When friendships go bad...

  • September 05, 2016
  • By Stephanie Kirsch

OK, so I've spoken before about how I can be a pretty rubbish friend. I freely admit that when it comes to keeping in touch, attending parties and talking about anything other than washing and nappies I fail miserably.

So what should I do when a friendship goes sour? A mummy-friendship that I valued but I feel has gone due to little fault of my own? Is it still OK for me to complain when I wake one morning and discover that I have (GASP) been unfriended on Facebook?

It is confusing with this situation, I'm not quite sure where I went wrong. I had a great friend with a great sense of humour. All was wonderful in a hazy world of mummy-talk and commiserations over lack of sleep.

Until I began to feel uncomfortable. Not with my friend, but with her son.

I know that sounds a bit mean but he kept hitting Lily. Really hitting her. At first I passed it off as normal toddler behaviour. Kids go through stages like that don't they? But over time it got worse. He would punch her, bite her, pull her hair. I watched him yank her off a ride on toy. He gave her bruises on her neck, scratches on her face.

I couldn't keep trying to overlook it. He was hurting my child. And not just mine. If I met my friend for coffee I'd see him hitting other random children in the cafe - even a baby in a highchair that we didn't know. It got to the stage where I was either upset and fuming over him hitting my daughter or I was embarrassed about him hitting someone else's child.

I wanted to stick with the friendship. I honestly did. She was going through such a hard time and I felt for her, cried for her. I was able to put aside my 'rubbish friend' badge and be there for a friend in need. All the while questioning if I was somehow failing my children by putting someone else first.

Should I have spoken to her about it? Maybe. The last thing I wanted was to offend her or hurt her. So I kept quiet. In any case, she could see there was a problem and was looking into how she could best discipline her child.

Things would get better.

Until, earlier this year, she turned up at my house and told Lily to "play nicely" with her son because he was "tired and if he gets fed up he'll hit you".

Woah. That stopped me in my tracks. We're strict in our household on one rule in particular. We don't hit anybody. There is no reason for it. If someone hits you, walk away and tell an adult. I know there is an argument for teaching children self-defence, but toddlers don't get that, they don't get when using force is appropriate and so right now I'm working on raising non-violent human beings.

From that moment, I noticed a change in my friend. When her son hit Lily she would jump up and declare that Lily had snatched a toy, wasn't sharing, or had hit him first.

Then a mutual friend told me that she'd been telling people that her son only misbehaved around Lily. That it was Lily's fault that he hit her. And something inside me snapped. Because I'm not blind to my child's faults. I know when she doesn't always share. I know she can be over-sensitive. But that will never mean that she somehow deserves to be hurt or injured.

At that point I had to stop and look at the situation. Whilst my friend had realised that her son was acting badly I had some hope that things would improve. However, if my friend was now blaming Lily and thinking she somehow deserved to be scratched, hit or bitten then I couldn't trust her to make things better.

I still didn't say anything. I really don't like confrontation. The last thing I wanted was a heated argument that would leave our friendship in tatters. I told myself that this phase would pass. Instead I backed off a bit. This was easy to do as we worked on different days and so couldn't meet as much as we used to. It seemed like a natural development. We'd have our own little lives, little jobs and we could keep what remained of our friendship safe and contained until it was in a place to grow again.

Clearly I was wrong. With no explanation I have been removed on Facebook and I know it sounds silly, but it hurts. Hitting the 'remove friend' button is a declaration - "I no longer want to be your friend". And doing it without a reason why is basically as bad as dumping someone by text.

It has left me with unanswered questions and regret for things left unsaid. If it was going to end like this then maybe I should have said all the things that wound me up, hurt me and got on my nerves. But I didn't and it would be churlish of me to spew them out now in anger.

And so today I am grieving for a friendship gone. I'm sad and can't help wondering if there was any way I could have salvaged it but keep coming back to the same conclusion.

Lily (and Ollie obviously) have to be my priority. I am their Mummy. I can't put them in situations where they will be hurt or injured. Removing them from that was the right thing to do. I have no doubt about that. I need to keep my children as safe as I can, whilst I can. This is also about teaching Lily to cultivate healthy friendships, to respect her friends and herself. It's about teaching her to not accept any form of violence or abuse.

And although I would have liked to maintain my friendship in some way, I believe it is so much better for Lily to be able to play with friends without fear.

3 Little Buttons

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