Dear Stasia:

My two boys have friends who are exactly the same ages as my boys, who are also brothers. The older ones remain close friends; however, lately my youngest has wanted distance from his friend. I can’t seem to get the older boys together at my house for a sleepover without having to include the younger brother.

Their mom is a good friend and she knows that my son hasn’t been into her son lately. Last night she proposed her kids sleepover at my house one night, and she’d take them both for a sleepover to her house a few nights later.

My son hasn’t slept over at her house in months, but I’ve been guilty of making him deal with her son sleeping over here with his older brother (a couple of times in the last few months). I feel horrible about putting him in that situation.

How do I tell my friend that my son doesn’t want a sleepover with her son, but I do want his older brother here for my oldest? I know she feels a bit sensitive about it, and truthfully her son can get short with my son, and doesn’t have the same interests on the playground.

He also likes to stay up super late with the older boys, and gives my son a hard time for wanting to go to bed. How do I say these things to my friend so I don’t make my kid put up with something he doesn’t want to put up with, and not make her upset? Thank You, Stumped In The Suburbs

Dear Stumped In The Suburbs:

Years ago, my daughter had a friend who acted super sweet when adults were present and god-awful when they weren’t. This girl may have been only six, but whoa–did she know how to manipulate. She had a serpents tongue, play dates ended in tears, and the schoolyard–was an adolescent battleground!

We gave kindergarten a go with her, but by the next year it was apparent things were not going to change. For first grade, I put distance between the girls; there were no play dates. I switched my daughter’s activities and I volunteered in the classroom to keep an eye on the battleground.

That year, I got a call from the girl’s mother asking me why the girls didn’t play anymore? (I knew that was coming) I told her we were very busy with our activities and just didn’t have time to get together.

She said her daughter was having a hard time keeping friends and could the girls play? (I knew–she knew why, but I needed to be sensitive enough not to point out the obvious) I said that I was sorry for what she was going through, but we were unavailable.

I kept it that simple. I had compassion for her, but I was not going to put my child in an uncomfortable situation just to appease them. Mom’s should never apologize, shrink away from, or second-guess protecting their kids.

Here is what you can say in response to her request:

Thank you for the sleepover invitation. Lately, I have noticed that my boys would like to have separate activities. We would, however, love to have …(her oldest) over for a sleepover. We can pick him up and drive him home the next day as well.

State a specific date and time that you will pick up and drive her oldest son home. It is very important to do this part. Why? It keeps your youngest apart from her youngest and therefore, none of the inevitable–why can’t I stay over too, will happen. Putting your little guy right back where this all started, and you in a uncomfortable position.

If she brings up the younger two boys, you can say:

Thank you for the suggestion to have both boys sleepover; however, I have noticed that my little guy has lost interest in sleepovers at the moment. In the future, if his interests in sleepovers change, we will certainly let you know.

You owe her no other explanation and you owe it to yourself to make no other explanation. Keep it this simple and classy.

I can tell from your letter that you are worried about hurting feelings: your son’s (by making him play with her son), her son’s (by not letting him play with your son), and your friend’s (by having to tell her all this).

The only one that ultimately matters in this line up is your son: so go do right by him. Good Luck!

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