My daughter is battling with a toxic friendship. Unceremoniously "dumped" by a friend completely out of the blue, a pattern of events is starting to take shape which suggests this friendship is more trouble than it's worth, but ultimately the decision is my daughter's. It is her life, but daily I fight the urge to get involved and call time on the whole thing.
It all started as I mentioned in an earlier post on Teenage Friendship Conundrums, the day of her Grade 1 music exam. She emerged from school sobbing uncontrollably. Apparently she had messed up one of the pieces. We hugged and I tried as best I could to console her. Nothing I said, however, made any difference. It was not until much later that the story about the friend emerged and she explained that whilst she had held it together for most of the exam, her emotions overwhelmed her and she had lost concentration.
My immediate reaction on learning the truth was "little bitch how dare she!". My maternal heckles were raised and I was mad. My daughter had practiced day and night for weeks for that exam and was, as all her friends knew, absolutely dreading it. A real friend just would not do that right before her exam. To my daughter, however, I offered a sympathetic ear and cuddles aplenty but gently encouraged her to enjoy her other friendships. Be polite to the "frenemy" yes, but no more. She deserved to be treated better than that. Life, however, just isn't as simple as that though is it?
It was clear as the days passed my daughter was in emotional distress, struggling with the the whys and wherefores of the situation. There had been no explanation and she was torturing herself trying to work out where it had gone wrong. One minute they had been chatting and making plans for meeting up over the weekend, the next it was all over. She had shared things with this friend that she had not shared with anyone before apparently. This friend had really got under my daughter's skin.
Friendships are what make the world go round, without them our lives would be very empty and desolate and throughout life we are constantly learning who our real friends are. As an adult, however, it is easy to forget the value placed by adolescents upon their friendships. As they move to secondary school and progress through the tween years into the teenage world, their friendships mark a significant chapter in their development, they are symbols of their autonomy and independence. These aren't friends that we as parents have foisted upon them through our own friendship network, but ones they have formed themselves. It is about much more than sharing the same interests. They have invested time and effort in seeking out friends who they have an emotional connection with as they mature both socially as well as physically.
After intially ignoring my daughter completely, both in the presence of other mutual friends and even teachers, the "frenemy" suddenly apologised. Her explanation was that she had struggled with my daughter's extrovert nature as her preference was to be more introverted. My daughter enjoys her own company and will happily pass up an invitation to come home and just chill by herself, but ultimately, however, she could not see why anyone would not want to enjoy multiple friendships and was that really a reason to end their friendship? Also,why hadn't she discussed it with her and told her how she felt rather than behaving the way she had.
The apology was accepted, but my daughter pointed out to the "frenemy" that she had really hurt her feelings and that her trust and confidence had been broken. It would take time for her to come to terms with the situation and she was not sure they could return to the way they were. When she told me, I felt so proud of her for handling it so maturely.
Gradually over the weeks the "frenemy" has become closer to her again. They are hanging out again, chatting and exchanging messages. Rightly or wrongly, I urged her to err on the side of caution, not wanting her to be hurt again, but ultimately knowing that she had missed the role the "frenemy" fulfilled in her life. They shared interests and conversations that were unique. Not that her other close friendships were any less important but this one was different.
Then last week it all changed again. The frenemy posted a social media message questioning my daughter regarding some arrangements she had made for some friends to come to our house during the time she was not speaking to my daughter. A barrage of messages continued, each more damning and incomprehensible than the last. Baffled, bemused my daughter did not respond.
Positive friendships are needed for healthy development. My daughter has asked us for advice and I am confident that we are all on the same page in terms of recognising the red flags of the controlling and unhealthy nature of this friendship. We all hang onto friends that are no good but I am hoping that my daughter will start to distance herself and put her energy into developing the friendships that don''t cause her any angst. In the meantime the "frenemy" has apologised again, blaming exam stress for her outburst. As for me I am not sure that if happens again I will be able to stand back anymore.
Have your children been affected by a "frenemy" situation? If so how was it settled? I would love to hear your experiences and thoughts.