Friday Night’s Alright for Fighting

Photo Credit: Saneboy There are stacks of advice books on how to deal with toddler fights and disputes. Does anyone know if there’s one for grown-ups?

I moved to my small town about 18 months ago, and soon met two local mums, H
and P. They've been friends for years, and work together.

We've recently fallen out in that spectacular way that women do, with lots of swearing and shouty tears (not mine, I hasten to add, I'm far too Northern for public displays of emotion).

It's basically a story of jealousy. I became friends with H and P soon after arriving in town, but it quickly became apparent that P didn't like me spending time on my own with H. To make matters more awkward, H had unresolved issues with P, and after a couple of drinks would become rather indiscreet, telling me about all the slights her friend inflicted on her, from criminal selfishness down to demanding the Tesco clubcard points when they went shopping.

Eventually I reached a point where I didn't want to be in the middle any more, and I said so. Of course – you can tell what's coming, right? – H and P were shocked by my suggestion. The loyal, trusty  H had never said a word against her best friend P, while the eminently sensible P would never be bothered by petty emotions like jealousy. Pah. Clearly, I'd made the whole thing up.

It's a stupid situation and I'm just sorry I got mixed up with it, in the first place. But how do I explain this to Flea, when I’ve spent the last couple of years drilling into her the importance of playing nicely, apologising when you’ve fallen out with someone, and never using unkind words?

This weekend, she wanted to go to H’s house to collect a brand new soft toy she’d left there. When I said we couldn’t, she was awake until 1am fretting. Tonight, she asked why she couldn’t go over and play with H’s daughters after school. I was a bit flummoxed, really.

“Well, H and P have been a bit naughty, and I don’t really want to talk to them right now.” (Seriously, is that the worst parenting answer I’ve ever given? There should be a sticker, or something)

What did they do that was naughty?”she asked.

Hmm. “They were unkind to Mummy and to each other.

What did they do that was unkind?” (said in hushed tones, and with those wide eyes that make me feel I just trampled another little part of her innocence underfoot)

"Well…" Must not use swear words, must not use swear words. “They didn’t tell the truth, and I think that’s unkind if it upsets someone.

"Oh." A pause. "Will we see them tomorrow?"

She went off to bed distracted by the promise of bacon for breakfast, but I really don’t know what she makes of it all. It’s complicated enough to process that sort of thing when you’re 34, let alone when you’re not quite four.


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 14th July 2009 / 9:47 am

    I remember having an almighty argument with my MIL and we didn’t speak for a month. In the end, it was my daughter who broke the deadlock because I didn’t want to deprive her of that relationship. In that way, I think children can be a great way of bridging divides caused by adult arguments.

  2. Just a Mum
    14th July 2009 / 10:45 am

    It’s unfortunate but in my experience, lots of women are like this, and very easily threatened if their social “position” is questioned.
    Sounds like your better out of it and I think you explained it perfectly to Flea, without being rude about adults, but you’re still teaching her that lying is mean and will lose you friends. Good work!

  3. 14th July 2009 / 10:54 am

    Well then they weren’t really friends, were they? Though that’s not much help when you are new to an area and need someone to have coffee with.

  4. Sally
    14th July 2009 / 12:43 pm

    Thanks chaps.
    @ModernMother – you’re quite right, they weren’t friends, and as it turned out, not particularly nice people, either. Hey ho, you live and learn.

  5. Just a Mum
    14th July 2009 / 3:47 pm

    Aw, hun, it sounds as though it must have been really upsetting for you as well as Flea.
    I think some women just make TOXIC friends, they really do. How horrible.

  6. 14th July 2009 / 6:25 pm

    Oh dear, sounds just like the girls in my son’s primary school class. Do we never learn?

  7. Sally
    14th July 2009 / 7:49 pm

    @Mumof4 – isn’t it, though?
    (oh, and I’ll add you to the next index, and can I just say personally, I LOVE your blog)

  8. 14th July 2009 / 7:51 pm

    Aah that’s a teensy bit sad for Flea, but she’ll recover. Something similar happened to me – it’s always threes isn’t it?! Friend turned odd and it was a bit uncomfortable to be around her, but my eldest and her son were really good friends. We drifted apart and I haven’t seen her for a couple of years now…although my daughter often asks why she doesn’t see the son anymore. Sad, but like you say, you live and learn! I think you explained it beautifully btw! x

  9. cjwarnock
    15th July 2009 / 10:39 am

    The ladywife and a mates wife recently had a big fall out. Proper shouting down the phone and all sorts (it does happen up north too). We then had exactly the same problem – our four year old wanted to go see their three year old for play dates as they had done…cue the tortuous explanation that little one was paying the price for grown up stupidity – but we did manage to sweeten the pill with promises of swimmming. We are quite lucky in that little monkey has quite a big social circle already. But all told, is it not better that little one learns the lesson that “people do not always get along, even if they should” – and the consequent tolerance?

  10. Sally
    15th July 2009 / 3:35 pm

    @Crawford – you make a good point, actually. I guess what she’ll learn from this is that you can’t always get along with everyone, and that it’s okay to walk away when someone behaves badly or treats you poorly – which is no bad thing to learn.

  11. 16th July 2009 / 10:28 pm

    Sounds like you’re better of without those sort of friends. Plus Flea will adapt and make new friends. I think you handled the situation brilliantly x

  12. Sally
    16th July 2009 / 10:49 pm

    @Clareybabble – thanks for that!
    Flea has been asking today about H’s kids, so it’s been a bit difficult. But while it’s upsetting to have been let down by someone I thought was a friend, we do have lots of truly lovely, honest and loyal friends, and this kind of experience just makes me cherish them more.

  13. 18th July 2009 / 10:02 am

    Oh lord, seriously sounds like you’re better off out of it… situations like that are only going to get more byzantine and getting out of it in advance is the best way. Flea will learn from this, definitely.

  14. Sally
    18th July 2009 / 10:45 am

    Ha! Yes, you’re quite right as it turns out.
    Since we fell out it seems they’ve decided they need to somehow “get me back” for, er, not wanting to be friends with them.
    At the moment, I’m just taking the view that your life has to be incredibly devoid of meaning and integrity if you imagine being unspeakably vicious and dishonest about someone makes you a ‘winner’.

  15. 2nd April 2016 / 9:55 am

    Sorry to hear this but like you I hate being in the middle of other people’s issues. I’ve done the same as you in the past and lost both friends but I can out thinking if they were concerned that I was upset about being in the middle of their disputes they weren’t exactly good friends to me. Fortunately, my kids didn’t get involved in the fall out so can’t give much advice on that. Flea is old enough I think to understand sometimes for your happiness you sometimes have to step back from a relationship. It’s not always about you being unkind and nasty. It’s called self preservation and putting your happiness first. At times we have to put our happiness first when others don’t. You have tried to talk to your two friends and they clearly can’t see you don’t like being put in this position.