To help me out with holiday cover, one of the mum’s at the school has been having Master A over to play this week.

I’ve been dropping him off on my way to work, collecting him on the way back. It’s a great arrangement but there’s one downside – the boy is mean and is more of a frenemy than a friend to my son.

Of course, I didn’t realise this when I first organised the playdate sessions.

When I picked up Master A on the first day he was a little subdued. We chatted in the car about how the playdate went and all he could do was shrug his shoulders. Later in the evening, over supper, he started asking whether he was really any good at anything.

At the end of term, he came away with prizes for his role in the school play, for a story he had written and one for academic attainment. I would say he’d had a successful year.

I probed him further; asked why he was asking such an odd question. Eventually, Master A opened up. It turns out, according to this boy, the only reason my son won the acting prize was down to his costume because everyone else was far better than him; the writing award was because the teacher helped him; and the academic accolade was “luck of the draw”.

I hid my anger while soothing his doubts.

I was reluctant to drop him off the next morning but then thought it was probably a misunderstanding by Master A – plus, critically, I needed the support of the playdate because I didn’t have a back-up plan for cover.

However, when I picked him up again, I was greeted with the same downbeat reaction from him.

Again it took some time to get to the root of the problem but when he did open up he was virtually in tears. According to Master A, the boy had been taking pops at him all day. Criticising the way he played football, putting down his game playing skills and laughing at the slowness of his eating.

My son is a confident child. But over the last couple of days I’ve seen a difference in his attitude, a questioning of his ability, a dimming of his light.

I’ve taken the rest of the week off for personal reasons.

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