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Tue, Jun 17, 2014
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When friendships get tested
by Sharon Loh

So the girls' weekend went swimmingly until the ride home.

Up until then, it had been pretty much a perfect couple of days in the mountains.

I love weekends with mums because you: 1) never go hungry 2) are never left with ALL the washing up 3) know that the sheets and towels will be laundered before you leave.

In fact, as we sat around the fire pit on Saturday night, roasting smores under the stars, one of us said the best thing for her marriage was a bottle of wine and her girl friends.

We had spent a relaxing afternoon at the spa, followed by cocktails of vodka with lime juice and ginger-infused cane syrup, and a simple but delectable dinner of shrimp and grits.

Indeed, we were so well set up at Debbie's house that we hardly left it at all, apart from the spa date and a bit of shopping.

Instead, we wrapped ourselves in a cosy cocoon of care and affirmation, as only women know how, with no disharmony to spoil it.

Those jarring notes sounded only when we were well on the way home, when one of our friends got a text that her child was in some sort of trouble back home.

While everyone voiced support and sympathy, it is likely all our minds went to one of two reactions: Either "I wonder if my kid is mixed up in this too", or "Thank goodness my kid is not likely to be part of this".

Thus rude reality reared its head and let us know we were back to normal life.

Not only was our idyllic weekend over, but some of our friendships were about to be tested as well.

For while it is easy to stand together in solidarity regarding husbands - who doesn't grumble about spouses? - it was apparently less clear cut when it came to the children.

Like many women of our age, it was through them that most of us had met and become friends. As time passed, the children's friendships and ours took parallel tracks, sometimes deviating a little from each other as specific relationships waxed and waned but never straying too far apart.

That day, however, we passed into uncharted territory when we hied on home and found out from our kids which of those reactions had been correct.

Perhaps that's when the fault lines appeared, for though we were close friends, we had different parenting styles, with some more strict than others. I think the stricter among us may not have been prepared to hear that their children were just as culpable as the others.

And while you can agree to disagree about theories of parenting, the reality can hit too close to home.

So, over the next few days, after the initial shows of support, there was deafening silence from some quarters of our group. We had to hear through the kids' grapevine what had transpired in various homes.

Our friend whose child had gotten into trouble felt an overwhelming sense of betrayal. After all, she had been through a lot with these friends, so she did not understand why they had not reached out to say they were there for her.

She could have used some of their wisdom as well on how to deal with perplexing teenagers.

In the absence of communication, one can let one's thoughts run away with one.

Were the other friends keeping their distance because they didn't want their children mixing with the "wrong" crowd anymore? Or were they simply giving her space to deal with the mess at home?

Whatever the reasons, the silence left her questioning their friendships. And instead of standing together to support one another and our children, it felt like we were re-grouping and closing ranks.

It has been a weird week, book-ended by a perfect getaway on one side and awkwardness on the other.

In between, the school year ended and our children graduated from middle school. Maybe it's a sign of the times that we have yet to toast together the end of a phase and the somewhat momentous passage to high school.

Still, if there's anything we've learnt about friendship (and children) this week, it is that situations can turn on a dime (or a text) and that people can surprise you - for good and bad.

One more thing; whatever wrongs have been committed, forgiveness is a powerful force. I believe this story is not over yet.

This article was first published on June 15, 2014.
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