Kid Politics

First, an update on Girl Guides: things are settling down a bit, but it continues to be a huge time suck. I go back and forth between feeling like I am getting the hang of things, and feeling like I am thisclose to throwing in the towel because the whole thing is impossible. It’s funny how I used to shake my head at teachers, and wonder how they could possibly do what they do – hardest job on Earth, I’d say – and now I am kind of among their ranks, planning lessons and activities and trying to organize a gaggle of girls, which is much harder than you’d think. At least Sir Monkeypants has stepped in to be my full support staff – making phone calls, dropping stuff off, picking stuff up, craft prep, not to mention taking on a huge share of the housework. And my co-leader Jen is the Bomb Diggity. So there’s that, but I’m not sure I would return for a second year.

Second, we are having an awkward situation with one of the children – I will try to keep this anonymous, but it’s one of the girls. She has another girl in her class this year that she just can’t seem to “click” with. My daughter wants very, very much to be this girl’s friend, and this girl is not receptive. And that is okay! A girl should be allowed to choose her own friends! We are long past the age where everyone is expected to play nicely with everyone else.

Some mothers go a little Mama Bear when they feel that their child’s feelings have been hurt, but I tend to do the exact opposite – assume it’s all my kid’s fault and apologize profusely. It comes from years of assuming everything is my own personal fault, I suppose, and the struggle to try to fix every thing that goes wrong ever. When my kid comes home with a conflict, it’s less of, “Tell that other kid to suck it!” and more of, “Take a hard look at yourself and figure out what you did wrong, and what you could do differently in the future.”

But my daughter here isn’t really doing anything wrong. It’s just a mismatch. For example, she got this girl’s number so she could call and invite her over on the weekend. But when she calls, the other girl is always busy – just running out the door! just sitting down for a mid-afternoon snack! Her parents aren’t home, and she isn’t supposed to be talking on the phone! And then she says she’ll call back later, but of course, she never does.

If my daughter tries to pin her down to a time to get together – “How about next Saturday afternoon?” – it’s always, “My parents won’t let me, they don’t know your parents.” I even, at my daughter’s insistence, wrote a long letter to this girl’s parents, introducing myself and giving them every possible way to contact me and inviting them to stop by and say hello, and suggesting we work via email to get the girls together. Crickets.

And that’s okay! Because a girl should be allowed to choose her own friends!

But this is what comes of generations of girls who are afraid to hurt feelings. Who couch the truth and make excuses and hope others will just get the hint. I know, I have been one of those girls, I still am one of those girls. I’m someone who doesn’t know how to say no in a polite but firm manner.

So I get it.

But now I’m left with the mess on our side. I have already had gentle conversations with my daughter along the lines of What A Good Friend Acts Like, and How Much Effort A New Friend Is Worth, and How Sometimes A No Doesn’t Quite Look Like A No. But she is determined – more than that, she believes she and this girl are best buddies! and are just having some scheduling issues. It’s time for a talk on the subject of She’s Just Not That Into You, I suppose.

Sigh. Kid politics are rough sometimes.

8 thoughts on “Kid Politics

  1. KL

    Sigh. This hits home. I agree a person should always be able to chose their friends. When you see them excluded from circles they really want to be in…it’s heartbreaking. My 10 year old daughter is just trying to find her person. She has friends, is social but wants that ONE friend. We’ve had lots of conversations about loyalty in friendship and what it means to be a good friend. The sadness of being left with the mess…I so get it. 😦

  2. I know it’s hard, but I love that you accept the idea that kids should be able to choose their own friends. It seems to be an unpopular stance these days. A certain child once walked up to my child in the schoolyard and punched him. When I contacted the mother and, in what I thought was a very measured and calm reaction, told her I felt our sons should simply avoid one another in the future, I was accused of bullying her child by isolating him. I’m not sure where this idea came from that everyone has to be friends with everybody, all the time.

    Having said that, I agree that certain kids – and, probably mostly girls – could benefit from learning to be more direct. A friend’s son was once told by another boy, “It’s not your fault, you just really bug me.” At first we were a bit shocked by the directness, but – hey – they both knew where they stood.

    I think you nailed it with the “Kid Politics” headline – these are complex issues, for sure!

  3. I agree it’s time for “she’s just not that into you”. But, at least if she learns that hard lesson now, think how prepared she’ll be for dating? The heartbreaks that will hopefully be avoided if she learns to decode the signs.

    Sorry to hear this has been so rough!

  4. Mark

    Yeah, for sure this is a really tough one for both kids and parents. A few months ago we went through something similar – our older son is very social and has lots of friends. Most of them play in little league together and they all get along with each other. He has another friend that he also gets along really well with, but that kid is not part of the clique; he really wants to be, but the rest of the bunch don’t like him (not entirely without reason). So his buddy is facing sort of the same situation that your daughter is, but our son is caught in the middle – whenever they are all together, the “jocks” want to exclude the other kid, and our son feels a lot of pressure to push him away, even though he doesn’t actually dislike him.

    We’ve had some conversations about this; it’s difficult at that age, I think, to stand up for someone that other people are against, and still maintain your ties with the “haters”. There are so many subtleties in situations like this; I think he gets some of them and is navigating it reasonably well. But I feel bad for the outcast kid (whose situation is most like your daughter’s), and I don’t really know if *his* parents are doing as good a job explaining all of that to him.

    Sigh. Definitely kind of a tightrope walk, this one.

  5. Oh boy… I’m discovering kid politics with Mark as well. He seems to want to be friends with kids who DON’T want to be his friend. I mean, they’re 5, we’re not talking about deep friendship here, but feelings are hurt and I can see Mark is testing the “I like you/I don’t like you” with us at home.

    Gah. I’m not sure how to deal with that.

  6. Eeeee that’s a tough one. Because I do get it and I would have been one of those girls too, who would make excuses. I still do. That’s a really tricky situation and I’d like to know how you handle it.

  7. The girls and their social lives… 🙂 Your daughter sounds like a social butterfly. I wish her luck and hope her heart doesn’t get broken, and if it does, you will have yet another important milestone in your life as a parent.

    I find it very hard to step back and let them figure things out on their own but if they don’t learn how to fail or get hurt while still home where hugs and support are always available, then I don’t know how we’ll manage when they fly the nest… Or how they will manage…


  8. Shannon

    A couple of things. I hear you on the leadership thing. I lead groups of youth from 6 to 21 and waffle weekly between loving it and being ready to through in the towel. I have great co-leaders, but it’s a lot. It is interesting in the younger groups the parents are often the biggest issue, in the older groups the kids themselves with all their bluster and peacocking can sometimes grate.
    On the friendship front, we jokingly call one of my girls Switzerland. She does not like to offend, wants everyone to get along and wouldn’t pick sides to save her life. Unfortunately not all of her friends like each other and that worries her. She doesn’t like being in the middle. We have spent countless hours talking through the anxiety that goes along with this for her. The idea I try to get across to her (and she will tell you I tell her this constantly) is you could be the ripest, juiciest peach on the tree, but there are some people out there that just don’t care for peaches and that is okay. Also invest in people who want to invest in you. I tend to be more on the, “if it doesn’t work move on” side of things. I have wasted and invested far too much time on one sided relationships in my younger days. I also fully appreciate we bring our own baggage to parenting.

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