My son has his first best friend. It’s not that he’s spent the last three years in solitary confinement, you understand, just that up until now I have always chosen his friends for him. (My husband points out this trait of mine is not solely directed at the children).
When your babies are tiny they play with the off-spring of your own friends, they don’t catch a bus into town and strike up conversations of their own. At toddler groups and music classes you instinctively gravitate towards mothers with whom you feel you have a common bond – those who drink gin on the stroke of six, for example, or wear killer heels to soft play. Regardless of how your children interact, if you become firm friends then by Jove your children will too.
“Isn’t it sweet how they play together?” you exclaim, as little Johnny rips chunks of hair out of Rupert.
“So very sweet. I wonder if they’ll be friends forever… More cake?”
“Mmm, why not? Shall we open the wine?”
As soon as external influences such as nurseries or schools come into play you cease to have influence over your children’s social lives. If Charlie wants to be friends with Joseph, he’ll be friends with Joseph. Or with Tom, Dick, Harry and indeed Wayne.
My son has spoken of little other than his new best friend since term started, so I was determined to encourage this fledgling friendship. I set off the other day to collect him from pre-school, and with thoughts of inviting J’s new pal to his forthcoming birthday party. I stood for a while at the gate, watching the children play, and identified some possible contenders. Perhaps the small shy looking child with the mini-Boden trousers and the attractive father? Or the pretty curly-haired girl whose mother runs an advertising agency?
As I came through the gate J bounced up to me and introduced me to his “bestest friend”, a snub-nosed stocky child twice his size. Widthways. I knelt down and flashed this sullen boy a winning smile, only to be rewarded with stony silence and something that sounded extraordinarily like “bollocks”. I’m quite sure it couldn’t have been – this is the Cotswolds, after all.
I stood up to greet his mother, thinking perhaps we should arrange a play-date for half term. She was a carbon copy of her son, with a face that could curdle milk.
“Hello!” I said, brightly. “I gather our children have become good friends.”
She gave a sort of grunt and looked me up and down, slowly and without embarrassment. I had a sneaking suspicion she was not about to suggest a mummy date.
“Shoes like that’ll give you bunions.”
Well, it was an improvement on “bollocks”, I suppose.
Whilst J and his little bullet-shaped friend will undoubtedly continue their relationship for at least another fortnight, I fear his mother and I are unlikely to be found chatting over a latte at the shopping mall.
I put the birthday invitation in bullet-boy’s shoe bag though. Just in case.