I got pulled aside at carpool today for the first time. Ms. Gretchen needed to tell me that my darling Sophia is the mean girl in class since a new girl showed up.
Sophia talks about the new girl all the time. She wants her to be the new BFF and come to her tea party. It is going to be Sophia, one old friend and the new girl. Turns out that means her other friend is out. Literally – Sophia told her that the empty seat their table was not for her – she was out. Only room for 3. Sophie actually laid herself over the chair. She lost her time in the gym and sat with the teacher. I almost lost my lunch.
WTF? I was instantly transported back to Heathers, back to Molly Ringwald, back to Mean Girls. I was immediately feeling the nausea I can still remember from my youth. I always had a lot of friends, but we moved a lot, and I was always one of the first ones out when the girls got nasty.
And yes, girls do get nasty. From a very young age they form cliques. They learn that skinny is good and long hair is good and nice clothes are good (this is one of the only pictures I have of Sophia in pants). And when they form cliques and see special groups they see power – they know how it feels to lead the masses – and how it feels to be left behind.
Sound dramatic? To a little girl, or a junior high schooler, or a teenager – IT IS LIKE THE END OF THE WORLD. Even if you have good friends and you know who you are – to be the target of the mean girls is a huge fear. From reading the news you all know to be a target of any bully is now a very dangerous game.
Our children are precious and whether they are 3 or 10 or 16 the emotional stakes are high. I firmly believe we need to guide them from an early age to include others and act with kindness to ALL. I think we should ask about their friendships and pay attention to the dynamics. Whatever side our kids are on we need to guide them with love, and discipline, when necessary. I have to believe that as a mother I can make a difference.
My biggest parenting fear beyond my children’s health is to have kids who are mean to others, who are exclusive instead of inclusive. Kids who are selfish and mean. This kind of child would break my heart.
So I talked to Sophia about feelings and about kindness. We did not do any other punishment at home. She was punished with a time out at school. She cried. She told me she knew she was being mean and she wanted to make the rules. Both Sophia and her friend have strong personalities. I knew part of this had to do with Sophia being the boss. I told her about how important friends were and how we don’t always get to pick the rules. I told her how we love all of our friends even if they are different from us. I told her we need to always make room for others at our tables.
I hugged her and asked her if she was mean to her friend. She said yes, and my heart broke a little. But then, she said she did love her friends, and that she wanted to be a nice girl.
I kissed her and said she would have to be nice or we would not have a real tea party at the house. I’m the mom so I can say that kind of thing and be mommy – not bossy – you know. She is only 3, so she said I was kidding and laughed at me and then she saw I was not kidding. She stopped laughing. she REALLY wants to have a fairy tea party at the house.
For the time being, I think she will be nice. We’ll see what happens as she “blossoms”.
Now, as a grownup, I am going to apply the same rules in my own life. Be a friend to everyone. Let others be the boss. Make room at the table. These simple things never go out of style.
Here’s to acceptance, kindness and friendship.