Other people's children
It's a tricky issue, other people's children. Just because you like someone doesn't mean you will like their kids. And just because you're mates doesn't mean you'll have similar parenting styles.
Some of us don't much like any children other than our own. Tattoo the words 'empathy' and 'tolerance' on your wrists.
Faced with dealing with conflicting parenting styles, if in doubt, butt out. You may strap your baby to your breasts with Fairtrade banana leaves while your friend formula-feeds her baby at four-hour intervals. Let her be.
If a friend's child is harming your property, children or pets and she is not stopping them, you may intervene gently but firmly. Sometimes friends are waiting to see what boundaries you have in your house. Sometimes they are just mentally absent.
But as Mumsnetter kittymax cautions: "If you really like your friend and want to keep her as a friend, don't criticise her parenting skills or her child."
Your children and friends' children
Just because you like someone, it doesn't follow that your child will like their child. If a friend's child regularly comes round and beats up your child, you may need to employ some diversionary tactics:
- Try getting together in a park or playgroup where your child and hers won't be forced to hurt each other play together
- Set up an activity and time-limit the whole event
- See your friend without children
But don't jump to conclusions. Some small children are filthy the first four or 18 times they come to your house because they are just waaay over-excited. They may calm down and stop trying to strangle your cats. Or not.
Your friend's new baby
Let her be ridiculous in her own way. Let her dress her baby in a tiny Hazmat suit. Let her wipe its tiny behind with handknitted organic cashmere baby wipes. Offer support but don't press advice upon her.
Your children's friends' parents
Some people have an aversion to these friendships of convenience. On Mumsnet, the vague consensus is they're fine if both parties know what they are and are happy.
As Mumsnetter cory says: "If I ever spent time with other mums whom I might not have a great deal in common with because our kids were happy playing together, I didn't see that as my being used. Or at least, I was happy to be used for the good of my daughter and son. As long as they weren't horrible people (and none of them were) it didn't seem a great hardship to me. And some of the most unpromising acquaintances did end up becoming my own friends, too."
Parents who boast about their children
Be aware that what seems to be boasting is often a mistake, a small talk malfunction by someone scraping around for something to say. Vis: "Is your baby rolling yet? My baby rolled last week, babble blah."
But some people's actual friends do seem to boast in a genuinely competitive way about such things as their children's academic brilliance. Or how they have a full complement of limbs and organs.
As Mumsnetter Punkatheart illustrates: "I once made a comment about my daughter needing to drink a lot because she only has one kidney. 'Oh,' said the mother to whom I was talking. 'My daughter doesn't need to drink a lot - she has TWO kidneys and a perfect bladder.' Whew - now that was insensitive!"
If the boasting parent is a good friend otherwise awash with lovely qualities, you probably have to just suck it up and say "mmm, mmhmm" a lot during a boastathon.
If the person is someone you are not so fussed about and there have been at least three instances of the boasting, suggesting it is actual boasting and not just inconsequential waffle, you could try this Mumsnetter's strategy: "At the very next boast of amazing baby superpowers, you tilt your head slightly, look concerned, and say 'Ohhhh... see, that would worry me...' And refuse to elaborate further, swearing that you're 'sure everything is fine really'."
Your own, possibly irrational, dislike of a friend's child must be permanently concealed from both parent and child.
But you are allowed to vent on Mumsnet Talk - it's a useful (and thankfully anonymous) outlet.