My youngest son, six years old, has struck up a friendship with a neighbour over the past few months. They don’t go to the same school, so only met when they would see each other in the neighbourhood. They started to play together in our dead-end laneway, and most recently he attended her outdoor birthday party.
This past weekend, my son was invited to this little girl's house for a playdate. At first, he was eager, but when the time came, he was quite tired from a late night the previous day. I told my son, and the family, that he could leave early if he was too tired, just to alleviate any pressure he might have felt to remain, even though he was exhausted.
Drop off went well, his friend met him at the door and they went off to play. Not five minutes later, I get a text from the family saying my son has asked to come home. I apologized for any hassle and took my son home.
It turns out he felt claustrophobic in their space. They live in a two-bedroom apartment, while we live in a two-storey semi-detached home with a finished basement playroom. Most of my son’s other friends live in similar houses as ours.
Some of my family suggested that we have the friend over for a playdate "as an apology," but I don't think that's the way to go. Spending time with friends should be the focus, not the space they're in, and by having the friend over that doesn't really address my son's feelings.
I'm worried that he's spoiled by the space we have and now can't be in a space that's "less". I grew up with a single mother in a low-income rural area and recognize the privilege we have now as a family. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together, but I don’t want to raise spoiled children. It's important to us that friends are friends because of who they are, not their living situations, income, etc. My son and his friend have a great time playing, so there isn't an issue there.
How do I speak to my son in a way that he'll understand the situation? Also, how do I speak with the family if my son turns down a future invitation to play?
You have not failed your son, and by your description, he doesn’t sound spoiled. He’s very young with limited life experience. If everyone he knows lives in similar sized homes, he’s going to react to something that to him is quite different. He may have reacted if his friend’s house was twice the size of yours, perhaps feeling scared and worried he would get lost. You never know.
I agree that the issue needs to be addressed and not swept away by a counter invitation. However, you can still invite the little girl over for their next playdate. But you definitely need to talk to your son. He may truly suffer from claustrophobia, in which case, he needs to learn how to deal with that. Avoiding tight cramped spaces will help. Or, he may have just been surprised by the small dwelling and not known, at six years old, how to handle his reaction. Talk to him gently and help him understand.
FEEDBACK Regarding Frustrated Girlfriend (April 10):
Reader – “This boyfriend needs a wake-up call immediately. Talking to him will just be a waste of time.
“It sounds to me like he responds to actions, as in, when the girlfriend pays for them to go out.
“I suggest she simply walks away and see what happens. If nothing changes, she should just keep walking. He’ll be doing her a favour.”
FEEDBACK Regarding the groom concerned about his bride’s spending habits (April 3):
Reader – “You came close to a satisfactory answer to the groom worried about money, but I think you missed conveying explicitly the most important advice. This wedding is about the two of them, and the first step would be to sit down and set a budget. Of course, that should have been done right after the engagement, and now there might be some difficult negotiations ahead and cancellations of financial commitments made.
“Your answer is worded in a way that suggests he is asking her for a look in to the wedding planning and spending, rather than an equal partner in the decision making. There's an opportunity to start this marriage making important financial decisions together, and setting a healthy pattern for future decision making.”
Lisi – Apologies for the misunderstanding. That’s not what I meant. Finances should be a partnership.”