Dear Ann Cannon • My family moved into our house about a year ago. I have a neighbor who I really like and I’ve always assumed she likes me too. We have kids the same age who play together, but I recently saw on Instagram that her son had a birthday party to which my son was not invited. I’ll admit that I was both surprised and a little hurt by this realization. What’s your advice for handling this? I’d really like to be on good terms with this neighbor. Should I talk to her? Or should I just let it be? My husband thinks I shouldn’t say anything.
— Not Sure What to Do
Dear Not Sure • I don’t have young children now, but I certainly remember how hard situations like this could be when my husband and I were raising our boys. The big difference is that social media didn’t exist then, so the proof we’d been left off the party list wasn’t staring us right in the face. (MEMO TO EVERYBODY ON SOCIAL MEDIA, INCLUDING MYSELF: Remember your audience and think twice about posting, OK?)
If I were you, I’d give your neighbor the benefit of the doubt for now. Assume that she does like you and that she didn’t intend to hurt your feelings or your son’s feelings. If, however, you feel left out again and you still want to be friends with this neighbor, then I would approach her. Tell her how you feel without being accusatory and ask her if there’s a problem. I realize this is SO much easier to say than to do, but it might give you some clarity.
Good luck to you!
Meanwhile, I received this tender letter from a reader with suggestions for the woman who lost her husband on Valentine’s Day.
In 2007, my youngest daughter died, on Valentine’s Day, due to a congenital heart defect. She was 15 days old. Every year we are reminded not only of the loss but the cause, since there are hearts EVERYWHERE. It’s pretty brutal.
One thing we knew for sure was that we needed to be careful with how our other children, who were 7 and 6 at the time, would handle Valentine’s Day going forward. Since it’s such a social holiday, and the expectations are high and get higher as adults, trying to keep some kind of balance was incredibly important. We learned to expect the day to be hard and so prepared for it to be difficult. Most years, especially as they finished elementary school, they’d do the “normal” Valentine school activities. But if someone needed or needs to take the day off from work or school, they can, no questions asked. I know adult children are different but honestly, it’s been 13 years but I still need the day off.
As time went by and the burden of grief got a little easier to bear, we started branching out and making good memories while still honoring our daughter’s memory. Some years we take a trip. Other years we’ve gone out to fancy dinners or an event of some kind, like a play or concert. We always consider if our daughter would have liked it at the age she would be. When she turned 9, we started going to Disneyland for either her birthday or the anniversary of her death.
Your writer is already doing an admirable job, and her concern and love for her children is more than evident.