I have been praying last night and this morning for my daughter, Alex. I love her so much, and although at times, she frustrates me to no end, she is my baby. She is a total combination of my husband and I. She has her daddy's gifts of looking ahead and organizing things and being her own social director (just call her Julie from the Love Boat), and wanting to play with her friends 24/7. On the other hand, she and I share a deep sensitivity for what's really going on in a situation (she feels the "layers"), a strong intuition, and a strong sense of justice and fairness. Putting all of these things together, Steve and I have a beautiful little girl who wears her heart on her sleeve, loves people, and wants everyone to play fairly and nicely. We love her so much for that.
The challenge with this has come twofold: she's learned over the past few years that sometimes you have to negotiate with friends in order to feel like everyone feels good about playing (i.e., you can't always get what you want; a part of the only child syndrome, which she has learned well) and that you can't take justice into your own hands when you feel and see what's really going on. This is something I still wrestle with, and I'm 35, not seven.
So, here's the deal: seven year old mean girls suck. There's a little girl that Alex sees around the neighborhood from time to time, and to be honest, she seems to straight up not like Alex. Although that's stupid right there, I know that some kids just don't have chemistry, and I can handle that. Unfortunately, this little girl has learned to whisper secrets about my child in front of my child (I've seen it happen). She has also flat out told Alex that she won't play with her. What the heck? Did my kid fart in her face or something? Yesterday, while my kiddo was down at the neighborhood pool with some other friends, it unfolded again when this other little girl walked onto the premises.
I have to tell you, my kid is not stupid, and I trust her intuition. I've seen this other kid whisper in front of her to every other little girl and turn to Alex and tell her that she can't listen. So, my kiddo starts crying because all of her "friends" have now allowed this little one to whisper in their ears and leave Alex out. Now my kid is labeled as the "drama queen" and the "cry baby." It's a lose-lose situation for her.
I've heard many parents say, "kids will be kids," or "you have to let kids work it out," and I don't whole heartedly agree with this. We live in a messed up world with messed up people (very much including everyone in my family, especially me and my kid), and it's absurd to think that it's ok to let seven year olds work it out on their own. What do we them to learn from this? That it's ok to treat kids like crap when they feel like they want to? To be honest, we all feel this tendency, but it takes our maturity and wisdom to not do it...as adults.
As a teacher of adolescents, I see what happens to kids when they are not parented through these situations; they turn into mean girls. They think they are entitled and feel no empathy for anyone else around them, and it's totally ridiculous. But as the adults and parents in society, we allow this to happen and fester by carrying a philosophy of, "kids have to work it out on their own." In my opinion, that's just putting your head in the sand, and I don't agree with you if you feel that way.
When my kid messes up, which happens more often than I would like, she messes up big time, for the whole world to see. And although it sucks, because the whole world sees, at least I know her heart, and I can handle it right then and there. I hold on to the small smidgen of hope that I know my kid isn't getting away with anything; it's out in the open.
My kid also asked Jesus in her heart a few months ago, and again it's awesome and tough because she has a strong conscience, which I know is the Holy Spirit. When she messes up, she feels it BIG TIME. It doesn't excuse her form getting out of consequences in our home, but she feels so bad when she does something not good, especially when it hurt someone else. I know the blessing is that Jesus isn't letting her get away with anything. He's really challenged Steve, Alex, and I to see things as they really are and take responsibility for guiding her through all these situations with love and discipline. It's harder than it sounds, trust me.
My charge to you is to pay attention more than maybe you have. I know that I was mean girl here and there throughout my childhood and adolescence, but it wasn't ok then and it's not ok now. It's not ok to choose not to see how our kids are treating others because we don't want to get involved. Well, I'm sorry to say, but it's your job to get involved. Don't take the easy road, it won't get your kids anywhere except down a road of self centeredness and selfishness.
I say this with love. I hope everyone knows that. Sitting on the other side of the fence stinks because it's a lonely place to be, but at least I know what side I'm sitting on.
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