DEAR AMY: I am a 56-year-old empty-nester. My next-door neighbor is a stay-at-home mom with an 11- and 16-year-old. We have become good friends. She will ask for my help in walking her dogs or transporting her children if she has a doctor's appointment or if they're going away. I never say "no" because I am happy to help. Recently, she texted me and asked if I could walk the dogs at noon and then take her 16-year-old to basketball practice and then take her home after. She didn't say why she needed my help, and I didn't ask. I have subsequently learned that she went to a 15-hour movie marathon. I am particularly upset that she chose sitting in a movie theater over leaving her younger child alone, after dark, for three hours while his sister was at basketball practice (dad was working late). Am I being overly sensitive and unreasonable for feeling duped and used -- or should I just forget about it?Perplexed
DEAR PERPLEXED: Like most pitch-hitting caregivers, you assume that if you are being asked to fill in, the reason must be a "good" one. But I also assume that if your neighbor had said, "I know it sounds silly, but I really want to see 'Twilight 1-7' at the mall. Can you fill in while I do that?" you might have happily agreed.
It's a question of her taking advantage of your willingness to help, while not trusting you with her silly truth.
You probably also are wondering if you have an actual friendship with someone who is treating you like "the nice doormat next door." Your neighbor likely knows she's pushed it; that's why she didn't tell you the truth about where she was going.
You should say to her, "I felt a little dumb carting the kids around while you were at a movie marathon, because I assumed it was more urgent. I wish you had told me what your plans were." It's also OK for you to say "no."