DAME’s Friendkeeper walks a woman through the minefield of a pal’s explosive divorce, and blows the whistle on a grammar grouch.
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My friend Jenny (not real name) just finalized a nasty divorce with her alcoholic and abusive ex-husband. Their two teenagers have decided, after many fights with their mother and at the instigation of their father, to move in with their dad. My friend’s relationship with her kids has gone from tense to destructive, with one of her children threatening her physically, posting videos on social media of herself smoking pot, and both of them calling her nasty names to her face.
My son is friends with Jenny’s son, Johnny. Johnny is a good kid who stays out of trouble but has recently started depending on my son to help him process his family life. Now my son is taking sides in another family’s situation and is starting to close up with me while telling me that Johnny’s mom is a villain.
Here’s my question: How do I support my friend and ensure she can count on me to help her, listen to her, etc., while also keeping my own family out of her drama? How do I help my son understand that there are two sides to the story and that he has a responsibility to be a friend but that we both need to set up healthy boundaries? I want to be a good friend but I also want to protect my son from witnessing another family’s self-destruction.
Enough Drama for This Mama
I can’t imagine how devastating this is for your friend. She definitely needs major help with this, and I imagine not just therapeutic but perhaps even legal. Drugs and threats of violence are very serious. My concern however is for you and your family. I would focus on your son. And because it’s delicate, speak to him without a lot of emotion—just frankly and maturely. Try to ask him if he’s ever been in a fight with someone where each of them perceived the same situation as very different. What would someone from the outside think? I generally think if you illustrate things in a small way with kids, it works better. Sometimes my daughter thinks I am wrong about something (okay not sometimes, all the time every day). And I say to her, “What do you think would be in it for me to pretend that I didn’t know you had a library book due? Do you think I go to some secret parents club where we talk about ways to sabotage our kids?” (She, of course, does.) I do know that teenagers (hormonal and truly crazy in their brains) may not be the most objective. They also like drama and there’s a lot of drama in this. And though many kids can go so far off the rails that parents have a really hard time getting control, that doesn’t sound like what is happening with your son. I would also tell your son that his friend may need real objective help and that it would be great for him (your son) to try and help his friend get professional help, because even if his friend is right, this is a very hard situation to negotiate, even when you are a “mature adult.” I think with your friend you need to try and keep her in the concrete as much as possible. She can only do what she can. I am always amazed at how shitty some people can be in a divorce where they really are willing to sacrifice their kids for their own egos. I would also point out to your son that anyone abusing any kind of substance loses their ability to have good judgment (ask him if he’s ever seen those fried eggs on drugs). And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, too.
I have recently become friends with someone who I really like a lot. We’ve mostly hung out in person, talked via phone (I know, so old school), and occasionally via text. But just last week she sent me a long email about something we had discussed during our last outing, and it’s been haunting me ever since. Now, please don’t judge on what I’m about to say, but her grammar and spelling were so horrible, her email burned my eyeballs. Here’s what I want to know. Can I correct her? She used the wrong there, their, and they’re, and even too and to? She wouldn’t want to be out in the world like this, right? Isn’t it my job as her friend to set her straight?
Grammar Girl Gone Wild
Interesting you bring this up, because I have been noticing a lot of people lately, who proudly refer to themselves as Grammar Police on social media, correcting others. Granted they are doing this in public, which isn’t what you’re saying (I hope), but it only serves to make everyone angry. I am a professional writer, author, whatever … words are my business (though if I want I can spell that bizzniss) and until I was on Twitter I had never heard of the Oxford comma or the outrage its use—or lack of—inspires. WHAT THE HELL? A very small number of people are trained copy editors. After my first book was published, a few people took great glee in pointing out typos. Someone on social media tweeted to me that there was a mistake—I said something about bricks needing pointing and she said, “I think you meant painted.” And I said, “NO, POINTING BRICKS IS WHAT I SAID, LOOK IT UP BEE-YATCH.” Okay, end of rant and on to your question. If you really feel like her spelling and grammar are a danger to her—like, is she applying for jobs and writing cover letters and resumes?—that is the only time I’d interject. And I’d just say, “You know I’m very good with spelling and punctuation and am happy to look over your stuff if you need it.” Don’t say grammar. Telling someone they have bad grammar makes them feel like they have one black tooth and play in jug band. Mostly to you, I’d say, chill. No one ever died from a run-on sentence.
Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.
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