Dear Ann: My friend, "Maggie," has a son the same age as mine 8 years old. The boys attend the same school, but they do not play together. My son's friends are a great bunch of kids who get along well together. Maggie's son, "Chris," is a bit of a bully. He has academic problems, and makes fun of my son and his friends. None of the kids likes him.
Maggie often expects me to invite Chris over to play. She also assumed he was invited to my son's birthday party and planned her vacation around it, even though I had not intended to ask him. My son is completely miserable whenever Chris is around, but the boy still calls and asks to come over.
How can I tell Maggie my son doesn't want to play with Chris? I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I also don't want to force my son to be friends with someone who makes him uncomfortable. Please help me. I'm stumped. Mom in the Middle
Dear Mom: You do not have to invite Chris every time your son has friends over. On those occasions, tell Maggie, "I'm so sorry, but my son is busy now. We'll have Chris over another time."
However, please consider this a golden opportunity to help Maggie's son, and at the same time, teach your child about compassion. It is obvious that Chris is trying, in his own way, to be friends. Please do not cut him off. Instead, you and your son should show him how to behave with others, and explain nicely why certain conduct is unacceptable. Build up his self-esteem. If he feels better about himself, he will be less inclined to bully others. And the lesson your son will learn about kindness will serve him well throughout his entire life.
Dear Ann: I just found out that my best friend was sleeping with a guy I was dating the entire time we were together. I broke up with the guy a while ago, but "Leanne" does not understand why this has destroyed our friendship.
Several mutual friends knew she was cheating with my boyfriend, but they didn't tell me. I understand why, and have forgiven them. However, Leanne says I am "hard-boiled" and just plain mean. I am not a mean person, Ann, but I simply cannot forgive and forget. I have no desire to continue our friendship, and I'm not sure she was ever a real friend in the first place.
I work with Leanne and must see her every day. It makes my stomach turn just to be around her. I cannot explain how hurt I am by her betrayal. Do you have any advice for me? Anna in Chico, Calif.
Dear Anna: Yes, I do. GET OVER IT! You don't have to be her friend, but holding a grudge is never a good idea. It takes too much energy and accomplishes nothing. The best way to "get" Leanne is to be pleasant, say nothing about the betrayal, and act as if it never happened. The guilt she will feel when you take the high road will be punishment enough.
Dear Ann: My friend, "Lisa," recently moved in with her boyfriend, "Frank." Frank is not from these parts, and doesn't know many people. He clings to Lisa as if she were his only friend. Now, whenever Lisa wants to go anywhere, Frank must go with her. If we invite Lisa to join us, she has to check with Frank, and if he doesn't want to come along, she won't go.
Lisa is a great person, but she can't see that Frank is extremely possessive. She thinks he loves her so much he can't stand to be away from her. Please give us some advice on how to pry her loose. East Coast Friend
Dear East: Wake up and smell the coffee. Lisa doesn't wish to be pried loose. She wants Frank in on everything, and that's the way it's going to be. Accept it.