THE COMMUNITY REPORTER ASK DEB ARCHIVES & Aspects of her life as a writer

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I had an interesting month of questions. I was surprised by three conversations I had with people navigating the “too-close, too-far” territory of friendship.

Dear Deb,

I’m a woman in my mid-forties with three children nearly launched, a happy long-term marriage, an active creative and community life and a life-long circle of significant friendships. Recently the work I do has brought me contact with a lot of fascinating women with varied interests and, one in particular is actively pursuing friendship with me. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I really feel I’m carrying a full (if balanced) plate and don’t want to incorporate another fairly demanding friendship into the mix. There’s absolutely nothing wrong or unappealing about this person. It’s just that I don’t feel we have much in common and am not particularly relaxed in her company. She keeps bringing me things she thinks I’ll like and calling to suggest outings and events. How do I say no without hurting her feelings or seeming like a complete cad?

Full -up with Friendships

Dear Full-Up,

Clearly, on some levels, this is a really nice problem to have. Still, judging by the number of online discussions of the issue, the magazine articles and my own conversations with people just in the last month, it’s a situation common to many. Of course a person can always simply say “no”, refuse to look back and move on, but that does seem callous and can burn some bridges you might want to revisit. Defining for yourself the life you now want to live and carrying a clear picture of that life in your mind can be a helpful tool. When an offer comes that doesn’t interest you, say pleasantly, “Oh, actually that’s not going to work for me, but thanks so much for asking.” No one is entitled to an explanation further than that and this response leaves the door open for future opportunities you might want to extend or respond to with a “yes”. Of course, there are some people who become enraged by the words “no thank you”, demand an explanation and begin to stalk you relentlessly. These are people to whom you might have to say, prior to slamming the phone in their ear, or the door in their face, and dialing 911… “GET OUT! GET OUT, I SAID… AND, AND, AND STAY OUT!

OCTOBER’S Reader question: (greatly paraphrased, see prior issue for entire test…)

Pre-schoolers come in all shapes, sizes, colors and temperaments and with every sort of comfort device imaginable… How… is a parent to negotiate a comfortable transition for the child without asking the teacher to drop all rules and structure and appearing to ask for unique treatment for their little one?

Dear Readers:

The best responses to the October question came from people who both teach these little 3-6 year olds and parent them. Here’s the jist. Once you’ve selected a school and a teaching-staff you trust… do that. Trust them. Then, of course, pay attention as the days go by to be sure they are worthy of that trust. One reader stressed the importance of acknowledging a child’s fears and anxiety about the newness of the situation without affirming those fears. Most little kids are eager for the new experience of being a big kid who attends school. While they may cry sometimes or duck behind mom or dad’s leg they can be encouraged with your confident words. Maybe something like, “I know you’re a little nervous, honey, but you’ll see, everything will be fine. I’ll bet you’ll even like it. Hey, maybe even love it!” Stay positive and upbeat. If you’ve had your own nightmare experience of daycare or preschool you might need to temper your own fears. If this is the case, maybe some self-talk about how carefully you’ve chosen your child-care provider and how truly capable your child is is in order or just share with your child’s teacher that you’re more apprehensive than you’d like to be and seek the teacher’s reassurance. Often it’s the parent that has the hardest time with this transition.


In this day and age of thoroughly MODERN FAMILIES with all the different groupings of in-laws, step-parents, half-siblings, step-families-in-law, world-apart families, grown children with their own children and step-children and step-in-laws…. AAAAAARGH! Who’ s going to cook the turkey and who is going to show up and who is going to act up and how will we all deal with all our misplaced storybook expectations for one big happy family playing ring-around- the- Christmas tree, the Hanukkah Seder and festival of lights, who buys whom presents? I mean really! Sally and Ben each have two sets of parents. Sally’s dad’s second wife is Muslim, Sally’s mom, (Dad’s first wife) is a lapsed Catholic of Mexican descent and Sally is married to a Jew whose parents spend the holidays in Israel and would love to have the children join them this year. Judy, our youngest, married an African American Republican, born-again Christian and his parents are died in the wool liberal, democratic socialists and practicing Unitarians. Hmmm!

For prior month’s column or to submit a question or answer to ASK DEB go to her blog at and make an anonymous comment.

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