a.k.a. if it's this bad in 1st grade, how can I make it through the teen years?
No shrinking violet, The Girl is by turns, spunky, sweet, and incredibly perceptive. The competition she imagines that she has with her brothers is entirely unfounded. Because with her dimples, infectious laugh, and the fact that she generally enjoys the same activities as I do, she's my first choice companion for adventures and outings almost every time.
But the girl relationship bullshit that begins (I've learned) at age 4 or 4 is the reason that I never wanted to parent a girl child. Tears erupt on the playground after school more often than not, and the list of casual slights, perceived insults, and overheard exclusions grows ever longer by the day. As any grown woman will tell you, there's nothing worse to the average girl than getting dropped like a hot potato by a good friend. Yes, you learn how to cope. Maybe you even end up stronger than you were when you went into it. But it sucks.
And it hurts. As a nearly 7-year-old child, The Girl is ill-equipped to handle it. As a 38-year-old mother, I'm not sure how to handle it, and my own childhood is rife with such incidents. The realist in me can see that Stacie, Susie, Bitsy, Edie, and Amy have vastly different interests than The Girl, who leans toward culturally creative and mathematically gifted pursuits. The Girl, like her parents, prefers comfort over style, has zero interest in becoming a veterinarian, and plays dolls and dress-up only when pressed. She is better suited to develop friendships with girls (and boys) who share her interests.
But as the title of Mindy Kaling's book alludes, the fear of being left out is very real to many adult women, and our grade-school counterparts are unfortunately afflicted with this as well. After all, as Amy Lynch and Linda Ashford write in their book, How Can You Say That?: "When our daughters are little, we [mothers] get to decide who their friends will be." There is a clique of girls on the playground--and The Girl is not in it. Are these girls the future alpha moms of their generation? It's possible that the exclusion is not mean-spirited, but to The Girl, it feels deliberate. Write Lynch and Ashford, "Even as they become more independent, [mothers] still have plenty of control over how much time [our school-age daughters] spend with whom."
This struggle is undoubtedly one of the hardest parts of parenting. Obviously, this is not the path I'd choose for my daughter if I could avoid it. I'd love to see The Girl make friends with the girls (or boys) who better share her natural interests, but I'm not sure that I can really choose who her friends are (and I'm not sure that I should). I wish I could say that I have a neat little conclusion for this story, but at this point, I don't. At this point, all I can do is to encourage her to talk to me, provide her love and comfort, and hope that her voice remains authentic and strong.