When your children start making their own friends, as opposed to playing with YOUR friends' children, you lose the control you once had. And it feels really inappropriate to dislike a child, like you might an annoying work colleague, or indeed another mum – but a small defenceless child who is barely out of nappies and still sweetly sucks her thumb while twiddling her pretty blonde locks...
I'm ashamed to say that I have started developing real objections to one pretty little girl (who I will call Charlotte). This is mainly because she is a thug and each of her visits is a health and safety rollercoaster.
Toys, furniture and my youngest daughter are all at risk when Charlotte comes to visit. But also there's something about her I just don't like. The girl really gets my back up, and the feeling is clearly mutual. She once told me to my face: 'I don't like you'. 'I don't much like you either,' I replied (in my head at least).
When I admitted these unsavoury feelings to myself, I felt inadequate as a human being, a mother, an adult. Was I the one with the problem?
Was I lacking tolerance or empathy, or maturity? Or was I just being protective of my offspring and my sanity? These questions went round and round in my head, until I could take it no more and opened up to my friends about it.
The first friend I spoke to told me not to beat myself up about it. 'There are some highly annoying kids out there,' she said. 'I can't stand a little boy in my son's class. He is revolting, but my son worships him, and his mother has asked if we want to go and stay with them in their villa in the south of France.' My noble friend is actually considering the holiday with a child she finds 'revolting'. That's the kind of laid backness I can only dream about.
Other parents aren't quite so understanding of my dilemma. One uber-super-duper mum looked at me in total disbelief, like I was some child-hating witch and muttered 'shame on you – pick on someone your own size'. She said it in a faux-jokey kind of way, but I could tell by the look in her eyes that she obviously meant it. We ended our conversation pretty quickly after that.
Another mother told me that the eight-year-old boy who lives in the flat above often shouts and machine guns her kids from his balcony with his toy gun while they are playing in the garden below. This mum is totally anti guns and finds the whole thing really upsetting. She says she doesn't dislike the boy himself, just his behaviour, which she believes is a result of his parents not doing enough with him.
Is a naughty, rude, mischievous child the fault of the parent? Sally is a teacher from Lewisham and definitely thinks so. 'I have a little girl in my class, who is a delight during school hours,' she tells me.
'As soon as her mum arrives to pick her up her behaviour becomes, in my opinion, completely unacceptable - she is rude and demanding. I think her mum is far too soft on her and has no set boundaries'.
I'm not sure about Sally's theory. I was a bit of a brat at home as a child but I don't think my mum was to blame. Like a lot of brattish children, it was just an age thing and I grew out of it. And Charlotte's mum is no pushover. She is firm but fair, attentive, loving and patient. Charlotte just ignores the boundaries and seems to deliberately set out to cause trouble.
Don't get me wrong, my children are not perfect, they too can be little monsters (mainly with each other). And there are probably parents out there who have misgivings towards my daughters. (Come to think of it, I haven't heard back from one little boy's mother who brought him round to play about eight weeks ago, and became very tearful and distraught when my girls made him dress up as a fairy princess...) But at least they don't physically attempt to destroy houses or people that they go to visit.
My daughter says she likes Charlotte, and still wants to play with her.
I find this unfathomable and I dread Charlotte coming to our house. We scowl at each other when nobody else is looking.
After last week's playdate where she mocked both me and my kids and then broke the strap on a pair of my shoes, I decided that I could take no more, and that this would be the last time this child would ever enter my house.
And if my five year old pulls a teenage-style strop for the rest of 2011, that's a risk I'm prepared to take.
Do you dislike any of your children's friends? If you do, do you say or keep your secret?
Do you find yourself talking up class mates you think they 'should' be friends with?