Flashback to middle school, 6th grade.Party at my house, perhaps it was my 12th birthday? A handful of girls, my friends, were going to spend the night. I can't remember much else besides what it felt like to look for them as they hid from me. Confused. I had just gone to get something from another room, where were they?
I don't think at the time I really understood the conniving domination tactics that were going on as two ringleaders corralled the others into a small storage closet, so as to remind the clueless new girl [me] that she was socially powerless. I didn't see it for what it was... but my mom did.
Also powerless, Mom was boiling. I assume she ended up having one of those embarrassingly irrational heated conversations with the other girls' moms, probably one at a time. Those discourses all mothers get into when someone picks on their kid and the animal instinct to protect one's young overturns any ability to speak rationally or stay calm. I remember wishing she wouldn't, even defending the girls in my mind... it wasn't that big of a deal. In my 12-year-old brain, Mom getting involved could only make it worse.
I so wanted them to like me. Cool hip kids are magnetic to non-cool non-hip kids. All in the class are at the mercy of the cool kids' kindness or stealthy meanness. It's about power.
Not everyone was awful to me, but it only takes a few instances to forever impact a twelve-year-old girl. Both these ringleader girls attended a nondenominational church that taught that Catholics aren't Christian. I was Catholic. This is funny to me now.
New city, new school. That's a tough circumstance for any pre-adolescence, but especially one without siblings close in age who also has a aptness for dorkiness and bad fashion sense and is taller than everyone else. I didn't have a clue. Thus began a tendency to shy away from female friendships that it took years and some really special women to help me grow out of.
Cut to high school.A different crowd, no one from my middle school attended. I knew a lot of really nice cool kids in high school (and a few not so nice), but I still never felt like I fit in.
There was one girl who I sat with in a science class at a lab table. She was hilarious, and in my eyes very cool. Aside from the time I got caught passing a note in third grade, this was the most I ever got in trouble in school my whole life.
Hanging out with her in chemistry class was a daily glimpse of what it was to be awesome. One time I even solidified our friendship by forging an excuse note from her mother to enable her to leave campus for the afternoon. I thought maybe that's what cool girls with stellar handwriting do for their friends. I even felt cool that she asked me to do it.
But she only sat next to me because our last names required her to. We weren't friends. Whenever there was free time, she would migrate to another table where her actual friends sat, leaving me to do homework from another class by myself. Soooo many hours doing homework at school. Maybe this is why I was such a good student. I digress.
Now, this ain't no pity party.I'm a grown woman now with enough self-assurance to navigate the social climate of my current life. And to be clear, I was not friendless. Though my guards were up, I had friends, some really neat girls, some of whom may even be reading this post today. And in all my years of being a girl trying to survive in the social amazon, I did some mean things too. For those things I hope I have been forgiven.
As I reflect, I try to prepare myself for the day that someone picks on my kid. To feel how a mother feels when her kid is hurting and lonely and there's nothing she can do about it.
Or perhaps worse, the day I get the phone call from a different kid's shaky-voiced mother telling me that MY kid was mean. Please no, not my kid.
I thought about it this morning as Penny and I attended our Friday morning mom/baby group. This week, Penny was one of the oldest babies there. I watched my baby interact with others, all of them so innocent and unaware of how their actions affect others. And us mothers so forgiving, "oh don't even worry about it" when one steals another's toy. Calm, cool and collected.
I thought about my beautiful girl and what lies ahead for her and how much of it I can [not] control.
I thought about the friendships I am cultivating with these other mothers, and how we have each trudged through our own social hardships, gathered scars, and come out on the other side. How cool hip moms can be friends with non-cool moms because of the things that makes us all the same.
A new chapter for this woman. I'm trying to enter it with guards down.