I recently had a confrontation with one of those vindictive, overinvolved gossipy kind of mothers. Yeah, you know the type. It's a lot like avoiding a bad driver. You know she's a bad driver, you try to stay out of the way, but you are in the same traffic every day so the odds are she's going to sideswipe you or, worse, rear-end you. The hard part is that it is impossible to predict when the accident will happen. It comes out of no where. At the least you are going to have a little bit of body damage, a scratch or a dent.
So I got sideswiped by her. My nine-year-old son was wrongly accused of paying another boy to deliver a sexually harassing message to a female third grader at the end of the year pool party. And worse, he was accused of this in front of a group of little girls and several parents. And imagine, this woman's child was not even involved.
My son and I learned that yes, even adults can be wildly inappropriate. It makes the inappropriate stuff said by children occasionally to look like, well, kid stuff. We also had a lot of discussion together about the nature of friendship, and how friends don't try to hurt each other, they try to help each other. We talked about how you can tell if a friend is really a friend by some of their actions. This is tough stuff for a nine-year-old boy who really just wants to go outside, climb a tree with a giant squirt gun on his back, and lay in wait for a hapless victim like his brother to ride by on a bike or the dog to walk by.
I learned, again, that having good friends can make me realize the scratch I got from this sideswipe is in reality a funny story. That having a glass of wine with a friend who is determined to make me laugh about this story for the ridiculous thing that it is, is a gift. Giving us the gentle reminder, when we really need it, to look at things in perspective is another very valuable trait of friendship. I hope to be able to teach my son this, but I think this is one lesson he has to learn by experiencing for himself the difference between a true friend and a self-serving friend.
And I can't tell how much I appreciated this story from another friend of mine. He and his twin were in kindergarten. They had recently visited their diabetic grandmother and took a handful of her saccharin tablets. You know, the tiny white ones? They brought them to school and very fairly handed them out to all of the kindergartners. Finding they had some left over, they handed out seconds to some of the children. One of the girls, feeling slighted, told the teacher that the boys were handing out little white pills and that she did not get a second one and it wasn't fair. The teacher, in a panic that all her students had consumed some mysterious little white pills, grabbed one and rushed across the street to the pharmacy to ask what they were. She was told by the pharmacist that they were LSD tablets.
The teacher spent the rest of the year, unsuccessfully, trying to get the twins expelled.
So I actually can thank this gossip mom for reminding me about the value of true friends and about the value of laughter. It's a reminder I intend to carry with me all summer!