Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Friendly fire

I sure do feel for my third grade daughter this year.  Academically she's totally fine, but the subject of friends is another story.  Her best friend of several years is now best friends with someone else after being in separate classrooms last year.  Plus, the two new friends that she liked the most in her second grade class ended up leaving the school.  So, now in third grade, she's at a bit of a loss.  While her class is full of nice girls that she's friendly with, none of them come close to being that really special friend(s) that she dearly wishes she had.  She's not a regular part of any particular group, and ends up playing with different girls here and there, never feeling totally alone, but not really feeling the comfort of being in a regular group that looks out for her and has sleepovers with every weekend like it seems like everyone else is doing. 

I know that these early school years are very transitory and always changing, but it's all a bit rough for my sweet and sensitive and rather serious eight year old girl.  Luckily, she's not a social reject, but more like a confident self-aware single girl who is in transition and finding her on way.  She's out of her comfort zone.  Sadly, these school years wield the necessary growing pains that are important to experience in order to better understand the gray and complex arena of close relationships.  We've had lots of discussions about how she's feeling and viewing all of this friendship stuff, like the type of friend she wants to be, why people do what they do, standing up for yourself, and other sticky yucky stuff.  She gets it.  It could be much worse.  I know she'll be fine.  But, well, it's still hard.  It's definitely not kindergarten any more.

Her twin brother?  He doesn't have a best friend either, but he's not stressing.  He has his nice group of boy friends school (I call it "his posse"), his cub scout buddies, and his Star Wars characters.  He's content and cool about it.
That's me and my favorite friends when I was my daughter's age (I'm on the far right).
It's crazy this whole parenting thing.  Watching my daughter go through this brings up sooooooooooo many long forgotten uncomfortable memories and emotions from my own childhood.  Her pain and struggles remind me of my pain and struggles.  I wish I had all of the answers, but hey, I'm still learning about this stuff in my forties.  It will only get more complicated!  I can't fix it for her.  I can only hold her hand and comfort her and wipe her tears.

However, it's hard when we live in a world where my kids don't have neighborhood friends to casually play with on a whim.

We live in a world where often the burden is on me as a parent to arrange and implement playdates for my kids in order to cultivate close friendships.

We live in a world where social media says we can be "friends" with someone we barely know and can be instantly "un-friended" and don't even know it, yet we are often judged on the number of "friends" on our profile when it really doesn't mean anything.  

We live in a world where social media makes it look like everyone else is having way more fun, has way more friends, and where you honestly have no idea what is really going on with people because they only post what they want you to know (have you ever seen a sad profile picture?).

We live in a world with a false sense of being connected, but in reality can go a long time without being remotely social or let friends know what's really happening.

We live in a world where tv shows and movies make it seems like everyone else is part of an extremely close knit beautiful looking group of friends that barely work and are always there for each other. Or the opposite where manufactured groups of reality show "friends" are encouraged to fight with each other, are catty, superficial, judgmental, and narcissistic.

We live in a world where kids are growing up way to fast.

Wait, geez, I'm sounding rather sad and cynical, aren't I?   I just want the best of the world for her.  I wish I could download all of my relationship knowledge into her mind and save her all the grief and heartache.  I wish I could find her that best friend that I know is waiting for her and that they'll be best of friends their whole lives. Darnit!

I tell her things will get better.  That's she's just having a hard couple of months.  Without dark there is no light.  Tomorrow is a new day.  That best friend or friends are out there, and you just haven't met her yet or maybe you already have but haven't bonded yet.  Lighten up, girl, and just have fun - you are only eight!  Deep down I know it's true, but in the back of my mind I know the whole friendship thing will only get more complicated and wonderful and hurtful and happy and confusing and easy and sad and joyful.  And then there's puberty and hormones, The Ultimate Game Changer.  Yikes!

Good friends are definitely worth it, there is no doubt about that.  I know, because I went a few years without them in my early twenties and it was awful.  A.W.F.U.L.  But, now that I have a handful of really really wonderful friends, I'm extremely grateful.  Hopefully, when my little girl, uh hum, big girl, gets to that better place with friends after suffering through these growing pains, she'll feel the same way, too. 


  1. Beautifully written, a concise description of modern times and our social isolation. Luckily children learn from the rough stuff, but it's hard to watch such a sweet child suffer. She's lucky to have such an understanding mommy and daddy and a home in which she can just be herself, sad or happy, and be loved for both. xoxox

  2. "I wish I could download all of my relationship knowledge into her mind and save her all the grief and heartache." Love, love, love this line!
    My youngest was the one moving. She switched schools every year until 3rd grade and longed for that kind of friendship, too. Now she's in 6th grade (at a new school again), and she just found out her best friend will be going to another school next year. She seems pretty okay with it, though! She has a lot of friends, but she's learned to rely on herself and her family since those are the only ones she can really count on.

  3. Would it bumm you out if I copied and pasted your post here and then passed it off as my own, with pictures of my own of course? LOL!!!!! Because it is seriously how I feel. Exactly. Took the workds right out of my feelings. I am also worried about the differences in "friendships" between my (our) generation and my daughters. I have to remind myself daily that I am not Emma, and Emma is not me. And that I handled frienships and socialized in a completely different manner in a completely different environment. Girls today will hurt too. But they will handle it in their own way, and we wont always "get it." We just need to be here to catch them when they fall and wave to them as they soar away. And pray...we can always pray. I get u and I heart u.

  4. I think the balance is knowing who the right people are to care about and who needs to be taken with a grain of salt. As your daughter grows, I am sure it will be with much less angst as she focuses on the real stuff that matters. :)