My three close friends in Northern California (who are also business partners to each other) had a serious and probably irreversible conflict. A friend with a young child is mad at his childless friends for not letting him bring his 3-year old child on a joint vacation across Europe.
The story is detailed. Opinions on “friendship issues” are very welcome:
Anya (52) and Artur (54), married for 32 years, no children (by choice and loving it), both are doctors with a stable and growing dental practice. Their life-long dream is to stabilize the practice and to travel and live abroad part of a year, alone and with friends, most of who also have no children.
Artur has a life-long childhood friend, Mishka, going all the way back to Leningrad. They went to dental school together in California; Mishka is an orthodontist with his own practice, which is part of Artur’s extended dental services.
Artur and Anya met and married while in college. Anya is very likable, and instantly became friends with Mishka.
Mishka was never keen on marriage and family, until at 27 he met Luba, who like a good Russian girl, lead him to the altar and a year later they had a son. A child, and Luba The Tiger Mom, quickly domesticated the reliable and responsible Mishka, and made him much less available for friends and travels. Anya and Artur understood, and accepted.
The two couples tried to travel together, but it did not work too well because of Mishka’s child. Luba, The Super Mother, had options to leave the child with 2 sets of grand-parents, but chose not to do so even when the boy became a teenager.
Both families understood and often discussed that extended joint travels will be possible again only after Mishka’s son grows-up and both families’ businesses are stable. Both couples joked about “surviving into the 50’s” and resuming their adventures later in life.
After Mishka’s son graduated from MIT, found work and remained in Boston permanently, Mishka and Luba ended their, by that time, problematic marriage.
Mishka started to date, and now was free to travel, and happily did so for few years with A&A and other friends in the group.
Few years ago he met a 39-year old Katya, an Aeroflot stewardess, who after 2 years of a long-distance romance led Mishka to the alter, yet again.
Katya has a child, an adult daughter who recently married and lives in Moscow. Yet Katya, pursuant a common Russian wives tale that “it is not a real family and the man will soon leave if a woman does not give her man a child” insisted on having a child.
Mishka sincerely and passionately did not want another child; but Anya pulled a “few tricks” on recommendations of her street-wise Moscow girlfriends who knew every trick in the book on how to rein inn a man, and a year later she had a child.
A&A and other friends were devastated – not only Kayta is annoying and “from another world” but the next time Mishka will be free “to live again” is now in his 70’s. But friends said nothing, and supported Mishka; and Mishka, at 51, like a good and responsible guy, was back in the “baby-in-the house” harness, and stayed harnessed until the baby is now 3-years old.
Katya is an 18th century Tiger Mom…. Her child is ill-behaved and acts like the centre of the universe. Katya thinks it’s cute, which makes it impossible to spend any quality time in their house. Katya is also into “girl-power against evil men” and claims a woman is not a woman without the experience of child-birth”, which pisses off most of A&A’s female friends, and first of all Anya.
Recently A&A and few other friends were planning a joint trip to Europe. The plan was to start north of Europe and to end up in Italy, where one of the friends has a cottage, 2-3 nights in 6 different locations and final 5 days at a cottage near Florence - a perfect vacation for adult on-the-go.
Anya suggested to Artur to invite Mishka and Katya, just the two of them, since their child is now 3 years old, and can easily be left with grand-parents who are more than willing.
Anya very much wanted Artur and Mishka to start living their old “travel dreams” and was excited when Mishka and Katya agreed.
Few days later Mishka called A&A and told them that Katya plans to bring the child and plans to stay the whole time at the cottage.
According to Katya, everyone can take short trips around the area where the cottage is located, there is plenty to see and plenty to do without hopping across other 5 countries…… after all, according to Katya’s logic, everyone in the group been to Europe many times, and she has a child and can’t hop around….
A&A were in shock, and the friend with the cottage outright refused to travel in a company of a child, and to let an ill-behaved 3-year old into the cottage. Other 2 people were not happy either traveling with a child. A joint vacation with 7 very independent, self-sufficient, self-assured, opinionated, well-traveled adults is complicated enough.
Anya and the group decided if Katya insists on the child, M&K are not going. Artur asked to wait and let him speak to Mishka, his best and life-long friend.
Mishka, unexpectedly, because very aggressive, although in the past he expressed regrets over having this child and marrying again so late in life when he was planning live a care-free existence.
Mishka said: If others don’t want the child, let them go. The four of us and the child can go and rent our own cottage.
Anya said: We want to go with the others; they are also our close friends. We made plans, we like them. We invited you to join us on an adult vacation, no children. We waited 20 years for your first son to grow up so that we can all travel again.
Mishka said: We’ve been best friends all our lives, and now you’re choosing others.
Artur said: I and Anya made it clear to all for the last 30 years; we are not keen on children. Anya’s right, we waited for 20 years until we all get on our feet, and made plans to travel later in life. We respect all your choices in life. But we worked hard and now want to enjoy our life how we see fit.
A lot of your choices in life did not suite our plans, and some we simply thought were idiotic, yet we were supportive and never said a word. We accepted your 2nd wife out of respect for you, although she absolutely does not fit into our circle and her attitude is offensive to us and other friends.
We also accept the fact that you have a small child. But we are not willing to twist our lives around it to accommodate you just because you decided to have child at the tender age of 53 when you’re old enough to be a great-grand-father.
And even if we loved children dearly and your wife, it still does not mean that 50+ year old people want to go on vacation with a 3-year old.
Mishka said: Fine. Go with the others. We can plan another vacation in December, the time suites us better anyway. Let’s go to Caymans.
Anya said: we want you to go with us now, but if you can’t we won’t insist. We don’t like touristy Caymans. We can go on vacation in December to a place we both select. But the issue still stands - we do not want to go on vacation with a child AT ALL. Either you agree to leave your child with grand-parents, or if you can’t do that for whatever reasons, we understand, but we will not be vacationing together. Period.
Mishka said: Then you are not true friends. True friends accept their friends “as is”. Life is not a pre-set formula. I am sorry I’ve ruined your life plans by having a baby. What if I broke both legs and could not travel but in a wheel chair, would you not go to Italy with me and push my chair at least once a day around Piazza Navona?
Artur said: If you were in a wheel chair, and we planned a joint vacation, I’d push your wheel chair around Piazza Navona, and Piazza Spagnia…. and all the way Tivoli….
There is a difference between a planned trip for an invalid friend who suffered an injury as a result of an accident and the situation you are in: getting cornered into a choice of having a child against your own better judgment, and then insisting on taking a child when you have an option of leaving child with grand-parents.
In other words, in first case you are victim of an accident and have no options but to travel in a wheel chair, and in second case you made a choice and do have options… which you and your wife are not willing to consider.
You want your choices to limit my choices.
Mishka said: Again, you take your friends “as is”, with children, with new wives, with injuries, with all that life send….
Artur said: If you kill an old lady for money and go to jail, you expect me to still be your friend and accept your actions?
Mishka said: If you’re a true friend, you should…
Anya said: But don’t we have a right to have a limit to what we can accept as far as actions of a friend?
Mishka said: A true friend does not judge, just helps. We are all human, we all make mistakes.
Artur said: But what if your mistakes greatly affect our options and choices?
Mishka said: So, you are calling my new family and child a “Mistake”?
Anya said: First of all you said that yourself several times. Second of all we are not calling anything “anything”. We are simply stating that your choices should not affect our choices. We should respect each others choices and find areas where such choices do not clash. Your choice of taking a child on a trip is clashing with our choice of freedom during travel and the “atmosphere” we want to maintain.
Mishka concluded: The child is part of my life and if you don’t accept the child as part of me, then you don’t accept me. If we can’t go on vacation with you and our child, it’s not much of a friendship.
The vacation and who is going is no longer an issue, it will take place without M&K. A&A are too angry with Mishka’s attitude to even regret it.
I am completely on A&A’s side, and told them so as I was present during the above discussion, but still wondering about the “True Friend” issue…. If one is drop dead set on not being around children and makes it clear to all friends for 30 years, and then a “true friend” has a child, must a “True Friend” accept that child into every aspect of his/her life?
Any opinions would be appreciated.