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to wonder if you even realise you're doing it?

(206 Posts)
JessieMcJessie Thu 18-Dec-14 05:33:35

I have a lot of friends with toddlers. I like to catch up with them now and again, and they seem to like the idea of spending some time with me.

However most of them seem to find it completely acceptable to ask me how I am, or get me to start telling an anecdote, but then repeatedly cut me off mid-sentence to talk to the child. I'm not talking about life-threatening situations here - it's absolutely fine to ignore my story about how my brother is recovering after his hospital stay in order to administer the heimlich manoevre to a three year old. You don't even need to say "excuse me" first.

But asking the child if they want some toast or a story - not so much. I suspect that this is how they engage with their partners/other Mums and they forget how it comes across to others, and they probably think that as a close friend I won't mind as I had said I wanted to see the toddler, and he/she is cute etc. I do mind though. Last time it happened I actually felt so offended I wanted to cry - my friend clearly wasn't the slightest bit interested in what I had to say and admitted when she finally turned her attention back to me that she'd forgotten what I'd said.

So. AIBU to wonder if you even notice that you're causing offence?

NynaevesSister Thu 18-Dec-14 05:39:30

If you mean that they interrupt you to talk to a toddler who is not demanding their attention, then YANBU. That is rude. If they turn to a toddler that is demanding attention and say something like 'do you want a story' then that is rude too.

But if they are interrupting you because the child is demanding attention, and then they come back to you then YABU because unfortunately toddlers are like that.

And you know toddlers do your head in. They scatter your thought processes so I wouldn't be offended by your friend losing track. It isn't personal!

I think you a being a bit unreasonable really. I find it impossible to have quality time with friends if my toddler is there- toddlers are hugely demanding (well mine are anyway)
It's still lovely to see them of course but arranging a child free meet up is better if we really want to talk.

PiperIsTerrysChoclateOrange Thu 18-Dec-14 05:42:05

I think it's important for a child to learn from an early age not to interrupt the chosen speaker.

JessieMcJessie Thu 18-Dec-14 05:42:14

How do you distinguish betwen "demanding attention" and "attention seeking" though nynaeve'sSister? Do toddlers really need to be responded to every single time?

rootypigsinblankets Thu 18-Dec-14 05:43:49

I know I do it. DD is 2 and I feel like I haven't given anything my full attention for well, two years. All I can say is, it is to my mind impossible - truly impossible - to give anyone your full attention while caring for your small child at the same time (babies in fact are much easier). The parents you are trying to talk to will be responding to cues that you aren't noticing. Keeping a toddler on an even keel is about giving them constant input and offering toast and a story, these things absolutely are life threatening from a toddler's pov. Or the parent is simply expressing, by giving their child attention, their anxiety, stress and guilt about having to juggle as ever, parenting their child with everything else in the world.

It must be crap to be on the receiving end of, and though it may be cold comfort, as a toddler parent I hate it too, but try not to take it personally.

On a more practical note, it would probably be easier for everyone to arrange to see you friends without their kids-?

Charitybelle Thu 18-Dec-14 05:44:49

Yabu. I get it. I used to find this annoying and tbh I still do, BUT I have a toddler now and I understand what it's like to have your attention split a thousand different ways, and be unable to hold a train of thought let alone a conversation.
I try really hard with my friends to listen to what they're saying and respond appropriately, but when my toddler is shouting and tugging at me for something, quite often I have to break off to deal with it immediately, even if it's just to reprimand her for interrupting and get her to say excuse me still working on that one.
I get that it would be nice if they were all well behaved little angels that didn't intrude on the adult convo and say happily playing with their Lego, but that's not real life.

Cut your friend some slack, as annoying as it is for you, at least you can go home and have a wee in peace grin.When was the last time you think she had time to do that, considering she can't even have a chat with a friend? Her toddler will grow older, she'll get her life and her attention span back, and she'll appreciate friends who were patient and stuck it out with her.

JessieMcJessie Thu 18-Dec-14 05:45:06

It's still lovely to see them of course but arranging a child free meet up is better if we really want to talk.

So why start conversations that require a detailed answer if you know you can't actually talk properly? This is what I mean about asking if you actually realise what you are doing.

Hurr1cane Thu 18-Dec-14 05:46:07

Oh goodness. I do this, but my child has autism and disabilities and so do all of my friends. My ears and eyes are on them all and I'm constantly stopping conversations to pick one up, steer one away from something dangerous or answer ones question when they're stimming away looking anxious about it.

I am really conscious that I do it and very apologetic though. Does it really really annoy people? sad

Ipigglemustdie Thu 18-Dec-14 05:46:55

Yanbu dp does this. Might as well say "you're boring me please stop talking"

rootypigsinblankets Thu 18-Dec-14 05:47:13

Cross post. Do toddlers really need to be responded to every single time? Understand that your friends are trying to avert a giant fucking meltdown. Telling your two year old that you are talking to your friend and no they can't have x, y, or z may be model parenting but it's also likely to produce histrionics. In responding to a toddler, the parent is actually doing their level best to create conditions in which they can have a conversation - albeit half of one.

NewEraNewMindset Thu 18-Dec-14 05:51:35

You have just summed up my relationship with my family beautifully.

Pre-children this was the way my sister communicated at all times, now we all have children this is how myself, my Mother and my Sister communicate 95% if the time.

It used to drive me demented as it was so rude. Nowadays I don't care. I make sure that all conversation is superficial and frothy (think Nethuns) and so bring cut off mid sentence makes no odds as most of the time I'm saying precisely nothing. Just nodding enthusiastically.

RhinestoneCowgirl Thu 18-Dec-14 05:55:27

Toddlers melt your brain. Many times I have really wanted to have that in depth conversation with a friend but knowing realistically that it would be cut off by a 2 yr old demanding attention.

Honeydragon Thu 18-Dec-14 05:56:50

I guess the toddler just wants the same as you, 100% of the attention, but the haven't yet mastered the art of the passive aggressive seethe grin

rootypigsinblankets Thu 18-Dec-14 05:57:14

Yes to melted brain. Melted. That is it exactly.

JessieMcJessie Thu 18-Dec-14 05:59:15

Hurri1cane I am sure that your friends fully appreciate your particular difficulties. As I said above, I wasn't talking about prioritising conversation over averting danger.

You've said you're apologetic - that's all I ask from my friends, to be honest. They don't even need to apologise every time, they could just say one single time "look, there's no point in you trying to have a conversation with me because I can't promise to give you my full attention for the duration of a sentence. Let's just both play together with DS when he's around and we'll meet up for a chat in a bar next Tuesday/when DS is 15".

But they don't. They say "So, how was your holiday?" and then don't listen to the answer, leaving me feeling like a lemon. And yes of course I could suggest that we only meet in a child free context but I'd appreciate a bit of self-awareness from them.

FrostbiteTheSnowman Thu 18-Dec-14 05:59:36

What rootypig said. It's hard to have a conversation whilst watching a toddler but absolutely impossible if they are thrashing around screaming and kicking on the floor/running around destroying things/bashing their heads on the floor.

NewEraNewMindset Thu 18-Dec-14 06:03:19

Jessie you need to just say 'fine thanks' and stop talking. How are things going at work? 'Great thanks', and your boss, do you like him/her? 'Yes'.

You are making the mistake of trying to have a real conversation. Think light and frothy at all times with a 20 second reply maximum.

phoenixrose314 Thu 18-Dec-14 06:03:25

I'm now really conscious that I might be alienating my non-parenting friends by doing this!! As other have said, generally as parents you are picking up on subtle cues that others wouldn't notice, to avoid a meltdown - chances are, she's placating the child so that you are ABLE to continue having the conversation, to ensure that a tantrum isn't about to interrupt it!

Toddlers are bloody hard work, so much worse than babies, please cut your friend some slack, and maybe if you're close enough as friends then when you need to have a deep and meaningful conversation, ask her if there's a chance you could have a child-free meet so you can chat uninterrupted? That will let her know that you place value on her attention and maybe she will be more conscious of this in future. She probably isn't aware she's doing it and bless her is probably living in a very high state of anxiety!

Give her a break, try to be understanding, and remember this when it's your turn around wink

I guess I ask these questions because I aspire to have good quality conversations because I do care. Good intentions and all that. Obviously doesn't work out ever most of the time.

NynaevesSister Thu 18-Dec-14 06:09:22

Of course they are listening to your answer with the best listening that they have. And yes they are interested in knowing what you do on holidays. But they have toddlers! For goodness sake cut them some slack. Now YABU and sounding a bit petulant. You are the adult. The toddler is the child. Suck it up and hope that your friends give you the same consideration when they have toddlers.

Trust me it isn't personal. Of course they don't know they are doing it. They are lost in the mind fog that having a child ages 1 to 3 does to you.

Be a good friend and be gentle with them not judgemental!

rootypigsinblankets Thu 18-Dec-14 06:09:30

Jessie I think you need to say what you want your parent friends to say. Because to be honest they are probably desperate for adult conversation a lot more than you, and actually trying to preserve your friendship by taking an interest / not having all your time together revolve around playing with and talking about their child. The irony is, reading your posts, I realise that this is precisely what I do - consciously try to ask a friend about themselves to take the focus off the toddler - not to make them feel worse. Especially when that friend does not have children and I am trying not to be a baby bore. If it's not working for you, say so.

NewEraNewMindset Thu 18-Dec-14 06:15:40

I think what a lot of you are missing is that it actually feels much ruder to ask a question and not listen to the answer than it does to say to your non-kiddie friend - argh I can only see you this week with the children so we can't talk properly but let's meet at x time without the kids and then I can concentrate.

I think there is this 'we can do it all' attitude where you try and juggle friends and children and home based jobs etc and instead of giving something you whole attention you give lots of things a small amount of attention, ie do nothing particularly well.

Playthegameout Thu 18-Dec-14 06:20:13

I think the reason your friends don't say they can't have a conversation is because they'd still very much like too! I miss the pre toddler chats and would like to hold on to the impression if them even if I can't achieve them right now. I do the annoying cut off thing and I hate it! In my defence Ds is waking up every day at 4.30 am so my brain is frazzled. Some of my friends don't have kids so we split meet ups between doing stuff with Ds (feeding ducks/ visiting the aquarium) which keep him partially entertained, and Ds free time (preferably in a bar with a huge glass of wine).

JessieMcJessie Thu 18-Dec-14 06:20:32


The irony is, reading your posts, I realise that this is precisely what I do - consciously try to ask a friend about themselves to take the focus off the toddler - not to make them feel worse. Especially when that friend does not have children and I am trying not to be a baby bore.

I guess I ask these questions because I aspire to have good quality conversations because I do care. Good intentions and all that. Obviously doesn't work out ever most of the time

Thanks, I'm glad that maybe you'll now be a bit more aware of the impression that you may inadvertently be giving.

Just to respond to NynaevesSister's comment about being petulant and having to suck it up so that my tolerance is returned to me should I ever have a toddler of my own.......I have never ever let my annoyance show to my friends, or appeared anything other than understanding of their positions. I've just gone away feeling a bit surprised that they don't realise it comes across as rude. Hnece my AIBU. It wasn't 'AIBU to be pissed off that my friends with toddlers don't give me my full attention?" it was "AIBU to wonder if they realise how they are coming across?".

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