Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mean Girls

You know, one of the (many, many) things I was unprepared for as a mother was the social dynamics of childhood. Clearly, my memory is either very selective in that I don't remember a thing about it, or things truly have changed in the last 30 years. Were kids always this mean?

My daughter regularly comes home from school with tales of playground power struggles. This has been going on since she was 4. Best friends one day, not friends the next...it's a crazy cycle of meanness. Is it all about dominance and power? Are girls really that insecure that they need to be cruel to each other to feel better? This has happened at three different schools, with three different groups of children. It makes me wonder - is this an epidemic?

Some girls come by it honestly -- their mothers are the same way. So, is it nature then, or nurture? Or a little of both?

I try to encourage my daughter to always be kind. To always be accepting. To not let these things bother her. To branch out and seek other playmates when she's told she can't play. To be sure to let other children play with her, because to be told "no" makes you sad.

I'm not so naive as to think she always follows my advice. Heck, I'm not so sure I always follow it.

But the truth is, I know she's in for a long, hard ride. Because, at almost 40, I'm still dealing with it. I'm wise enough now to distance myself from toxic friendships -- the women that need to be queen bee. The ladies who deliver back-handed compliments, the moms who like to compete, the women who make a point of ignoring you, and then make a point of letting you know they're ignoring you. I feel sorry for those women. It's the playground all over again. Some people just never grow up.

It happens...but you can deal with it. And that's what I'm trying to teach my daughter. Be the bigger person. Don't let it get you down. Be secure in who you are. Know who your true friends really are.

But it's hard. How to resist the urge to tell my daughter that the reason that this little girl is being mean to her is because the little girl is immature and insecure. Explain THAT to a 5-year-old. When what I'd REALLY like her to do is punch the little girl's lights out. Or have a wicked comeback ready to put said little girl in her place.

But isn't that the problem? In encouraging my child to be mean right back, aren't I reinforcing what I'm trying to overcome?

Wow, it's hard to show kindness in your heart when you can taste meanness in your mouth.

But I'll trudge on, hoping that I can give her the tools she needs to overcome these dramas.

Until she has a daughter of her own and has to deal with it all over again.

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