Thursday, February 19, 2009

Confessions from the mom of "Tweenagers"

I must admit, up until this point, I was okay with how things have been going with respect to my two girls' social lives. To preface this, I have to remind myself that the human mind is a wondrous thing; it has the ability to erase pain-both physical and mental. However, the mind can often "help" one to remember experiences that might have been better left in the vaults.
This is the point where I am at this week. Apparently, my oldest is being drawn into a mental tug of war between two of her friends. Each wants M to be her best friend. M wants to be friends with both. She doesn't understand "why everyone can't just get along!" (sigh!) Each of these girls doesn't like the other and here is where the trouble begins. Allegedly some things are said that aren't true, neither one admits they actually said it, and tears are shed. I was so proud of my daughter-she went straight to the source and called her friend, confronted her with the rumor. "I never said that" her friend assured her. I hung in the wings for moral support as the phone conversation continued. M looked to me for guidance as to what to say next. "Just tell her that her friendship means alot to you," I whisper. At that moment, M seems so much older than twelve and I am so proud of her.
These situations have begun to occur on a more regular basis now. My third grader tries to make her sister feel better by offering "to find So-and-So and punch her lights out." (Add sound effects here.) I have sudden flashbacks to my sixth grade when I had similar encounters. "But you said I was your best friend," Susan wailed, with a hurt look on her face. "Why can't we be friends with everyone?" I return. I remember feeling so torn between my two friends, not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings. I spent more time worrying about that than I should have. No wonder I spent more time with boys-they seemed so uncomplicated-even though they could be very weird. I remember my one friend Jeff proudly displaying a page of his social studies book where he had killed at least twenty flies-their bloody remains dotting page 53 outlining Antarctica and how there is no culture to speak of--just a few research stations where people eat freeze-dried spam and play checkers.
My oldest daughter is so much more mature than I ever was at her age. She has made up her mind to remove herself from times when her friends start gossiping about someone else, or speaking up on behalf of the person being talked about. I realize she has more guts in her pinky finger to deal with unpleasant situations than I ever did at that age. Everyday I am in awe of what I learn from my kids.
I am reminded more than ever how hard it is growing up. On the one hand I want to make everything right for them; make all their experiences good ones, but then I realize that this wouldn't be doing them any favors. Dealing with unpleasant experiences builds their character and they need to know how to handle them. I can't always be there to pick them up and dust them off-however badly I want to keep them close and kiss away their tears.....

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