Friday, July 16, 2010

Friends - when is it 'safe' to have an argument?

I have spent the past two days a cottage with a friend. We fell out midway through the first day. Only for a minute, possibly five. But still...there it was, for that five minutes we did not like each other.

How soon can a NBF (New Best Friend - ick) and you argue, and the friendship survive? A week, a month, a year, never? This friendship was shiny-new, about 6 months old. Like a newborn we tended it lovingly, excited over every tentative development. We could drop in on each other. She was starting to hear about my skeletons in the cupboard, and me hers. But it feels as though the newborn has suddenly sprouted fangs.

What was the row about? Children, of course. That is a surefire way to disagree with even the most amiable friend. Her son and my daughter are kind-of friends. They wouldn't choose to hang around each other - she is Queen Barbie, and he doesn't think the day has been a good one unless he has had roughly 88 sword fights. But when it is just the two of them they muddle along fine.

Only, it wasn't just the two of them. A friend had rented the cottage next door and she has a son - who also likes swords. My daughter was teased, battered, subtly and not so subtly ignored, "Girls can't be in the rebel space command". Until the point she just looked pale faced and miserable.

I tried to think of 'bonding games', games that might give her a toehold in the boys imagination, but it was no good. By this time, she had become dull and flat, wouldn't you if every time you tried to join in a conversation you were put down?

I pointed it out to my friend, how it was upsetting me that my daughter was miserable. Her son got a sharp speaking to, and I got a sharper telling off. It was brief, 'He is fine. My son is being just fine' I think she said. I tried to apologise, telling her I was just worried. But by this time, the red mist had descended on her, and I just looked an overreacting bitch.

The afternoon limped on. I wanted to go home, but couldn't as she was driving. We forgave each other, we laughed about out little contretemps and gave each other a hug. She told me she never argued with friends. I felt that made me look kind of special, in a bad sort of way.
This morning, all was well. Except a little scar on the newborn friendship. It itches, it is healing, but hasn't healed. We left each other, all smiles, and yet my hand is going to hesitate next time I think of calling her.

I feel like a schoolgirl who angered her best friend. It's so sad, as I like her, and I like her son. These are such petty, silly things that won't be remembered in a decades time. But friendships are such precious, fragile things. I wonder if this one will get beyond the forgive, so that we can forget and move on.


  1. Oh dear, I really hope the friendship survives. There is a chance that she was somewhat unimpressed with the goings on herself and that is why she got the red mist. I can understand that things might feel a bit awkward though. Jen

  2. Hi - this is so familiar to me - you are right - children are the one thing that can cause rifts in the strongest of friendships, let alone new ones. We went on holiday with another family, we have a girl and a boy, they have three boys. It was a total boy fest and by the end my daughter was so stressed she had bitten her nails to the quick and in rage threw one of the boys' treasured cuddly toy in the swimming pool. Suffice to say things got a bit chilly that day between the families. We needed a longish break from each other when we got back and the wounds did of course heal. Infact I think it just informed us that we couldn't assume that just because the grown-ups got on, that the kids would too. Increasingly I found as mine turned from toddlers to free-thinking children, the gender thing did matter and only in rare occasions would my daughter get on with their sons. It's a learning curve I guess. I am sure you are just feeling more vulnerable as you are in a new friendship and you are more on a limb being new(ish) to the area etc. Lou x

  3. Hmmm. How bothered would you be if the friendship fizzled out? I usually find that I don't argue with my really good friends, and because we are so like minded when it comes to the kids, we usually deal with situations in the same way. With women who require a bit of an effort, I often wonder why I'm doing it and how much it would matter if they weren't a friend.

  4. Thank you all so much.
    @jen - I think she is going through alot of problems at the moment, but normally seems so calm.
    @LooBoo - thank you for that story, you know exactly how I felt then. It really trashes your holiday to see your child being excluded.
    Expat Mum - I really hope I can keep her as a friend, she is normally really kind, energetic and good fun, so it was so sad that this happened.
    I think I will back off for a while though. Perhaps we became close too quickly?

  5. Hello! I just found you via Deer Baby, and your comment made me want to come and visit.

    I find making new friendships once you're past the bonding-over-newborns phase can be really tricky. I once found myself in a similar situation, and backed off. The friendship died soon after that. I think as you say, it's easy to become too close too quickly - friendships like that can be a bit like a love affair. And there's nothing like seeing your child slighted to bring out the lion mama - recently mine had a falling out with the child of a dear friend. I found myself hating her for a brief moment.