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!

________________________________________________________________________________

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.

***

Life’s Curve-balls: 2013 365 Challenge #253

My son's first full day at preschool

My son’s first full day at preschool

Today was a good reminder that, no matter how tough you think life is, it’s always worse for someone else (and it can always get a little harder for you, too!)

When I texted my friend last night, to find out what her daughter was wearing to school, she said she might not even make it to school as she’d had a tumble from her scooter and they were off to hospital. Sure enough, my daughter’s best friend broke her arm and missed her first morning at school. We didn’t tell my daughter, as expecting her best friend to be there was the only thing keeping her calm. As it was she was fine. She ran in smiling and says she cried a little bit when she realised her friend wasn’t there, but she soon made a new friend and came running out still smiling (I, on the other hand, nearly sobbed with pride!)

We stopped off to see the poorly girl after school and my daughter found that much harder: it’s the first time she’s had a friend incapacitated by illness or injury.

To begin with she was brilliant, playing nurse, letting her friend choose the games and telelvision programs. After a while though the novelty wore off. When we left she started crying and said, “Mummy I want my friend back, she can’t play with me properly.”

So what should be such a fun and exciting time for both of them is going to have an extra challenge for a few weeks. And my poor girl, who didn’t want to have to worry about looking after someone at school (having looked after her brother at preschool all summer) has now been asked to look after her friend.

I'm off, Mummy, bye!

I’m off, Mummy, bye!

Of course it’s nothing to what my friend must be going through. I can’t express how bad I feel for her. After seven years, to finally be within hours of having both children at school, only to have to stay home from work and nurse a distraught child after leaving A&E at 3am. It put my tiredness – after little man was up 1am-3am last night – into perspective. Of course it didn’t stop me being grumpy and leaving childcare mostly to my hubbie this afternoon. Sometimes, even if another’s lot is worse than yours, it doesn’t make yours any easier. It just made me pray that one of our kids doesn’t break something. Fingers and toes crossed.

P.S. I have an author interview live today, over on Paul Western-Pittard’s blog, That Thing I Said. It was fun to re-read it, as I wrote it a few months ago (it says that Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes is on hold as a project – shows how much things can change in a short period of time!)

It would be lovely if you could stop by, not least because there is loads of great stuff on Paul’s blog.

________________________________________________________________________________

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: 

________________________________________________________________________________

“For God’s sake, I told you not to go.”

Josh rushed towards Claire as she walked away from the jet, dripping wet and clutching her neck. She immediately dropped her hand and forced a smile. Irritation fought with gratitude at the look of concern in his amber-flecked eyes. She longed to bury herself in his arms and have him smooth the pain away. At the same time, her hackles rose at his disapproving frown.

“What do you mean? It was excellent fun!” She looked down at her sodden clothing. “Do you mean this? I’m not as wet as I was this morning. I’ll know not to sit at the edge another time.”

Josh fell in step as Claire and Bethan waddled back to the bus to retrieve dry clothes. Claire willed her friend to stay with them as chaperone, but Bethan seemed oblivious to the brewing trouble, as she chatted to a couple of lads from the bus. Claire realised she was on her own.

“I’m not talking about you being drenched, and you know it. You were holding your neck, I saw you. You’ve given yourself whiplash, haven’t you?”

Claire went to shake her head, thought better of it, and folded her arms instead. “It’s fine. Nothing a cup of tea won’t fix.”

She heard Josh tut in annoyance, but he held his tongue.

*

Claire managed to avoid Josh for the rest of the day. She knew it was putting off the inevitable, but she couldn’t face a showdown. Her body ached with spent adrenalin and pain stabbed from her neck to her fingertips if she moved too quickly. A lecture from Josh would only exacerbate the already-blinding headache flashing in her head.

She was grateful they’d been allocated different dorm rooms and she had almost made it to bed undetected, when he finally tracked her down.

“Claire, please stop avoiding me. We need to talk.” He hurried after her, and she stopped in the corridor, not wanting him to follow her all the way to her room, which – judging by the raucous drinking going on elsewhere in the hostel – was likely to be empty at this early hour.

“Can’t it wait until the morning? I’m beat.”

“Do you need painkillers? I have some prescription strength ones that will help. I know you don’t want me mollycoddling you, I get it. But stupid to suffer in silence.”

“I told you, I’m fine. I took some ibuprofen earlier. What I need now is sleep.”

Josh rubbed his hand across the back of his neck and shuffled his feet. Something about his body language raised the hairs on Claire’s arm. She felt a declaration brewing, and didn’t want to hear it.

“Claire I–”

“Don’t say it.” She held up her hand. He reached forward and took it in a gentle grasp.

“No, I have to say it, before I chicken out. I haven’t had nearly enough beer.”

“Then go drink some more and let me go to bed.”

“I love you.”

The words rushed out and fell like rocks into her empty heart. Behind them a shout of laughter broke above the general hubbub, emphasising the silence between them. Claire felt acutely aware of his hand holding hers, as she stared at the floor and waited for it to open and rescue her.

After what felt like an eternity Josh spoke, his voice barely a whisper.

“Tell me you don’t love me. I won’t believe you.”

She looked up then, and saw a mixture of hope and assurance in his expression. She needed to speak, to end this. Short and sharp, like pulling off a plaster.

“I loved the idea of you: Josh the adventurer, Josh the husband and father. That’s all.”

“I can be those things again.”

He pulled her towards him but she tugged her hand free and folded her arms.

“You still are those things, just not with me. You have a wife who loves you, children who adore you. Don’t throw it away.” Claire thought about all she had lost. Her best friend, her boyfriend, her job, her family. There was nowhere she truly belonged.

“Don’t give up your readymade life for a pipe dream. What if we did get married and have kids? Life wouldn’t be any easier. Far harder, in fact. I’m not a natural parent like Fiona. You think it’s hard now, with her focussing on the baby? You’d be booking me into rehab after a week of looking after three children while my husband sodded off to England to nurse his guilty conscience.”

Suddenly her head crowded with the thought of all the pain this gorgeous man had caused, with his misplaced guilt and his refusal to take responsibility for his life. As he gazed at her like a puppy seeking praise, she felt a hundred years old.

“My advice to you, Josh? Appreciate what you have, before you no longer have it. Go back to Fiona. Beg forgiveness. Try harder. Hire a babysitter and take her out to dinner. Bring her breakfast in bed once in a while. Take the kids to the park so she can read a book or have a bath. And, for pity’s sake, grow up.”

As she walked away Claire remembered another conversation, a lifetime ago, when she’d said the same to Michael.

When am I going to find a man who wants a partner not a parent?

Puzzling over the impossible riddle, Claire headed to her room.

***