I need some advice. My daughter came home from school today saying she and her best friends are ‘not friends anymore’. It isn’t a new statement: in the nature of best friends, they fall out all the time. The problem has been exacerbated recently by the poor child having a broken arm. Not being able to play and climb is bound to make a child grumpy.
The dilemma for me is that my daughter’s friend has, herself, another best friend. A slightly older (and much more confident) girl, who – up until they all started school – she spent much more time with.
My daughter only saw her best friend once a week at nursery, and whenever our baby group got together, as I’m friends with her mum. The friend spent the rest of her time with this other girl, at preschool and on play dates.
Like a marriage and an affair, it all went on swimmingly until they were chucked together, six hours a day, five days a week. Now, my daughter has lots of other friends, but they have formed their own natural groups and pairings, and she is used to seeing her BFF as her natural pair. A love triangle is forming.
My advice has always been for her to play with children when they’re being happy and friendly, and not give them any attention when they’re being mean and grumpy. But at the moment, what I really want to say to my daughter is, ‘make a new friend’. I don’t want her to stop being friends with the other child, but I think it would help to find a girl who doesn’t have a pair, and make a new friendship.
It’s tricky for me to suggest that, as I’m friend’s with the girl’s mother: I don’t want it to sound like I’m dissing her daughter (I’m not, she’s a lovely girl). I just hate to see my little princess in tears because she feels left out.
We went through this at nursery, when the older girls wouldn’t let my daughter join in with their games. Once the older girls left, she really flourished at nursery, even on the days her best friend wasn’t there. So I know she gets on well with the other girls in her class. And, because they’re not her ‘best friend forever’ she does tend to fall out with them less, or care less if they’re mean.
What do I do? Listen and give no advice? Talk to a teacher to understand how significant the issue is? (I’m not sure how much the teachers notice: with a 12-1 ratio, I’m guessing they don’t watch the nuances of friendship ups and downs). Has anyone experienced this love triangle of friendships? Am I worrying too much and it will all blow over in a week? Four is a tough age, and I don’t remember any of that time myself!
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
Claire stared at the girl sitting at the kitchen table. She looked to be in her late teens or early twenties. Her short blonde hair stood up in spikes from her head and she had a ring through her nose.
As if sensing the scrutiny, the girl glanced up and smiled. “Hi, you must be Claire. Melanie said you were staying.”
Melanie? When did Mum let people call her by her first name? And who the hell are you? Politeness kept the words unspoken.
“Yes, hi, I’m Claire.” She waited for the girl to introduce herself. After a few moments, she seemed to get the hint.
“Sorry, I’m Dotty. Your mum said I could stay for a while. I’m working locally for the summer, before I go to uni.”
Claire blinked, trying to process the information. Her head ached; she wasn’t entirely sure what time or day it was, although it looked like Dotty was eating breakfast which suggested it was probably morning.
I’m going to wake up in a moment and still be on the coach having a bad dream. Mum, let some random girl stay? In my room? For the whole damned summer?
She felt like she’d fallen down the rabbit hole and landed in a fantastic world of impossibilities. Her stomach growled and she remembered her priority.
“Is there any food?”
Dotty nodded. “Sure, I baked some bread yesterday; I think there’s still half a loaf.” She gestured towards the counter.
Like a sleepwalker, Claire crossed the familiar kitchen and retrieved what looked to be a walnut loaf from the breadbin. Hacking off a chunk, she smeared it with butter, too hungry to worry about toasting it first.
Claire perched on the edge of the nearest seat and concentrated on chewing the bread, glad not to be able to make further conversation. Her mind tried to place Dotty, wondering if she was some distant cousin or a God-daughter her mother had forgotten to mention. It didn’t make sense: her mother hated having young people in the house. She’d practically held a street party when Claire had finally moved out; the last of the three children to leave the nest.
“I’m heading into Cambridge this morning, is there anything I can get you?”
Claire’s gaze flew over to the young girl’s face and her heart lurched. “Do you drive? Have you got your own car? I could do with a lift to the hospital, if it’s not out of your way.”
Dotty grinned. “Definitely not out of my way, that’s where I’m going. I’m volunteering for PALS before I start my social work degree.”
Claire had no idea what PALS was, but she wasn’t going to turn down a free lift, even if it meant an hour in the car with the girl. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but something about the fresh-faced brightly smiling woman irritated her.
“Great,” was all she said. “How long have I got? I need to scrounge some shampoo from Mum so I can have a shower.”
“I’m leaving in about twenty minutes. My stuff is in the family bathroom, you’re welcome to borrow what you like.”
The girl stood, rinsed her breakfast bowl, dried it and put it away. With a wide smile, she nodded at Claire and left the room.
Claire munched on her bread and tried not to cry.