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.