Care and Feeding

Our Friends Offered Us a Much-Needed Place to Stay. Then We Found Out Who They Really Are.

How do we explain this to our kids?

A woman in glasses with her fists clenched in celebration.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Prostock-Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

We recently went through a challenging situation, and a family we were really good friends with helped us by offering a place to stay. We spent a few nights with them, and then there was a confrontation that made us understand it was time to go. We said thank you, they apologized, but it felt like the friendship was irreparably damaged. Since then, we have not been invited to their family events and running into them at another event was really awkward. My kid’s birthday is coming up and of course we don’t plan to invite them, but we also don’t know how to explain to my kid that we’re not inviting their friend. There is a possibility we will see them socially again and I don’t want my kid to say something like “sorry our parents are fighting” or “sorry you couldn’t make it to my party.” Seems like there is no good answer, since they were a big part of our lives.

—No Longer Friends

Dear No Longer Friends,

It’s hard to tell what went down from your letter, but only you know if the issue between the two families is “irreparably damaged” or not. For example, if a family I was close to made it clear they harbored anti-Black beliefs while I stayed with them, that would obviously be a dealbreaker for me. That said, outside of abuse or blatant racist disrespect, I could probably reconcile with anyone. Heck, I would even consider forgiving a racist if they showed extreme remorse and demonstrated they were willing to put in the work to improve.

My point here is I’m wondering if you’re angry about something that may not be a big deal later on or if this is something that is truly unforgivable. If it’s the former, then I think you owe it to everyone involved, including your child, to be the bigger person and work on repairing the relationship, and do it quickly. Life is too short to hold onto petty grudges.

If you determine that forgiveness is a bridge too far, then you absolutely should tell your child what’s up. They don’t need to know the gory details, but you can say something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, but your friend won’t be invited to your party because our families are going through something right now. Despite that, I’m going to make sure that this is the best birthday ever for you.”

Again, I don’t know what triggered you, but what I’m saying is there are few things in my life that I wouldn’t forgive if the offending party showed contrition. I hope that you will take some time to sit with whatever happened and see if there is a way to repair your relationship before ending it forever.


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