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Dealing With Adults . . . Who Act Like Children

Age, as they say, is just a number. Yet so many of us still believe that once we register to vote, get married or buy a house, we’re magically teleported beyond the messy social situations of middle school. Not so. Case in point: two women who wrote to me with stories of grown-ups behaving like little kids—or if we’re being truthful, less mature than children. Mom #1: I offended another mom with a joking comment on Facebook. I apologized twice via FB message, but never received a response and she unfriended me. Now when I see her, she ignores me. I don't have to be friends with her. We weren't really to begin with. But I am frustrated she won’t accept my sincere apology. What to do? Mom #2: I play Bunko with some other mothers who always make plans for their families to hang out together but never invite me. When my kids are in similar situations, I tell them: “You can’t be invited to everything.” But I am really mad at these moms and have no idea what to do. No matter what, it’s really helpful as a parent to have these moments to remember what it’s like to be excluded and how hard it is to confront people. But the silent treatment? The cold shoulder of the cool clique? What’s next? Arguments over buying the same prom dress? So let’s get something straight: maturity, no matter how old you are, is about self-reflection. It’s about knowing how you contributed to a problem and being able to speak out when you don’t like something—all while treating yourself and others with dignity. And, as in the cases above, it’s natural to have the feelings these women are having. What’s not OK (i.e. you’re now acting like you’re 12) is to allow those feelings to control your reactions. So here’s what I advise Mom #1 to do. Apologizing after she realized her mistake was exactly on point. But after the first apology on Facebook, she should have gone up to the woman in person and apologized again. So now, if she wants, she can apologize one more time in person to this woman. If the other mom really is an adult Queen Bee, she will pretend that she doesn’t even know what Mom #1 is talking about or offer a fake smile, tell her don’t worry about it, and not mean a word of it. If she’s not an adult Queen Been, then she’ll genuinely thank her and both of them can move on. But if Mom #1 does offer an in-person apology, no matter what, she knows she did her best and it’ll be easier for her to put this behind her. That’s because managing social conflicts online almost always makes the situation worse and at the least isn’t as satisfying. Mom #2 has two options. She can decide she wants to talk to the women about it, but then she has to be prepared for the outcome she really may not want: they now invite her to their social activities. She has to ask herself if she even wants to hang out with these people. If she doesn’t then her options are to focus on playing Bunko or leave the group entirely. And this, by far, is one of the great benefits of being an adult. It’s not like when you’re in 7th grade and you have to go to school with these kids all day. You can pick up your stuff, turn on your heels and just leave. What do you think about how these women should handle the middle-school situations they’ve become a part of? Post a comment and tell me. Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the best-selling Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to Do you have a parenting question? E-mail