Thanks to the new coronavirus, my son’s basketball tournament was canceled last week. (He is 12 and plays in a middle school league.) He loves the game, so I understood his disappointment at the announcement. But I am surprised by his seeming inability to bounce back from it. We watch the evening news as a family, so he sees the much harder toll Covid-19 is taking on others. (Basically, he’s on vacation in a nice, safe house.) Still, he moans about the canceled tournament and keeps asking if I think it will be reinstated. Any advice for dealing with childish selfishness during a pandemic?
Let me start by sharing my hunch that this is actually the tale of a good parent momentarily blinded by the new stresses we are all now facing. But frankly, I am more surprised by your lack of compassion for your son than by his whining.
Meet your child on his level! It’s not his fault that the great worries of his comfortable life are what’s for dinner and his canceled tournament. It wouldn’t surprise me, either, if his outsize distress is partly a stand-in for his anxiety over Covid-19. Sympathize with him, even as you underscore the importance of keeping people healthy.
You also mention watching the evening news as a family. That could be scary for anyone these days! So, build in plenty of time for discussion afterward. Ask your son: “Which story grabbed you tonight?” And keep talking (even about basketball!) until you hear his reassurance that you are going to keep him safe.
Unrequited Eye Contact
I am a happily married, middle-aged man living in the suburbs with my wife and children. A seemingly happily married, attractive, middle-aged woman and I used to have friendly chats when we met. (Our children are friends.) One day, at a kids’ sports game, she made eye contact with me from a distance, smiled and flipped her hair a few times. I was surprised and didn’t react or respond. Since then, when I see her, she looks away and doesn’t talk to me. She acts as if I’ve done something wrong. Do I owe her an explanation of why I’m not interested in what she’s interested in, or should I let her cold shoulder continue indefinitely?
I am no expert in suburban adultery (though I have read most of John Cheever). If this woman wanted to make a pass at you, though, wouldn’t she do it in the privacy of your one-on-one chats, rather than at a distance, in front of other parents and possibly your spouses? Your reading seems like a self-congratulatory stretch to me. Sometimes a hair toss is just a hair toss — especially if she’d just had a blowout.
Isn’t it more likely that your ignoring her at the game hurt her feelings? (Hence the cold shoulder.) Even if you’re right, you’ve given her your answer. Now, it’s time to break down the cold front. The next time you meet, reset your friendship by saying, “Nice to see you! All well?”
Typos? At a Time Like This?
My grandfather died recently, a devastating loss. I told one of my best friends, who began texting me weekly with messages of concern that seemed hurtfully casual to me: loaded with typos and slang. I withdrew from her, and she became anxious about it and sought an explanation. I suggested we speak over the phone (rather than text) when she was less anxious and an honest conversation would be possible. Weeks later, I woke to an email from her that said my hinting she had done something wrong, without telling her what it was, constituted emotional abuse, and our friendship was over. Shouldn’t I have been allowed to focus on my grief rather than my careless friend? And shouldn’t condolence notes come without typos?
So many hurts here: the death of your grandfather; your friend’s failure to pick up the phone when you asked her to call; the lack of confidence that ate at her after you suggested she’d upset you; and your inability to see the love in numerous expressions of concern for you because of some silly typos.
I hope you reach out to her when you start to feel better. (If she’d written to me, I would tell her the same thing.) When we condition our best friendships on perfect behavior, we all lose. And haven’t you both lost enough already?
I live in a building with 24 units. Most residents are friendly. The owners of two condos, however, do not respond when I say hello to them in common areas. I have finally given up and taken their lead: I walk by wordlessly. Is this right?
What’s better than the easy bonhomie of a neighborly acquaintance? So little effort, so much good will! Your silent neighbors seem to feel differently, though. It’s probably not personal. If this really bugs you, try introducing yourself. The additional data may tip their scales toward “Good morning!” Or simply accept their deep introversion (or serious disinterest in you). There is no law that mandates lobby greetings.