Communication Skills/Discontinuing a friendship
Dear EMS. I have a 10 year old son who has played with a boy his age for the past couple of years. I became friends with his mother also so we do lots of play dates together.
However, overtime, I have learned more about her husband. He's very racist, angry (i.e. kicks their dog), verbally abusive toward his wife, has road rage, etc. They are still married, but she just deals with it even though she doesn't like it. He's good to their son and their teenage daughter, and she has her own reasons for staying. When you meet him, you would think you're meeting a saint. He's so polite and wonderful that you never would know it. He's charming and kind which I truly believe is a cover up.
My husband wants me to discourage our son from playing with their son because he feels that he's learning racist remarks from his father and passing it on to our son which we don't like. He thinks the father is a bad influence on their son and then on ours. We've heard our son use racist remarks now, and we don't approve at all because we are not like that ourselves.
I've tried slowly backing off from their play dates, but I know soon my friend is going to wonder what's going on. How should I handle this without hurting her feelings or keeping the father from finding out what we really think of his behavior? It's a very touchy situation. He's got guns (we are not against guns), but who knows how unbalanced he might be.
Any advice you have would greatly be appreciated. Thank you.
What an awkward situation! I feel badly for everyone involved and everyone who knows this man.
You've actually got 2 options that I can see.
The first is to tell your son that he cannot play with this boy any more and if he asks why, just be honest with him about his friend's dad.
If your friend (the mom of the other boy) asks why you can tell her if you choose to. You don't actually owe her an explanation (although giving one is nice). You can be as vague as you liked to be. You can say "I just don't think our sons are meshing well." Or you can be very specific and tell her exactly why you're removing your son from a toxic environment. Odds are, she already knows and she won't be surprised. I have no doubt she knows how her husband is, and though she may put up with it, you (nor your son) have to.
The other option I see, is still allowing your son to play with his friend, but that he's only allowed to play with him over at your house and that it's supervised. That way if the boy says something inappropriate, you can correct him and tell him that kind of talk and attitude is not allowed at your house.
I would reiterate that sentiment anyway to your son. He needs to know that making racist comments are not okay. I'm sure you've already done so because you sound like a loving caring family. You can also explain to him that even though his friend (and his friend's dad) talks like that, it's not allowed in your house and it's not what you believe.
Also, I would report the husband to your local animal control for animal abuse. I don't know how many times this dog has been abused, but once is too many and no one deserves being treated that way. If he's hurting animals, I don't doubt he's already abusing his family. If he isn't already, then it will start happening soon. A man who can justify abusing a defenseless animal will have no qualms about abusing a person.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any more questions or concerns.