Care and Feeding

My Son Loves His Best Friend. But There’s a Growing Rift Between our Families.

I thought it was meant to take a village.

An adult hugging a small child.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by PeopleImages/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding, 

I have a wonderful son who likes very few kids, even though many kids seem to like him. He has one very good friend at school, who helps him get through the day (he doesn’t like school much and he has recently been assessed as being both gifted and having low processing speed).

We have had this kid to our house for play dates four or five times, which have gone really well. (Neither kid wanted them to end). We have perfectly pleasant conversations with the kid’s parents whenever we see them at the school gates or in the nearby playground. However they never ever ask our son for a playdate. I am becoming a bit resentful of this but had tried to explain this away in terms of them being from a slightly different culture, and having more kids to deal with than us. However, I spoke to a different parent today who mentioned that their kid was off to this child’s house after school for a playdate.

My husband previously made a few hints at a pick-up from a play date that it would be fun for our son to go to their house—usually, I would be mortified by saying something like this but in this case, I was grateful he had named the situation in a very non-threatening way. What do I do? Given how limited my son’s social circle is, this relationship is very important to us but it doesn’t seem right as it is and they are going to be at the same school together for five-plus years. I thought it was meant to take a village…

—Non-Reciprocal Villager

Dear Non-Reciprocal Villager,

I’m curious about what exactly is underneath this resentment. Is it actually burdensome for you to host the playdates with your son’s friend? Or is your pride wounded by the idea that this family doesn’t seem to want to invite your son to their home?

There are many reasons why they might not want to have your son over, from a messy house and a chaotic home life to a stressful work schedule that leaves them with little time to give. The playdate with the other child may have been a rare exception or perhaps they know the child’s family well enough to feel more comfortable having them in their home. Or, while I’m sure your son is wonderful, some kids are simply easier to supervise than others, if only because of the way they interact with your child.

If you really can’t get past your feelings about this, you may have to be more direct and simply tell this family that your son would love to see his friend but you’re not up to hosting, and ask if they’d be willing to have him over instead. Depending on how old your son is, he could also ask his friend directly if he can come over and let his friend deal with asking their parents.
But while I can understand feeling a bit stung by the lack of reciprocity, given that this friendship is extremely important to your son, I think it’s worth putting your ego aside for the sake of his best interests.

—Emily

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