I think it comes to something when you know that complete strangers on the internet are much more supportive and understanding than people you interact with every day. I watched Glee this week (my not-at-all-guilty-about-it pleasure) and the title of the episode was ‘Frenemies.’
Urban dictionary describes a frenemie as follows:
The term frenemie is a widely used word which simply means an enemy of yours disgusing themselves as your friend. Frenemies can be evil, clever and dastardely people, lulling you into a false sense of security and taking advantange of you.
( http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=frenemie )
This week I have definitely encountered one, and I think- hopefully- lost her for good.
My two older children attend a nice, well-to-do public school in a good, middle class neighbourhood. It always performs well in Ofsted, (the government’s grading of schools) and people fight very hard to secure a place for their little cherubs. Chester will start there in September. Because we have been going there daily since 2009- when Chester was not even around- I obviously know a lot of the parents quite well.
Playground mummy friendship works on a variety of levels, and is a social occasion full of such intricacies and etiquette that few manage to survive their child’s school years unscathed. The full time working mothers are largely ignored at such functions as the summer or Christmas fair; deemed to be unworthy of the attentions from the yummy mummy brigade who dedicate their entire existence to ensuring Lola or Lucas have a varied and healthy packed lunch on a daily basis and attend every after-school activity going.
The part time working mums are a brigade of their own. Usually rushing in at the start of the day dressed in their next suits with their work lanyards proudly displayed, kissing their hastily dressed children goodbye before tearing out of the playground again, waving sympathetically to other harassed mums then driving like a lunatic in the hopes of skidding into the office by nine.
The SAHM’s are different. Separated into smugs, indifferents, desperates and a ramshackle assortment of the vaguely normal (by me, you understand) they stand out a mile. The smugs stand, arms folded, next to their pristine children who have all done their homework neatly and on time, dressed in their yoga or jogging gear and making arrangements to meet in Waitrose or Starbucks for coffee later. They also make sure everyone knows how busy they are, even though their idea of busy is a full time working mums idea of doing bugger all on an island of paradise.
The indifferents shrug their shoulders and usher their little ones quietly along, refusing to get drawn into the
raging argument and bragging discussion about which reading band Amelia or Oliver is on and avoiding eye contact with anyone. I admire their balls.
Desperates usually have multiple children, dogs, cats and whatever else comes to mind. They’ve been doing the primary school run for sixteen years and are eagerly awaiting the day when child number six finally starts school. If their kids make it to school dressed correctly, on time and with everything they need for the day, they consider it a personal triumph.
The ramshackle assortment is where I would place myself. We work, most of us, but not enough to really even be considered part time. We meet for coffee, but usually a quick half hour at Sainsburys or Costa before rushing off to swimming lessons for the toddlers we still have tagging along. Our school kids turn out nicely, and do well in class, but you can guarantee that we will forget to hand our school trip permission slips in until the second reminder is sent home. We try not to be drawn into the
bloody warfare discussion of reading levels, but actually, we really do want to know where Ruby or James are at, so we can go home and coach our own children as best as possible. The ramshackles are, for the most part, my friends. The ones I can count on to pick Orson up when Presley is in hospital, the ones who love and adore Chester for who he is, and the ones who will read this post and laugh loudly about being called ramshackle.
But this week, we have had dissension in the ranks.
I expect Chester’s appearance and lifestyle choices to be met with disapproval from smugs, really- even though they declare themselves to be accepting we all know they’re really not unless your husband earns over 50K. I expect…no, in fact…I know that most of the working mothers assume I have two girls and one boy. This has been evidenced when I’ve encountered two or three outside of the school gates and they look shocked when I say his name. The desperates are far too busy with their own lives and the indifferents are, well, indifferent.
The ramshackles have always had my back. When comments have been made or looks given, my friends have politely but firmly told others where to go, or made me see the funny side. Until Monday. Nothing was out of the ordinary on Monday, really. School returned after a weeks break, and Chester asked for his hair in pigtails. Admittedly, this is relatively new. He’s become quite obsessed recently with wanting long hair like a princess, and has asked several times at pre-school to have his hair put in plaits when they’re playing hairdressers. But his hair is wild. I think, if I grow it, it will only become more nest like than it is already, but time will tell. Anyway, during the school holidays I’ve managed to put it in a ponytail or pigtails for him, though the Pipi Longstocking plaits he dreams of are a distant reality.
So on Monday Morning, we arrive at school and the first ‘friend’ I encounter says “Wow. Nice hair Chester.” But she says it in that manner that you know is anything but friendly. I laughed it off, and said “Well, he’s happy. I know it’s not the neatest, but I did my best.” And that was that.
Mid-morning, I receive a text from a friend who had not been on the school run saying “*** just text me saying ‘you should see Chester’s hair.’ Has he cut it again?” I replied in the negative, and said that he had it in pigtails, to which she replied “Cute!”
I then got a phone call after lunch from the same mum to tell me that *** had been texting our entire social circle, telling them I had gone one step too far now, and someone needs to stop me before I damage Chester permanently.
It’s hard enough for me to form friendships with people with whom the only thing we have in common is children in the same year group, but when I do, and when said friendship blossoms over a number of years into what I mistakenly thought was a genuine closeness, it hurts like a bitch to know they stab you in the back when you dare step outside their box.
I haven’t spoken to her all week. I’ve avoided her because apart from that, it’s been a really happy week for me and I don’t want to dwell on negativity. Of course, somehow it’s like Chester knew this, and chose this afternoon to cycle across the road- ignoring my yells for him to stop- directly into the path of an oncoming car who luckily had crawled to a stop having already seen him coming….Right outside frenemies house. While she was standing on the driveway.
It’s very hard to act nonchlant and not to curse loudly in front of your children when she says “I swear to god, that child is out of control.” But I like to think I have a bit of a way with words, and the steaming facebook message I sent earlier should ensure that this frenimie at least, is out of my life for good.
Have a happy, friendly weekend everyone!
Until next time.