As a mom, I look to protect my children from physical and emotional harm. Physical harm hasn’t been a problem yet. We live in a cozy, middle class town where break-ins are pretty low and violent crimes are few. Emotionally, however, this town cultivates its mean girls. I didn’t really understand how this happened as all the parents seem nice. Am I naive? Do these people propagate nastiness? You see, for whatever reason, my daughter is drawn to these mean girls.
These girls defy all the values I’ve been trying to teach my children. Instead of supporting one another, these children rat each other out faster than a stool pigeon. “Excuse me, Miss Teacher, student X(my BFF) just read. Why should she get to read again?” Or, your child forgets her homework and calls the mean girl for the assignment, “Uh sorry. Gotta go. Can’t help you now.” What’s the right thing to teach my child to do? Often, I scream, “Make new friends! Play with other kids! So and so is not kind and doesn’t deserve your friendship!” Ths doesn’t seem to work as my daughter is repeatedly drawn back to this friend like a moth to a flame.
By chance, I come across a book called,”Queen Bees and Wannabes ,” by Rosalind Wiseman. It was as if the book was written for me -a life line to save my daughter from these vicious and catty girls. Paragraphs filled with insight jumped out at me. I time traveled back to my own junior high school days. The author refered to them as the lunch tray moments. My twelve year old myopic self was always desperate to fit in, yet I consistently fell short of the other girl’s definition of coolness. I would desperately scan the cafeteria, looking for a table that I could sit down at and eat my lunch without being ridiculed. Talk about anxiety!
Realistically, I knew that growing up is not easy. Some suffering is inevitable. I just didn’t want to feel that knife in my gut again when my daughter took my advice and said to her BFF, “I thought we were friends,” and the Queen Bee responded, “You thought wrong.” Wow! Though my next response was to tell my daughter to tell her former BFF to go to hell, I knew that retort wouldn’t fly in a catholic school.
The author, Rosalind Wiseman advises we’ve got to help these kids navigate girl world. We can’t simply tell them what to do. They’ll just reject our ideas immediately, especially if they try them and they don’t work(see above example!) We can however share our own middle school stories. I tried that and my daughter’s eyes lit up. She wanted to hear what it was like for me as a kid. I shared with her how being popular can be a good thing, but for some kids it can be the beginning of a life in which you’re held prisoner by other’s power over you. Feeling pressured to fit in, some of the girls from my junior high made very poor choices in order to be cool. At our twenty year high school reunion, I saw girls who ended up with drug addictions and/or suffered in abusive relationships. I didn’t preach, I just shared. My goal was to show my daughter I had been in junior high too. Communication was going to be the key element to making our mother/daughter relationship succeed.
We, as parents also need to own up to our kid’s behaviors and actions. It can’t be that my kid would never say or do x,y, or z. We have to be honest in order to successfully parent. If you don’t see your child for who she is, you may wind up not being the kind of parent your daughter needs. Just as girls are safer and happier when they look out for each other, we as parents need to offer each other support. Gather a group of women together and discuss what’s going in in your daughter’s life. Share the book, “Queen Bees and Wannabes” and take away some advice that will hopefully empower you and me to guide our daughters through these very difficult, yet critical years.