DEAR AMY: We live in a well-off neighborhood. We all socialize together. My husband and I have one child. We like to travel and do exciting things. We do not lavish our child with an abundance of toys; we feel that experiences are more important. We were close friends with another couple with two children, ages 8 and 6. These kids have amassed a huge amount of extravagant toys, such as electric go-karts. These things are not important to me and my husband, and we’d like them to not be important to our son. Their 8-year-old, “Sammy,” likes to tell anyone who will listen how much things cost. He will then proceed to not allow his friends to use these toys, for fear they will break them. This is extremely off-putting to me, so I have distanced my family from theirs. Recently, the wife of this couple asked what she had done to offend me because we don’t spend time together anymore. I hesitate to tell her how I feel about her children’s lavish toys and her son quoting the price of them. I don’t want her to think I am envious, because I am not. I just have different values. How should I handle this?
Too Many Toys in Texas
DEAR TOO MANY TOYS: You are judging your son’s friendship based on your adult metric, and it is obvious that you hold a harsh judgment about how this other family operates. YOU don’t want to be around this other child and listen to him showing off his possessions and quoting prices of things. But I think it’s a good thing for children to be exposed to all sorts of families, in part because this can help them to notice differences between people and learn to accept, or reject, through their own growing discernment.
Some 8-year-olds try to override their insecurities through superficial means. One way to react to a child this age who is bragging is to respond: “Wow, an $800 go-kart? That’s a lot! I wish I had one of those — because I’d drive it to work!” When you respond with humor, you put it in perspective for the child. It’s silly!
A child who withholds his toys from his friends will have a tough time keeping friends, however. And this is a matter you can leave up to your son. Maybe playdates would be more fun for both children at your house.
You should be honest with your friend. Tell her, “Sammy is having a hard time sharing his cool stuff. He likes to say how much things cost. I’m having a hard time with it.”
DEAR AMY: I am a single retired granddad who loves his children and grandchildren with all my heart. Being with them is one of the few pleasures I have in life. The problem is that if I visit one of my married children’s home without giving them notice, they become upset and tell me I’m being disrespectful. Even if I don’t enter their homes and I stay outside to play with my grandchildren, I’m not welcomed. My grandparents visited our home when I was young whenever they wanted, and we were always happy to see them! Am I out of touch on what’s acceptable?
DEAR SADDENED: It is possible that back in the day when your grandparents popped in, the kids loved it (of course you did!) but your parents didn’t.
Many families now consist of two working parents whose time (and energy) is stretched very thin. The imposition might spring from something as simple as the adults wanting to get the living room straightened up before you come in the door.
I also do not like pop-ins, but (for me, anyway), all I ever want is a 10-minute advance notice — so I can hide the shoes under the couch.
It might be a gift to all of your family members if you could set up a (loose) schedule to see your grandchildren — so that, for instance, every Tuesday and Saturday everyone knows that Granddad is going to swing by. That would give everyone something great to look forward to.
DEAR AMY: I was so shocked by the scenario described by “Very Frustrated,” whose wife, a teacher, was carrying on a relationship with a teen boy. Thank you for trying to get him to wake up! Yes, this woman should not be anywhere near children.
DEAR HORRIFIED: This drama was taking place in “Frustrated’s” own household. He needs to wake up.