Amy knows exactly when Amy is being an asshole, and her buttering-up is a way of testing the waters to find nice, forgiving, long-suffering targets for her recurring emotional abuse.

      1. This. I came here because I have been in a similar situation (but without the kids). You just said what I wanted to say in a short and sweet way! Amy’s behavior is suspiciously on the side of being nice and not at all on the side of apologizing and being self-aware. That is such a red flag to me.

  16. I had a friend like Amy, would would make all these insulting put-down comments to make herself feel better and then be like, “Oh teehee I’m SUCH a bitch, OMG lol I’m so blunt I have no filter.”

    One day, she said to a friend and me, “You know, it’s hard for me to hang out with you guys sometimes because I am constantly trying to strive for big things this year with my entrepreneurship and you guys aren’t quite as into self-improvement.” I had literally graduated from a grueling program the week before.

    My other friend and I were like “Aaaaand we’re done.”

    Like Amy, she attacked us with niceness (texts, social media, etc) for weeks afterwards. But like Amy, she unintentionally given us a built-in excuse. My friend (braver than I) was like: “hey you said we are preventing you from reaching your potential so we are going to respect that and take a step back and give you space.”

    Amy wants admiration. She is likely compensating for low self esteem by picking at others. She wants LW to pursue her. LW should try to get as much satisfaction out ot Ignoring the heck out of Amy as she can.

      1. Essentially with “I didn’t mean it that way, but FINE.” And never reached out to us again (only saw her at group stuff until she moved to another city).

        1. A+++ would read again.

          Seriously, that’s the best response I can think of. I’m taking notes.

        2. Well of course she didn’t mean it that way. She meant “y’all should be more grateful for my deigning to associate with you peons.”

    1. Wow I can’t believe someone said that to you. Out loud. It’s too bad you didn’t just get up then and there and leave. Good for you for ending it

    2. Isn’t it funny how these terribly blunt truth-speakers never use their lack of filters to say anything nice.

      1. Well, there’s Aspergers, where we do…

        My reading is that Amy comes from a family or a social group with an ugly pecking order problem. Groups like that are insidious in their impacts on people; members often wind up reinforcing the ugly group dynamics without fully realizing how or why they are doing it in order to protect themselves from having the worst of it aimed at them. Amy’s crack about the LW’s kids sounds exactly like an attempt to make sure that if anyone winds up on the bottom of the pecking order / as the scapegoats of the group, it’s not going to be her kids.

        And Amy’s behavior now is exactly what people from such groups do when the designated scapegoats stop playing — they try very hard to love-bomb the escaping scapegoats to get them back. Because somebody absolutely will wind up on the bottom as the chosen target(s) for the worst of everything, and if that position is open, they’re in danger of it being themselves or someone they care about.

        Now LW’s parenting circle probably isn’t like that and I’m not saying that it is. I’m saying that Amy’s behavior is entirely consistent with someone who grew up with such a dynamic or who has spent a bunch of formative years feeling trapped in such a dynamic.

        1. This is so interesting! I saw Amy’s insistence that she has a right to be rude as an easy way of asserting her superiority, but I didn’t think of it as the group dynamics she’s always been used to.

    3. This is a wonderfully insightful assessment of the situation, and I think you’re quite likely right.

      My thoughts when reading this were that if Amy were American and thus didn’t have her oh-so-sophisticated European excuse for acting like an asshole, she’d just be one of those dreadful people who “tells it like it is” and “keeps it real” and LW would be accused of “not being able to handle her truth.”

  17. I actually think the kid-factor is a red herring. Kids or not, Amy is someone the LW doesn’t enjoy being around. She’s rude, cheap, inconsiderate, and, when her behavior is pointed out, she blows it off by blaming an entire continent. Kids or not, you don’t have to continue to hang with someone whose company you don’t enjoy. Be cordial when you run into her (hi, nice to see you, how’s that hobby of yours going) and instruct your children to be polite, too, both to Amy and her kids. Other than that, she’s not your BFF, you don’t have a life-long history of friendship with her, so I agree wiht Captain. Decline the invites all you want. You don’t owe her an explaination. When the kids get old enough to choose their own friends – which sounds like years away – reevaluate her behavior and adjust yours accordingly.

  18. If you were looking for scripts to talk to Amy, mine might be “I’m from New York. We’re pretty blunt, but that’s bluntly honest, not rude in order to troll each other. When you said your kids didn’t like mine, I figured either that’s true, or you’re blaming them rather than taking the blame for your own emotions.” Or “We’re not in Europe, and even if endless rudeness without even an apology really would be okay in $country_you’re_from, I’m not and neither are most people here. Is that blunt enough for you to understand?”

    Since you’re done with her, the Captain’s scripts are good; you don’t have to do the emotional labor of finding words that will get “no, really, grownups don’t like being insulted either” through to someone who is trying to misunderstand.

  19. I also notice that manipulative people, when they ramp up the rudeness and go over the line… will do a hoovering-style tactic to try to normalize crappy/rude/awful behaviour. They literally try to suck you back into the dysfunction, rather than address the topic/situation/behaviour. “Oops – I got caught being crappy, and since I know exactly what I did to cause this mess, maybe if I pour on the sunshine and invitations, she’ll “get over it.”

    The only thing to get over, is the friendship, and good for you – You KNOW you are done, now to wade through some social awkwardness. There were some great scripts here! Thanks Captain.

    1. Exactly. My guess is that Amy has been steadily escalating the rudeness and undermining, but misjudged the LW’s limits this last time and pushed it too far. I think her angle was that the LW and her kids should be grateful that they’re still being invited to these events and if she had been successful here, she would have gone from “My kids don’t like your kids” to “[Other mom’s] kids don’t like your kids,” or “[Other mom] doesn’t like you.” I bet she’s trying this with at least one other family.

    2. I too have noticed this as a thing: As if they’ve incurred a Behaviour Invoice by getting caught being a jerk, and instead of just dealing with the problem of the behaviour, try desperately to pay off that relationship bill with conspicuous favours.

    3. Exactly this. Thank you for the ‘hoover’ analogy I need it for an ex friend who’s doing that to me now.

      1. Me too, hoovering is a truly toxic relationship pattern, and making excuses (I’m European) is just lazy deflection! Still learning, my mid-30s, to trust my gut when people show me who they really are… the first time. Captain’s scripts here are amazing, have already

  20. LW, it seems to me that Amy knows exactly why you’ve distanced yourself. Surely she cannot have forgotten that she told you that her children dislike yours? Surely she doesn’t think it’s “European”* to say ‘I don’t like you. Come to my party’ and ‘I dislike you. Let’s play together.’
    You do not owe her an explanation. If anyone needs to explain herself, it’s Amy because her behavior is seriously wtf.

    I know it’s best to avoid open hostilities at this point, but if you don’t feel up to the cheerfulness of the captain’s excellent scripts you can just be puzzled: “I don’t understand? Why get our children together when your children don’t like my children?”
    If she tries to pass it off as a joke, I’d flat out tell her that “I don’t like you” is a very poor joke, and not one you will subject your children to.

    *I think “European” is a red herring in your question. Any parent from anywhere tells you their children don’t like yours, you don’t keep pushing the children together.

    1. Yeah, I’m wondering in what culture/country it’s supposedly considered normal to say “my kids don’t like yours, they aren’t friends”?

      And would Amy’s kids have more playdates there, or less?

  21. LW, you could tell Amy you’re pulling back from the friendship because you’re American and that’s how Americans are. 😀

    My first thought was that Amy knows she messed up and is trying to smooth things over and draw LW back into her sphere without having to apologize or modify her behaviour. My second was that Amy actually does like LW and is trying to create their own friendship outside of the children, just doing it very badly. Anything’s possible, right?

    Not that it matters. “I’m European” is shorthand for “That’s just the way I am,” and LW doesn’t have to put up with it. I like the captain’s “Why force it?” line. I don’t see how Amy can get around that.

    1. I thought the same thing, that maybe she wants a friendship with LW regardless of her kids feelings towards LW’s kids. Starting off by saying that her kids don’t like LW’s is a weird way to go about it. Forcing her kids to have play dates with kids they don’t like is weird too.

  22. My mother grew up in Germany during WWII and moved to the US less than 20 years after the end of the war. Anti-german sentiment was prevalent enough that she used to refer to herself as European or “from Europe” rather than identifying herself as German. I picked up on that habit and it doesn’t sound strange to me at all that someone would refer to themselves as European rather than SpecificCountrian. Perhaps Amy’s situation is similar.

    Regardless, Amy sounds tiresome and whatever her motivation for this push/pull nonsense, I’d back away too without feeling that I owed an explanation. I suspect that if you did explain, she’d find a reason to argue with it. If she can find a way to connect the dots on her own (unlikely as that may be), she might be more inclined to adjust her behavior. If not and she just digs her heels in, so what? You’ll have moved merrily on.

  23. This mom is acting very strange. If she had told LW that her kids weren’t interested in playing with LW’s anymore and then stopped the invites, I would say good for her for being honest about the reasons why she didn’t think their kids should play together anymore. Instead she puts the LW in a really awkward situation by telling her that her (Amy’s) kids don’t enjoy playing with the LW’s and then…continuing to invite them to a boatload of play dates and parties.

    I think the Captains advice is spot-on. I would also suggest planning some extra play dates with other families and some fun activities go your kids if you think they’ll notice/be disappointed at the sudden lack of play dates with Amy’s kids.

    I hope you find some awesome mom-friends as well!

    1. Oh it’s not all that strange, especially if the kids are young. A lot of classes have rules about invite the whole class or none at all when it comes to birthday parties. And I also wonder if the whole conversation about the kids not liking LW’s kids is less about the kids and more about the mom. I used to be a Girl Scout leader and the first year there were three girls in our troop, who all got along famously. My daughter and girl #1 were pretty close as they went to the same school, but then we moved into the same apartment building as girl #2 and so my daughter became closer to her. I liked both moms of #1 and #2 – they were friendly, funny, and really kind. Girl #1 was the youngest in her family and a bit indulged so she could be a little annoying since she was so used to getting her way with the adults in her life. Apparently this bothered mom #2. She told me that girl #2 “couldn’t stand” girl#1, but that she liked my daughter so…. She literally ended the sentence like that, trailing off like I was supposed to jump in and say that I was going to cut girl #1 from our lives. I made some non-committal noises and quickly stepped away. I refused to ask my daughter to make a decision about who her friends should be based on another kids preferences. Turns out, it wasn’t girl #2 who couldn’t stand girl #1. It was mom #2. She pulled her kid out of the troop, refused to talk to us, and made sure her daughter didn’t talk to us either. My daughter and girl #1 are besties six years later. In my daughters phone Girl #1 is listed as “sister” and Mom #1 is listed as “second mom”. Mom #1 and I grew closer and now she’s my closest friend. Mom #2 continues to alienate the kids in her daughters life. I see it every day… if Mom #2 gets annoyed with someone they’re immediately removed from her daughters life. It’s hard to watch, but makes me happy I walked away that day for my daughter’s sake.

      1. Mom #2 could have been my mom! One of the best parts of being an adult is how she can’t stop me from having whatever relationships I want. Guess who I don’t want a relationship with anymore, though?

        I feel awful for girl #2, but hopeful. It’s a horrible way to grow up, having all your friends taken away from you on your parent’s whims, but it’s something that therapy is REALLY good at fixing once you’re an adult and your parent can’t just take you out of therapy. The very nature of therapy gets right to the heart of the problem and establishes a stable, reliable relationship. So for all of us Girls #2, our wings may have been clipped but we can heal.

      2. Her poor daughter! That’s awful to read. You did the right thing by your kid avoiding all that mess, but still.

      3. “A lot of classes have rules about invite the whole class or none at all when it comes to birthday parties”

        This has always mystified me: how can the school/day care make rules about what families can do with their social time outside of school hours?

        1. The schools I’ve seen do this just say you can’t hand out party invitations at school unless they’re for everyone. You’re free to just phone your best friends on the weekend

        2. Because imagine being six and seeing every single one of your friends but you get invited to a party at school. Do you think the school wants to deal with that?

          1. Every kid except one is rude, yeah. But if it’s less than a third of the class, or a couple of kids from the class and a couple of friends from elsewhere, that should be a totally different issue.

            A birthday party with twenty kids is kind of insane anyway. 6 or 7 I get, but more than that and it’s pretty nuts for a child and ends up having little to do with friendship anyway.

            Plus it puts a horrible pressure on the parents to a) cart their kid to 20-30 birthdays a year(!) and b) host their own expensive 20-30 person party(!)

          2. @Jane – years ago my husband was the lead teacher for the 4 year old classroom at a preschool / daycare. He used to do twice daily folder checks (the folder was where the parents could leave communication for other parents or teachers as well as the place where the school would put notices to go home. He had a little girl in his class one year whose parents were hellbent on making their kid the queen bee of the classroom. The school had the all or none policy in place for invitations, so if he noticed an invite in one kids folder he’d go through them all. If they were in all the folders he’d bundle them up and give them back to the hosting parents. At least once a month these parents would try to invite the kids from families they thought were the “right kind of family”. Literally their words!!! My husband was not sad to see the back of them when she moved to kindergarten though he did love the little girl. He used to say that her parents were going to take her sweetness and stomp it out of her on the social climb.

        3. In my experience, the rule has been “invite less than half OR all of the class.” In other words, go ahead and invite the 5 or 6 kids you are closest to. But *don’t* invite most of the class and then actively exclude a small number.

          1. My issue was more about the school getting to say what kids can and can’t do at home, period, rather than the numbers. But someone explained that it’s specifically about handing out invitations in school and that makes more sense.

        4. Even if a school can’t command parents to do or not do certain things on their own time, it makes complete sense to have guidelines about things that will undoubtedly have an impact on the school environment. If someone is much more concerned about their own freedom from such “rules” than they are about fostering a good school community, that says a lot about them as a person.

          1. Although some of where I’m coming from is also that I had a fair amount of experience trying to be friends with the kid no one liked when it turned out there were good reasons no one liked them and the reasonable solution would have been for adults to teach the kid how not to alienate literally everyone.

            And at any rate, I kind of feel like “Don’t have a birthday party with just your five closest friends” when there are 20 in the class goes beyond a reasonable guideline.

            And oh, I actually have a lot of feelings, so I’m going to stop now before the word kraken comes out, but it’s not about you, you’re fine!

  24. FANTASTIC SCRIPTS!!!! My experience with mom-groups is that they really tend to be cliquey, even when the group is small. There’s always one mom who wants to be the queen mom and feels like she has to put all other moms and/or kids down to assert her place in the group. Good for the LW for not going along with it.

    1. I’m so sorry you’ve found that! All my mum-friend groups have been lovely and supportive through the small-child stress years, and I don’t know how is have coped without them. I hope you find some better mums soon.

  25. I got to the point where I said “just send your kid over, you don’t need to also be here.” – I did not understand why other parents needed to come along for a ‘playdate’. Did they not trust me to keep their kid alive? Did they feel they needed to be there to supervise their kid? I mean come on! I was born in 1985 and as a kid I had the run of the neighborhood. We were always at each others houses. Sometimes adults were around, sometimes it was just older siblings. My son was born in 2003 and when he was play date age, I did not at all understand how much had changed in so little time. I HATED going with my son to peoples houses and then expected to stay the whole 1 hour or 2 hours, why so few hours? What is going on here? Just send them to my house! I will feed them! They will return alive! I do NOT CARE.
    Grumble grumble.

    1. God, the playdate years. The other mom (always the mom) would just kind of hang around. Ugh. “Can I get you anything? I have… tap water. I guess I could brew coffee.” To make sure I’m not a murderer? But it makes the whole situation more difficult. Not only do the kids have to be a fit, but the moms have to get along.

    2. there was a much broader social message that if you weren’t there the whole time, you were a negligent parent. I remember not being sure when it was societally OK to just drop the kid off.

    3. Depends a lot on the child? My just-turned-four-year-old HATED being left until about four months ago. Me and her best friend’s mum are delighted that play dates are now drop-off-and-Leave, and we can go and get things done!

    4. Heh!
      When I was a kid the weirdo parent was the mother who forbade her kids to have anyone over to play if said mother wasn’t home. That is, once we were ambulatory, there was no adult supervision. Said mother was not an exception, as the well being she was concerned about was her furniture’s. She didn’t want rowdy kids messing up her sparkly white carpet.

  26. I think she meant “I don’t really consider you a friend”. Love Captains response. Perfect!

  27. Amy is a jerk. What’s more, Amy knows she’s a jerk–she takes steps to put people off of calling her on it, and she does that love-bombing thing when she upsets someone bad enough that they back out of her circle of influence.

    You don’t owe jerks anything. You don’t owe her your time. You don’t owe her your attention. You definitely don’t owe her an explanation for why you’re not giving her those things anymore.

    Feel free to disconnect your social media, delete her number from your phone, tell her you’re super busy and not available for the foreseeable future, and forget her completely.

    1. Oh, I love that: “[She] knows she’s a jerk [because] she takes steps to put people off of calling her on it.” EXCELLENT point, and SO true.

    2. Sometimes I tell my Dad about weird people like this and he says, “Oh, you mean they’re an asshole.” And it’s super clarifying. Oh right, they’re just an asshole! I will now free up my mind from dissecting their behavior. On to other things.

  28. I’m puzzled by the ‘my kids dislike your kids’ thing. If this is true, wouldn’t LW have noticed? Kids that age who don’t like each other don’t hide it. It sounds to me as though Amy is just ‘being European’ (coming up with another way to be nasty to LW) and it’s nothing to do with her kids at all. All the more reason to avoid her.

  29. I would like to emphasize Captain’s advice to incorporate a cheerful, bright tone when possible.
    We too had some Mommy-group-type clashes, but I’m glad that it wasn’t more dramatic than necessary. We’ve run into those families at least ten times over the years, and luckily it was always smooth. (nice-to-see-you-my-how-the-kids-have-grown-gotta-run-goodbye!) My teen kids have reconnected with one of the families we used to be close with before a falling out, and I am delighted the adults kept it light enough that the reconciliation was possible.
    Captain’s scripts are light and blame-free, essential for keeping smooth interactions over the next ten years when y’all inevitably see each other!

  30. I am in a weirdly similar/opposite position from the LW and find this a really useful post.

    I had a friend, Alice — we bonded over being the moms who read at the playground instead of hovered. Our children got along pretty well for years and Alice and I were also friendly outside of the playdates — we’d have coffee, swap book suggestions and chat online. She wasn’t someone I’d call if I needed to talk but it was pretty comfortable.

    Then, when they were old enough to make their own decisions, my kid decided she didn’t like Alice’s kid. (This wasn’t a sudden thing and I can totally see where it came from. Alice’s kid interacts in a way my kid doesn’t like.) Baby B would say “no thanks” politely when she got invites from kid, etc.

    Alice’s kid didn’t have a phone though, so sometimes Alice would coordinate with me. I’d always say “No thanks, she has other plans.” For a year. Finally, one day, Alice texted and wanted to know what she could do to arrange a playdate for the girls? She’d be flexible. And I had to say “This is awkward but Baby B not interested in hanging out with Your Kid.”

    And that was the end of that. I’ve texted Alice — hey, here’s a book you might like, hey, want to grab coffee? Nothing. Radio silence.

    I mean, I get that our kids aren’t friends anymore, but it hurts that she totally bailed on our friendship based on the girls’ relationship. But I will take Cap’s advice to stop trying.

    1. To be clear, I only texted twice — the book, the coffee invite — I’m not stalkery. But I was thinking about a third this week….

      1. IMO, a single new text saying simply “I’m sorry our kids aren’t friends, but I miss being friends with you. If you don’t mind an adult friendship without the kids being friends as well, I’d be interested in hanging out again, but I understand if you don’t want to do that and that’s okay too” is probably not completely out of bounds, given you’ve only texted twice since that convo.

        1. Yeah. But if she’s really ready to throw away ten years of friendship, do I want to make the effort?

          1. She might have had a real mama-bear moment there. It’s very hard to hear that someone doesn’t like your baby. Anyway, it’s up to you, but if you really would like an adults-only friendship, what’s the worst that can happen if you try again? She can only say, “no, where Boopsie doesn’t go, I don’t go,” and then at least you’ll know.

          2. She might feel weird and awkward and not know how to respond.

            I mean, it’s up to you. If she is, as you said, willing to throw out your friendship because of this then she probably won’t even reply to text number three. Or if she just feels uncomfortable and weird – and I totally get how she might feel that way! – then she might reply positively if you confirm that you are still interested in being friends with her. (But just one more text. Three is the no-stalking limit. After that it’s just weird.)

          3. @DameB I would not be so hard on yourself. You politely declined Alice’s play date requests for a year. (!) When I was in the Alice role with a different mom-friend, it did not take me a year to take the hint that something had changed between my kid and her kid. After 3 declined invitations, I said something non-specific like “Just let me know if you’d like to get the kids together sometime!”, and left the ball in the other mom’s court. There have not been any more play dates between my kid and the other kid, but the mom and I are still friends, probably because I didn’t make things weird for my friend. Alice made things weird between you two. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t think you owe her much of an apology at this point.

    2. It’s really painful to hear that someone your child likes doesn’t like them back, especially someone they thought was a friend. That’s why Amy’s behaviour is so out of line. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have told Alice that – clearly there was no other way to avoid forcing your child to play with someone she doesn’t like – but in your friend’s position, I don’t know how easy it would be for me to keep hanging out after that. I’d always be wanting to blurt out “But WHYYYYYYY doesn’t your daughter like my lovely baby???” It’s not really something you can just shrug off.

      1. Yeah, this. And then there’s the secret worry that the kid is just saying what Mom is thinking.

  31. ~Most European Certificate of Bullshit~
    Awarded to:
    Awarded by:
    Amy you are rude

    LW, I looked Amy up in the Sophisticated Abroad Europeans Database and found this. Thought you might want to see it in case you wanted additional official confirmation that Amy is acting rude and full of bullshit. (I mean, it *is* European, so it must be true, according to her.)

  32. LW, I have *so* been here, and *so* done this with a few different Amys of my own.

    If she puts you on the spot, just say: “I don’t think our families are compatible.” or, “Us / our kids hanging out is just not a good fit.”

    Then, if you have a couple of closer friends in the friend group, I’d mention to them privately that you and Amy have “realized that our kids are just not a good fit and we’re taking space from each other.”

    If she talks trash about you to other people in the group, it’s only eventually going to make her look bad. If she puts you on the spot after the “We’re not compatible / it’s not a good fit” one-line explanation, you can say, “You know how I feel. This is not up for discussion.”

    Really, you don’t have to engage at all beyond that. If she’s polite when you see her at group things, you can be polite too but keep your distance. If she escalates and tries to make you uncomfortable, you may need to choose to go to events where she is not for a while. Hopefully there are some friends in this group who’ve seen this side of Amy too, and will have your back.

    Congratulations to you on deciding you are done with this woman, btw. She sounds horrible!

  33. The Europe thing is nonsense. And as other people have commented, The Europe doesn’t exist. I’m British but I live in France, and I can tell you these two countries within Europe are day and night. What’s rude in Britain is NOT the same as what’s rude in France which has caused me no end of stress actually, but given that I’m an immigrant by choice I do consider it on me to figure out cultural norms and at least try not to offend people

    1. The “I’m from Europe” thing is a red herring. It doesn’t matter where Amy’s from; people with good intentions apologise if a social misstep offends a friend.

  34. Weirddddd, I have a friend from Europe who gives the freaking same excuse when she’s rude or just blunt or something along those lines. “this is who I am, I am from Europe”. UGHHHH

      1. Not really. My friend doesn’t have kids, but I totally could see her doing this when she becomes a mother.

    1. I’ve had people give me the same line with “I’m from New York”, “I’m from Indiana,” “I’m from France,” “I’m from Mexico”…

      The exact place isn’t the point. It’s just an excuse. They think that because you’re not from (place), you won’t argue over whether this is a trait of (place), and they assume that if you can’t argue, you’ll simply have to put up with their bad behavior.

      In short–they’re trying to loophole people into continuing to spend time with them. Except relationships don’t work that way. If we don’t like how someone treats us, then we don’t have to be friends. Even if the way they act is genuinely normal in their culture, even if they want us to be friends with them, even if we can’t point to any one thing they did that was So Bad…we still don’t have to make space in our lives for people who treat us in ways we don’t like. We can stop offering them our time, we can stop engaging, we can walk away, we can be done.

    2. It’s funny because, to me, a European, this is the kind of stupid stereotype the mainstream American television/movie industry likes to use when characterizing Europeans. Like oh Europeans, they’re all rude and stand-offish. It’s ok there.

  35. This letter and the comments really resonated with me. I think the cultural difference become more apparent when you become close. I’m French and I live in English Canada. I accidentaly offend people I deeply care about regularly. Never on purpose or with any mean intention. I always try apologize but i don’t always realize I have hurt their feeling and, I have unfortunately lost some friendships over it. I try to adapt but, I find the cultural norms very challenging to navigate. I’m used to blunt unfiltered honesty with friends. Often times when someone ask a question here, they are not looking for the answer to that specific question but, reassurance. I still don’t know how to offer that.

    1. It’s not cultural for me, but I have trained myself that when someone is complaining about a situation to say “Do you want me to help solve the problem or do you need to vent?” Because I too want to SOLVE THE PROBLEM. Sometimes people want me to solve the problem. Sometimes people just want to share feelings. This helps everyone!

  36. It sounds like your stress at dealing with her far outweighs whatever emotional benefit your kids get from their friendship. If they were absolute best friends it’d be one thing, but it sounds like in this scenario, no one’s going to be particularly upset by drifting apart. I think Captain’s response is best – just matter-of-fact state that you’re not going to bother with further hangouts if they don’t like each other, like it’s no big deal, that’s just how it goes sometimes!

  37. This might be a reach, but I think “my kids don’t like your kids” was Amy-code for “I don’t like things about your kids” and LW was supposed, in the script in Amy’s head, to ply for information regarding what Amy’s kids don’t like so that Amy could dump out a bunch of criticisms under the guise of concerned playdate parent just trying to smooth things over with the children and LW could reprogram her children to behave in a manner which pleases Amy. LW didn’t follow script and in fact went entirely off script by ghosting out on the whole thing so now Amy is shoveling on the niceties in order to regain a sense of control over the situation.

  38. I had a friend from a particular bit of Europe who was a bit similar, but we liked each other enough that we talked about it & were friends anyway.

    For instance, she might have directly criticised someone saying (for example), “he’s all over the place, we start talking about something and half a sentence later he’s onto something else,” to which I might have replied “yes, he’s very dynamic.” And she would (apparently) go away thinking that I didn’t agree with her, and only hours later realise that I’d supported her assessment of him.

    Or, there were different values placed on ‘thank you’. To her it was something that was only said explicitly in response to a big bit of help – a major effort and was acknowledgement of the major effort. She didn’t understand why I might thank someone for handing me a pen, or a bus driver for letting me off at my stop — to her saying those words in everyday situations were a mocking or a parody of something really important. (or rather she understood with her head, but not with the deep-wired-into-the-heart part of “manners” that’s ingrained from being trained about the appropriate way to respond to being handled a sippy-cup as a 1 year old on up)

    But we liked each other anyway. I think if LW genuinely liked Amy, then Amy’s way of being in the world, would have just become “Amy” without any need for excuses. The Europe thing might be an explanation, but is ultimately a red-herring, because if LW liked Amy it would have become by now a pleasant point for discussion/appreciation-of-differences rather than a point of contention/exasperation.

    [ I wonder, though, if possibly Amy in making the insensitive remark about LW’s kid, and then following it up with “my kids don’t like your kid” – thought that she was being helpful in pointing out a potential problem of some kind. There’s not enough context in the letter about the remarks to know. But it is something that my friend might have done – and in her at least it would have come from a good place, even though it came out sounding terrible. ]

    In any case, as others have said if Amy asks her “my kids don’t like yours” is quite enough to remove them from 1 on 1 interactions for a while (and to give her as a reason if LW feels like it). Something’s not working, that’s enough.

  39. Saying “I’m from Europe” makes me think of the Ishboo sketches on All That. It sounds like she’s figured out that this is a good line to feed to people to get them to accept her jerkiness vs. being an actual cultural differences problem.

  40. Amy uses “European!” the same way the whale biologist in the Futurama episode “Three Hundred Big Boys” uses “Whale biologist!” to excuse his rudeness.

  41. Casually pointing out that Europe isn’t a country, it’s a continent made up of many different countries and cultures. So yeah that’s a heap of bullshit. You can’t treat an entire continent like some monolith. Sorry, I know this is a derail but seriously.

  42. I’m thinking that if the LW doesn’t want to maintain the relationship these are excellent suggestions. Just wanted to add, if Amy says “I’m from Europe” it COULD be from experience with Americans that no matter how clear she is with her country of origin, they will think “OK, Europe!”, so she may have adopted it herself. And as has been mentioned, there are different definitions of “rude, cheap, thoughtless, and insensitive” – it may all just be down to different personalities. So, yes, if the friendship isn’t working, end it by all means. I just felt that as part of the commentariat, I don’t need to be judgemental towards Amy either

  43. The worst part for me? That niggling worry that Amy might have thought she was having a conversation about definition of “friend”.
    “Friend” is such a loaded term. I know people who are great fun to visit who have one or two good deep friends and ….everyone else is a co-worker, a neighbor, someone from my church, etc. Those people will go out of their way to help co-workers, neighbors, fellow congregants… but they reserve the word for some deeper connection.

    But there is so much OTHER baggage to indicate something else is going on.

    Because if Amy was just talking about definition of “friend” in her native language, and the kids DO want to keep playing with LW’s kids like LW’s kids want to keep playing with Amy’s kids… there’s a bunch of unhappy 4yos.

    1. Even if this is the case, temporarily unhappy 4 year olds will survive a slight disruption in playmates. Little kids come and go from day care and play groups all the time.

  44. Reading the comments about people allowing their children to choose their friends really clicked something in me – when I was in primary school (5 to 8) I had a “best friend” who I didn’t like. She was overbearing, a right little goody two shoes and possessive – I “wasn’t allowed” to have any other friends or she would cry, and we had to like all the same things as each other (eg: our favourite hymns had to be the same or else I wasn’t really her friend) and so on. We even had to do “the same” on tests – she would cry when I did better than her and say I should have told her the answer and that I had done it on purpose to be mean. Kids’ stuff, but when you’re a kid, that’s all the stuff you have. At the time, I felt very trapped and imposed on, and couldn’t see any way of getting away from her. She was at school, in my homelife, in my hobbies, regular sleepovers, playing together for whole weekends – I didn’t do much that didn’t have her there.

    I wanted to stop being friends with her, but when I plucked up the courage to tell my mum, she just laughed it off and refused to change anything. She and the other mum relied on each other a lot – they would alternate picking us up from school, or taking us to after school activities (which HAD to be the same) and also spent time socially together, so it would have simply been “too awkward” for her to unpick the friendship with the mother from my friendship with the daughter. It would have required a direct conversation, something my mother was and is incapable of doing. So we just had to carry on.

    Luckily I changed schools, and when I did, I just cut her off completely. And the weird thing was, my mother and her mother never really hung out either after that. They had a few dinners at each others houses, but it faded out completely once it wasn’t centred around their kids. It was a very early lesson for me in having to just “put up” with unwanted friendship/intimacy and it wasn’t until typing this out that I realised how much of my life that has affected.

    So to all the parents who allow their children to choose their playmates – you’re doing a good thing.

  45. OMFG, I HATE it when people try to blame being rude on being from a given geographic region. Come on. We’ve all read enough books and watched enough movies that we know how to behave. It’s just like that damn “It’s just how I am.” NO. You KNOW how you SHOULD be, and writing it off just gives me an excuse to write YOU off. I also can’t stand it when other people make the same excuse for somebody else’s bad behavior. “Oh, it’s just how she is.” NO. How come she gets a free pass, but I can’t get away with a thing? Every time I hear that, I know I can quit listening to anything the speaker says ever again.

  46. I’m pretty sure Amy realized she fucked up and is trying now to fix it, but instead of apologizing and owning up to the fuck up, she’s just trying to make it go away.

    I think you should dump her, especially for your kids. If her kids don’t want to play with your kids and don’t like them, forcing any playdates would probably screw over your kids. I mean, small kids are often mean to kids they don’t like them?

    I also think that maybe Amy said that “my kids don’t like your kids” because she wanted to hurt you. That’s a really rude and horrible thing to say anywhere in the world. This is even more reason to dump you.

    I actually experienced this scenario flipped, when I was a kid: a “friend” told me, that her mom didn’t like my mom. I still remember how much it hurt and how shitty a thing it was to say. Turns out anyone who would say that isn’t a friend.

  47. Letter Writer, you could use what another mom used on me when she was tired of me trying to set up playdates w/ our kids (mine LOVED her daughter, and they’d all just graduated from daycare to Kgarten):

    “Oh, we’re just really busy with out family and friends.”

    I got the hint–we weren’t, or my daughter wasn’t, included in “friends.”

    I was relieved, personally–I thought the daughter was snotty as all get out, and I thought the mom was nearly that snotty herself.
    My daughter was heart-broken.

    But–well, we weren’t their friends.

    But I also admired her phrase!

  48. This may be part of what’s go i on here, since a lot of commenter seem baffled by the sentiment:
    There is an attitude commonly expressed in some parts of Europe (I’ve always heard it from speakers of romance languages, myself) that americans are too touchy and PC. This seems to be part having swallowed some shit from conservative complaints in the US, part the puritanical notions around sex that do seem nor prominent amongst Americans. So for instance comments I’ve gotten when someone makes a slightly raunchy jock in a friendly work setting, then make it really uncomfortable by saying how if they were in the USA they’d be fired. This also seems to have manifested, esp in more racially homogeneous places as “man, they are so sensitive about racial slur, far too PC”. To me, it doesn’t seem crazy that somone is saying that in a large part of the rest of the world some insulting thing would be no big deal (and I’d guess thats what she’s trying to imply by saying Europe instead of her country, she trying to position the USA as the odd one out here)
    None of which alters the advice, of course

  49. Assuming LW wrote ‘Europe’ to anonymise the letter a little, and Amy does actually say ‘Oh well, it’s because I’m from [country]: I bet she’s Dutch. Blunt and proud of being blunt. (I’m Dutch. I can sometimes be too blunt and I see this as something that can be a problem. Too many of my fellow Dutch, including at least one minister, are a little too proud of being much too blunt.)

  50. What an earth is going on in Amy’s head? I am definetly European, from Scandinavia and here being straightforward are considered to be a virtue – but I do not know any European cultures in which behaviour like Amy’s would be considered acceptable. This whole “I am European” thing is such utter bullshit – and to blame being European for one’s bad manners, that is downright insulting to an actual European person. Perhaps she is just used to using it as a getting away from jail free card. If you ever have to spend time with her again and she uses it, please, ask her in which particular culture is it considered acceptable because Europe consists of so many different cultures.

    So many people seem to think that being honest means being mean – but that is not true at all. Everything we do and say have consequences whether or not we decide to forgive and try to forget, our subconscious will remember for a long time.

    To me it sounds like Amy and her child are not worthwile; they take more energy and spoons than they give and those are much better used by searching for new friends for your child and new parent friends for yourself.

    Best of luck, dear LW! ❤

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