Monday, 8 June 2009

Friends forever?

Becoming a parent for the first time is one of the most daunting experiences a Mother or Father faces. There are so many questions which need answering - apart from the most obvious - how could anyone in their right mind have trusted someone so unqualified in newborn baby-minding to take home this tiny/living/breathing/pooing/crying bundle? I mean, surely there should have been an exam to pass? Did I miss it?

But in all seriousness, we can never, alone, find all the answers to all the questions. How much milk does my baby need to drink? And if I'm breastfeeding how can I even tell? Are they sleeping too much? Too little? What temperature should their room be? How do I stop their incessant crying? Am I going mad? And honestly, is it normal for them to excrete marmite from their bottom just after they're born? (Sorry - you know me - I couldn't not mention poo somewhere)!

Books, of course, go a long way in providing some of the answers, but there's nothing quite as in-depth or honest as hearing it from other Mothers and Fathers - people who are experiencing the same fears and anxieties as you. Some parents-to-be join NCT groups. Other new parents partake in Mother and Baby bonding sessions at local community centres. Some meet through friends. Some meet in parks, at play centres. But however they meet, these friendships forged through having children of similar ages are invaluable and often life-long.

When I gave birth to Renée almost 5 years ago I met a number of other Mums with newborn babies, some of who are still my friends now. Some, inevitably, became friends purely because we had babies of the same age and I was eager to make friends on behalf of my children, as well as for myself. But others became friends because I genuinely liked them, with or without children. Children had obviously brought us together, but I had found kindred spirits who would have been friends if we'd happened to meet any other way.

But this is all pretty obvious. Surely there is more to this post than me repeating all sorts of things that you already know?

Of course there is (did you really doubt me)?

So last week, just before Renée went to bed she asked me what we were doing the next day - (she has this habit of asking for an itinerary for the following day before she goes to sleep and can only sleep if the itinerary is to her satisfaction).

"Well", I replied. "You've got school. And then after school Mr B is coming to play."

I expected, of course, a big whoop and a smile and an easy drift off to sleep dreaming about the escapades her and Mr B would get up to the next day, because Mr B had been her friend since she was born and his Mother was one of my 'kindred spirits'. But I was a little shocked, if not even more disappointed at her reply.

"I don't want Mr B to come and play."
"Oh no. Why not, darling?"
"He plays too rough. And he wants to play boys' games. And he doesn't want to dress up."
"But I thought Mr B was a good friend. I thought you liked playing with him."
"Well I don't. And I don't want him to come. Can you cancel it Mummy?"

Oh dilemma. What to do? I hadn't seen Mr B's Mother for a while and was keen to catch-up... but I didn't want Renée to be upset. And if I cancelled, did it mean that Mr B would never be invited round again? Was this to be the end of their life-long friendship? Would this be the end of my 5-year friendship with his Mother?

Eventually, I persuaded Renée to let Mr B come round one last time as I convinced her it was too late to cancel, but that I would be extra-vigilant of Mr B's rough behaviour and if after that she still decided that she didn't want to play with him then I would see the Mother on her own. She seemed happy enough with this.

As it turned out, Mr B wasn't rough in the slightest, Renée managed to persuade him to put a fairy princess outfit on (how on earth she did that I have no idea), and there were even tears at the door when neither of them wanted to part. And she's already asking when he can come round again. So a good result for all concerned.

But it has got me thinking. Pretty soon, it won't be me in control of who's invited over, or who Renée chooses to be her friend. I always used to ask myself this question - was it worse if the children got on, but you didn't like the parents, or if the children didn't get on but you really liked the parents? I still don't know the answer to that one, but I think we're almost at the stage now (at least with Renée, if not Edie) where that question might be irrelevant. Renée will choose her friends and I will choose mine and we might meet in the middle somewhere, we might not. But until then, if she could be friends with the boys and girls whose parents I like, I would be extremely grateful.


  1. I'm still friends with 5 ladies who I met at antenatal classes. We are all still in touch and see each other regularly. My daughter goes to school with one of the other children and only now (she is nearly 5) does she object sometimes to playing with the other child.

    My son (the 3 year old) and her son will also go to school together and quite often my son will also object to seeing the other boy as he is sometimes mean.

    Her mother and I are really good friends and are able to talk about the kids ever changing relationships sensibly!

  2. this really made me giggle :)

    my little boy is seven weeks today - eek! - and it's only in the last week we've started venturing out to meet other mums (he looked totally bemused at the mother & baby group when he was suddenly in the company of another 12 babies - not really having seen one since hospital!!)

    i have a few friends with older children, but really hope i'll make atleast a few new 'mummy friends', and chums for Dylan of course :)

  3. I thought the same thing when I brought my son home...clearly they had forgotten to give me the test and my owner's manual.

    Last summer by son became friends with this little boy who turned out to be a devil-child..he was so bad, but the parents were so nice. It was horrible. I called the mom and told her I was sick so her son couldn't come over and play and then never called back again. I felt bad, but this kid was just too much of a bad influence.

  4. Hello!
    I did meet some very good friends in our antenatal classes and so far Elliott gets on with them. Although he is still at that age where they pretty much ignore each other and play along each other rather than together. So we will see when this changes. They are mainly girls so I won't be surprised when he starts saying "I am not playing with H she is a giiiiirrrrlll..." with disdain and disgust...

  5. My girls are 7 and 10 now. I am very blessed in that I have manged to forge a wonderful friendship with my 10 year old's best friend. There is something quite lovely about having lunch with your daughter, her best friend and Mom and truly enjoying yourself. My 7 year old. Love one of her best friends. Her Mother and I are polar opposites. It's harder to encourage relationships like this...but you find a way! Enjoy the adventure.

  6. I didn't meet anyone at those darned groups - should have done NCT, though, as I'm told that's where the closest friendships are formed. All my other mummy friends have children either older or younger than Rosemary, but fortunately Rosemary incredibly sociable and will happily play with anyone, even if they're being horrid!

    I do have an old school friend who's expecting about the same time as me this time, and so have some hopes for that.

  7. I, like you, have a five year old who is just starting to form her own friendships, but so far, I've discovered that the children she chooses to be friends with have parents I like. Could it be that people who produce similar children have similar personalities?

  8. I've made one really good friend from mum & baby groups, and a few say-hello-at-the-park sort of friends. I really hope my baby gets on with my close friend's baby - they are practically the same age. What if they don't! Nightmare.

  9. Laura - Yeah - I think if you can talk about the kiddies' relationships with the Mother then that makes it much easier. Sounds like you've sorted it out!

    miss leslieanne - hello and thanks for popping in. Yes - I remember when my two first mixed with other babies and I started calling them their 'friends' - friends who they hadn't chosen, couldn't speak to and completely ignored! Great friends hey?! But yes, it's important for both the children and the parents. I'm sure you'll meet lots of good friends. Good luck!

    OP - I know - it's scary isn't it? Returning home with your little baby - having no idea what to do!! Seems so long ago now! And yes, it's hard when your children choose 'inappropriate' friends - but they have their adult lives to make mistakes like that - as long as they're still children it's best if you make those decisions for them I think!

    PHM - Hi Peggy! Yes, I think it's easier for boys and girls to get on when they're younger - this is actually the first occasion when Renée has said she doesn't want to play with a boy simply because he's a boy. It surprised me because she's quite a tomboy herself. But it has started happening at school - I think most of the boys play together and the girls do the same.

  10. ModernMom - That's great for you that you've found such a good relationship with your daughter's friend - it's ideal when everyone is happy. As for the other one - no two children are the same (and I can vouch for that). I'm sure my two will have very different friends.

    Tasha - Oh no! How annoying for you. You probably just found the wrong type of groups. What a shame for you...but yes - good that your friend is expecting at the same time as you - it really does make so much difference. Bless Rosemary for playing with people even if they're being mean - she'll get far in life!

    WM - I think you're right - similar people do breed similar children so I've been lucky up til now. I think it's just the boy/girl thing that has prompted this...brought on at school I think. For a while she'll just want to play with girls and I'll have to see the Mothers separately!

    CM - I know - it would be awful if they didn't! I think you can encourage things to begin with and if the parents like the same things then the babies probably will too. But eventually none of us have any control so we just have to hope that we've brought them up well enough to make good enough decisions!

  11. Apparently the problem comes when the boys don't want to play with the girls and vice versa. Help - that is going to decimate my social calender.

  12. What I've found is that the parent of Miss E's main friends are friends I can have a night out with, but some of Miss M's friends are true friends, you know, in that Anne of Green Gables kindred Spirits way. Both groups are separate and it's ok.
    Even though Miss M doesn't see all the kids in the original friendship group from when they were toddlers, we Mum's still get together and have kept our friendships.
    Luckily my girls aren't friends with anyone whose parents I dislike. I suppose I might have unconsciously nudged them in certain directions but I don't think so... Hmmm, you've got me thinking now.

  13. Starting potty training again today and just written a post linking into you... you did make me laugh on the poo front!

  14. Very true, i have made some life long friends through my kids baby groups and i have been lucky, that so far, mimi has not objected to their children. Although now she is at school she has made friends with one little girl in particular who is a little bossy and has way too much (bad) influence over her - i have tried to gently suggest she plays with other more "gentle" girls but she refuses - so i suppose my influence over her choice of friends is now nul and void, i just have to hope she has a mind of her own! My daughter also needs a full itinery before bedtime and any suggestion of something she is not too keen on will prolong bed time stories for ages x

  15. BiB - That's exactly where the problem lies. But it's only just starting to show. Normally she loves playing with boys (must get it from her Mother)!! - Hee hee. But just starting to think boys are yuck! Hmmm...

    And thanks for the link - so sweet - popping over to give you my two pennies worth now. Have poo stories coming out of my ears...(almost literally)!

    Jo - Yeah I think you normally make the best friends with your first child (got all confused now - is Miss M your first or second). Might have to pop over to yours to check! But yes, it's normally with the first because you go through so much together and by the time the second one comes along you feel you don't need to make so many friends - or at least you don't need so many answers to questions. And yes - normally I think you do nudge your children in the 'right' direction!

  16. wob - just crossed you in the ether I think! Yeah the bed time itinerary is such a pain - I have to lie sometimes because I know she'll make such a fuss if we're doing something she's not sure about. And lengthy goodnights are not my favourite things! And as for the friend thing - yeah I think once they're at school it's much harder to make decisions for them and you just have to hope that they make good ones (decisions and friends)!

  17. Bless your girl! I relied so much on my friends to tell me that I wasn't going crazy in the beginning and that it was perfectly normal to want to run away screaming when baby SC did something that wasn't covered by the books! She loves her friend Mr R (from preschool) more than her own Mr B. When I asked her why the answer was Because I Just Love Him Mummy! That was me told then!

  18. I'm aware that with the latest house move my children will largely be making friends independently: hopefully I'll meet their mothers, but maybe not (particularly my 8 yo). It is quite scary to lose that level of control over your children and the loss of personal social life. But I love both my kids and trust them to choose people/families we'll all like!

  19. Don't worry about it too much, it will all work out. You'll stay friends with the mums you get on with and the children will not necessarily be friends but more like cousins, they'll have grown up together but may not be as close as friends they choose themselves - it'll be the same - but different!!

  20. That Girl - Yep - when you have babies friends are such a lifeline. Funny thing is, Renée normally loves this particular Mr B (not your although I'm sure she'd love him too) - and she's even referred to him as her 'boyfriend' in the past - which is why I was so suprised. Hey ho...they all grow up some day.

    Catharine - Yeah - definitely at 8 it's largely up to them to make friends - and like you said - you trust them enough to make good decisions. Hey it's almost exciting!!

    Reasons - Hello there! Yep, you're right - I won't worry about it...far more important things in this world to worry about I know!

  21. it is the same in the home ed world. i have no answer to it, but as the kids grow older their greater independence and control over their own choices helps!

  22. You're so right, after a certain age we do not choose who their friends are. We can still share when they confide in us their friendships and the things they get up to, so we don't feel so left out as we stand on the side lines watching them grow up.

  23. What a lovely post. How funny to read that Mr B dressed up in the fairy costume in the end. Got me thinking. I'm lucky because my closest friend has a daughter who is my daughter's best friend, so that works well. But she has one friend I don't invite over because I'm not really friends with her mother. So I suppose at the moment I'm controlling who she sees. But that is bound to change very soon.

  24. Grit - Yep - my two are still pretty young so I guess it hadn't occurred to me up until now...I'll be interested to see what friends they choose when I really do have no control! In the meantime I'll just try to push them in the right direction for a bit longer!

    kestrel - Ooh there are so many things about parenting that they never tell you about! I can only imagine how hard it's going to be to witness them choosing friends and not being about to do anything about it!

    rosie - I know - we took photos and everything. I'm not sure his Daddy would approve! Renée can be quite persuasive when she wants to be although I think he actually enjoyed it! Yes it's funny when you do start thinking about it you realise how much control you've had so far...

  25. mine are 10 and 12 and actually it's easier not to be close friends with the parents as, try as hard as you will, some edge of competition slides in and trashes things! I'm back to what I think of as my old friends more now, my "real" friends, not the motley crew forced on me by dint of being my children's friends' parents. Some I like, yes, but I *try* to keep them slightly at arms' length as it can all unravel a bit. it has with 2 mothers whose children have fallen out and one is taking it terribly personally, and the other is being quite brutally realistic. Painful to witness!

  26. About babies not coming with an instruction manuals.

    The story is told of a woman who, with her first child, took it to the doctor every time it chirped. By time the third one arrived, and it swallowed a small coin, she said, "That will come out of your allowance."

    I guess, in some ways, we grow up with our kids.

  27. Milla - Yes I think it's hard for the parents when the children fall out - you must want to take your children's side, but at the risk of losing a friend. I think you've made a wise decision to take a step back. Leave the children to it...

    Rob-bear - Hee hee - brutal - but yes, things definitely change between having your first child and any subsequent ones...Having children makes us grow up...albeit slowly!

  28. A while ago, I became quite close with a female work friend of my husband's, and we were delighted to have found out we were both expecting just 3 months apart. However, it's turned totally sour, as we're just so different as parents. I carry my baby in a sling, and she left hers pretty much alone for the first 6 months (we both had PND). Now with my Boy at 18 m and hers 12m, her child hits and bites and generally bullies all other children (and adults) and destroys and home he visits. And his Mummy disciplines physically. I've found I can't spend time with this sad twosome, it's too hard and so depressing. So I feel as though I've lost my buddy! How children change things. On the upside, I've found a wonderful kindred spirit, who I'd love to be friends with regardless of children, but our babies just happen to be months apart.

  29. allgrownup - Wow - yes when you don't agree with someone's parenting ways it can really push you apart. I hadn't thought of that with regard to this post - but I so agree with you. I have definitely drifted apart from some friends when I haven't agreed with their parenting skills...yes very good point! Shame for you to lose a friend...but not easy to be around that...