Best Friends Forever? 2013 365 Challenge #278

My amazing girl

My amazing girl

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.

At a birthday party

At a birthday party

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!

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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: 

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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.

***

12 thoughts on “Best Friends Forever? 2013 365 Challenge #278

  1. How many times I have been there with my own 7. It’s not easy. How can you tell affection to close down? They want the friend they want and the other third of the partnership is like a spoke in the wheel.
    Part of the difficulty, as you say, is that other pairings have already been made and your daughter may then feel like the invading third.
    It’s a bit different if there is a ‘crowd’ she can join in with, where all are welcome. If that is an option.
    One or two of mine have been ‘natural leaders’ where the gathering occurred around them. Their personalities are of the kind that gets on with just about everyone and so they never had any real issues except that those around had jealousies about being ‘besties’. They couldn’t understand why and just wanted to play with everyone.
    But, the others? Good grief. Third spoke syndrome. They liked who they liked and there was just no changing that. All I could do was encourage them to try to be friends with others, to join other groups, to not worry if some days they felt left out. Hard, hard, hard.
    But they did find their way. Do have a word with the teacher. I’ve done that before too. One of my daughters had a best friend who moved away and she was bereft. New friends had to be made. The school was very good at listening and made for inclusion. She still missed her friend but she participated in new groups. Strangely, her friend returned and they only remained friends for a year or two afterwards. Now they don’t see each other at all.
    I’m sorry to be so long-winded. 😉 I don’t think there is an easy answer. Even encouraging other children to join her at home may not work. They just like who they like. Go figure.
    Good luck. You’re already doing everything right by listening to her and offering advice that she can understand. (Saying that, one piece of advice I lost the plot with was after another jealousy session in the threesome, when I told my daughter to tell them all to ‘get lost’, ‘get a life’ etc.) ;)x

    • I think

      The fact that you are paying so close attention means so much. You would be surprised how many other mothers do not. Mine went through a very painful year in exactly the same situation your daughter is in. I did talk to the teacher. But my daughter was set on getting her original friend back. I worried too. But it all worked out. The threesome all broke up. My daughter is friends now many years later with the original girl but not with the one who caused the problems. Does that make sense?

      • Absolute sense, thank you. I think she’ll be okay, I just don’t like seeing her suffer or knowing that her friend is saying mean things to her. Sigh. Parenting, who knew it was SO tough!

    • Thank you so much for your long reply. I guess this is what they mean when they say parenting doesn’t get any easier: logistically it might be less stressful, but emotionally it gets harder and harder… I struggled with friendships as I got older, although I was a natural leader until I hit puberty and discovered boys! I was also let down badly by more than one ‘bestie’ and I just don’t want her to suffer as I did.

      • It’s a difficult call. The best we can all do is be there, I suppose, to catch any fall out should it occur. Good luck and big hugs. Being a mammy does have its trials and tribulations. Just as well there’s also lots of joy to it.x

  2. This is a difficult situation and you are a great mother for being concerned about it. Unfortunately, this may happen many times in her young life and how she handles it now may set the stage for the future. I wouldn’t suggest talking to the other mom or the teachers at school because that would put you in the position of fixing social situations. It is hard to force another child to want to play with yours. Instead, I would build up your daughter’s confidence. Reassure her that she is a great kiddo and you’re sure there are other kids out there who would love to play with her! Then, suggest she begin to play with many other children. Eventually, she will form more relationships. You might suggest she look around for another child who is “lonely”. Making friends in this manner will serve her well in life and she will feel more confident in this area if she can do it herself.

    • Thanks for this. Confidence is a tricky thing. I don’t have much (even less since PND with second child) and my daughter sees and learns that. I’m also quite hard on her, as the eldest, and she is ridiculously sensitive. The slightest reprimand has her in hysterics. I need to think of a way to bolster her confidence, lord knows how. I think I’d have done better with two boys. My poor darling girl.

  3. I think your advice about moving on from grumpy kids could be extended a bit maybe. So if your daughter feels left out to the point it makes her cry there’s nothing wrong if she casts out on her own with other friends. That way she doesn’t have to give up on the best friend, just widen her group to give the best friend room to hang out with the other girl as well. The fact is, if the friend prefers the other girl your daughter is much better moving on, no matter how much you like her mum, and letting her friendship with the other girl be more casual.

    Other than that, all you can do is be there for her. I had this with McMini at his toddler group. He had a close friend he loved dearly who would play with him every time unless this other lad turned up, in which case he’d completely blank McMini. It would reduce McMini to tears every time. We’re the boot on the other foot I’d have ordered McMini to be inclusive, blanking your mate is not appropriate. They do it but I’ve never seen that as a reason to pass on explaining that it’s wrong. So it does depend on the other mum, as well.

    As for if the school will notice, well McMini has another very good friend from preschool and because the two of them are very tight they have been kept separate and encouraged to mingle with other kids. I doubt they’ll ever be in the same class. So if you’re worried it might be worth giving it a mention.

    I hope this helps.

    Cheers

    MTM

    • Thanks for this. It has been an ongoing issue with other friendships she has, because she prefers one-on-one to a group scenario. Thankfully she knew about a third if her classmates at least by name when she started school (it’s why we chose that one) so she as other friends to play with. Interestingly the school asked us for a name of someone to place her with so she would settle, and it never occurred to us that it might come back to bite us! I think she’ll be okay. We spend a lot of time at home teaching her it isn’t fair to ignore her brother or say she doesn’t want to be friends with him. Hopefully if she’s hearing kids say similar things to her at school she’ll learn not to take it too personally.

  4. My oldest seems to have inherited my get-left-out gene. He can get along singly with any single person, but when there is more than one, chances are he will get left out, no matter the age group. It really pisses me off sometimes, because he will go out of his way to include and share with others.

    Sigh. It was tough enough to go through all the way up through high school… At least he’ll always have attentive caring parents. All my mother ever said was because they liked me, it seemed like. But, then again, I rarely talked to her about those things…

    My child won’t go through what I went through, I won’t have it.

    • I feel something similar! My mum said the other day “I always thought you loved school”. Completely unaware that I went through a period of cutting because I was so miserable and left out. I hope that, with all my parenting sins, lack of interest won’t be one of them.

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