Carpools are supposed to make everyone's lives easier, but this one ride may have caused more trouble than it was worth. Check out our parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman's correspondence with a mom who was upset by a dad who made her daughter feel like an outsider.
The father on carpool duty picked up my daughter and his from dance class and then took them to a party my daughter wasn't invited to. When he dropped his daughter off, the windows opened, everyone saw my girl and she was humiliated. She is rightfully questioning whether this girl is a thoughtful friend, while I'm left wondering how to talk to the parents about this so the same situation doesn't happen again. It's hard enough to navigate new friendships and the party circuit without parents undermining your kid.
Signed, Disappointed by Carpool Dad
Disappointed, I am not excusing his behavior, but I always try to understand why a parent would do something that's insensitive to a child. Once I understand it, it's easier to figure out how to talk to the parent so it doesn't happen again.
In this case, I am guessing that the dad didn't have a clue what was going on until it was unfolding. Even if he did, he probably did what a lot of us do in awkward social situations: pretend it's not happening. Think about it from his perspective. He's picking up carpool and when he realizes that your daughter isn't invited, he's between a rock and a hard place. If he had called you from the car, that would have been worse for your daughter. If he hadn't put her in his car, he would have had to leave her at practice. So my question to you is: What would you have liked him to do?
And regarding your daughter's friends who attended the party, unless they've been excluding her in other ways, they could have felt awkward about the whole thing too. I totally understand that your daughter felt terrible and left out. However, I think this is one of those times (unless there is a pattern where the girls are being mean to her) when you acknowledge how crappy the situation is but she's strong enough to feel those bad feelings, admit them and then move on.
Look forward to hearing back from you and I hope at least some of my advice is helpful.
Ideally, I would have liked the father to bring my daughter home before dropping off his daughter at the party. We have seven elementary schools that feed into three middle schools, so there are new faces right now, and new friendships forming/shifting. My daughter was upset not to be invited, but not devastated. She didn't think much of her friend going on and on about the party in the carpool ride. She interpreted that as rudeness and thought her friend should know better. She was most embarrassed by being seen in the car by friends she did know who were already at the party. She hasn't let it bother her since and has moved on—a good sign.
Anyway, I resolved this with the parents, by text, and I'll paraphrase.
Me: With that party, last week was rough on my daughter, so just wanted to let you know that it's not a problem to shoot me a text or call, even last minute, if it's not convenient to bring her home, or if plans change, it's easy for me to come down to the dance studio. I know how quickly plans change with tweens on a Friday evening! Other mom: I'm so sorry about that. I was away when the last minute request came for my daughter to go to the party and I was trying to communicate everything to my husband but was busy and didn't think about all the implications. Me: I absolutely know there was no ill intention, just wanted us all on the same page for the carpool to work for all the girls.
Now, here's my bottom line after the back-and-forth with this mom: What I love about this parent is that she's role modeling appropriate involvement in her tween daughter's life. She recognizes her daughter was upset but not devastated. She reaches out to the other parent to share her concern but is clear about wanting to move forward for all the girls. The only thing I would like even more is if the dad was involved as well. We need to bring dads into these situations more often, especially when they are directly involved, as this dad was. I get that this can be hard, but I'd like to encourage dads to be involved in the social dynamics that can come up.
How would you handle this carpool conundrum? Post a comment and tell me.
Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well asQueen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice here.
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