Mean Girls, Cliques, and the Beauty of having a Child who Doesn’t Really Get it…

I HATE mean girls. Unfortunately, I can recall at least a few times in my youth when I think I acted like one. Not because I truly was a mean girl, but because I wanted to fit in with those girls and be accepted. Gah, what was I thinking? If I only I could go back and have a re-do. I think having a daughter is a way to show us women the errors of our younger days and make us question everything we did growing up. It’s like a constant flashback into our past.

My 11-year-old daughter, E, is sweet and usually just wants to fit in. Basically me as I was at 11 years old, except she has Celiac Disease, Alopecia and some intellectual disabilities added in. Mean girls just gravitate towards her like a heat-seeking missile. But mean girls have gotten smarter since my day – now they are not quite so obvious. They’re little master manipulators who, when you speak about them to teachers and parents, the adults think and say, “she’s so sweet and such a good behaving girl.” Right – she’s the one spreading rumors about other girls and dropping F-bombs at recess. And I won’t even touch on how these “sweet/mean girls” treat kids like mine who don’t go to the same church on Sunday. Sometimes being left out of everything at that age can be just as bad as if these girls were just outright nasty. It’s madness and it’s heartbreaking from a parent’s perspective.

But I guess I’m kind of lucky: my sweet, quirky, awesome daughter lives in her own world and is basically oblivious to much of the meanness. It’s me who is bothered the most by it. She has “friends” who don’t invite her over to play, who only come over to ask her to play as a last resort, and who never ask her to do anything. And E typically doesn’t think twice about it. Only yesterday did she FINALLY tell a mean girl in our neighborhood, “no” when she came and asked her to play, after she asked a neighbor kid right in front of E. But the satisfaction I felt was short-lived when I realized that E’s feelings were actually a little hurt.

So now the challenge is trying to raise E to have confidence and at the same time not be arrogant, to have empathy for others and yet not get taken advantage of, and to take the time to listen to others and not lose herself in the process. Most of all, I just want her to be “nice.”  I’m not trying to change the world or anything, but if more of us parents could strive to raise our children this way, maybe at least a few good human beings would come out of it.

-J