Lola Rolls
Advice on Life from a Former Sideshow Fat Lady

Feral Children

Posted By on Sunday, June 14th, 2020

Dear Lola,

I have a good friend, let’s call her Jane, who is lots of fun. Our kids all go to the same school, so we have that in common. The problem is that her children drive me insane because they’re so poorly behaved.

For example, the one and only time we all went to a restaurant, one of her kids got up on the table on all fours and barked like a dog at his brother. The manager came out and talked to us. And this was at a McDonald’s! I thought I was going to die from embarrassment. My own children, who are about the same age, were equally horrified.

Now with the pandemic, it’s like her children have gone full-on feral.  Needless to say, Jane is very stressed out. On the one hand, I feel for her, but on the other, I want to tell her to assert some authority over her kids. The reason my children are well behaved is because I don’t accept them acting a certain way. That sounds snarky and condescending even to my own ears.

I know no one wants to have their parenting critiqued, but do I just do nothing and accept that my friendship with Jane will always be limited because I can’t stand being around her kids?

–Not My Responsibility but Still My Problem


Dear Not My Responsibility,

If Jane’s children were being abused or neglected, or otherwise in danger, then you would have a moral, and maybe even a legal, imperative to intervene in some way. Fortunately, that doesn’t sound like the case here.

So, can you still say something to Jane? You could ask her exactly once, on one of those occasions when she seems particularly stressed out, if she would like you to tell her about some of the things that have worked for you. That may or may not help.

I think you should consider that the behavioral differences between Jane’s children and your own are likely the result of complicated factors that extend beyond the simple ability and willingness to exert parental authority. Differences in learning styles, maturity, and personalities also play important roles. While you might have the easy, comparatively well-behaved children at this developmental phase, that may not always be the case. It’s possible that, at some point, you and Jane might switch roles.

You can also set yourself up for success by avoiding situations where some version of good, buttoned-down behavior is required. Instead have the kids play outside or in some other venue where running, yelling, and even barking are okay.

Then when all is said and done, you and Jane can hopefully have some quality, child-free time over coffee and wine to unwind from and even laugh at the stress of parenting.



Barbara Boehm Miller
Fiction Writer and Creator of the Character, Lola Rolls

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