We live in an apartment building where everyone seems to be friends. We spend time together outside, do each other favors, and have playdates with our kids. But I think you must feel left out.

I used to think your kids were just going through a stage, so I tried to visit your home and invite you to ours. When your boys jumped all over my furniture or started hitting and kicking, I looked the other way. Sometimes things would break or tear, but I’m pretty relaxed about that stuff. And if it got too out of hand, you usually left.

Over time I’ve realized that this is more than just a stage. I can see there’s a deeper issue playing out here, though you’ve never specified what it is. You seem to be pretty on top of it, getting your sons the special education and therapies they need, and disciplining them when necessary.

That said, my kids are sensitive. It’s hard for me when you come over. On Friday night, when I venture out into the hallway of our apartment building, looking for company before the men come home from shul, I look at your front door and I hesitate. I’m nervous that the visit will end with someone crying hysterically. And I’m even more nervous that if I stay home, you’ll come and knock on my door, your kids ready to play.

At the same time, I want to knock on your door, sit down on your couch, and have a good schmooze. I really do. I love spending time talking to you. Besides your beautiful insights on life, I gain from watching you raise your boys. Your patience is immeasurable. Your love and acceptance of everything in your life, including your children, is truly inspiring.

Sometimes I wonder if you’re lonely. Do you feel that your kids’ behavior holds you back from the special bond shared by our apartment building? I wonder if everyone else feels the same way I do. Are they nicer than me? Can they just look the other way and let your kids have fun in their homes?

I want to call you to set up a playdate, but I know that it would be coming more from pity than logical sense. When I see you’re tired, or heading off for an appointment, I want to offer to watch your kids for an hour. But I really don’t think I’m capable of it. I try to remind myself that I am putting my family first, and that while I empathize with your pain, I should not feel guilty for causing that pain.

I try to find ways for us to spend time together in a way that’s safe and comfortable for everyone. When the weather’s nice, we can all meet up in the local park. Come winter, it’s more tricky. Do you have any ideas?

I hope you understand that I’m not avoiding you, and I do not look down on you. I certainly do not think your mothering is at fault. Rather, I know you’ve been given challenging kids, and you’re doing your utmost. I have tremendous respect for that.

Wishing you much success as a parent, and much nachas from your children,

Your Neighbor and Friend

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 576)