I’m back on the road again. My pilgrimage past Davy Crockett’s birthplace and Dollywood has me listening to another podcast of This American Life, and this time the theme is “Mean Friends.” You’ve got to love being able to laugh out loud while driving through pop-up thunderstorms and trucks-in-left-lanes on windy mountain roads. The girl’s name was “Cohen” and she fluffed off a would-be suitor in middle school by letting him think they could be “Hi, Bye” friends. In other words, she’d acknowledge him in the hallways but that’s all…and he was ecstatic!
Are girls better at being mean? Is this our first feeble attempt at self-protection? I remember in high school a boy from a private school asked me to go to his prom. I accepted, but only if he promised to drop me off at my future-husband-then-almost-boyfriend’s house afterwards. And he did! I didn’t think I was being mean at the time, I actually thought I was being kind?!
I remember so clearly chasing the Bride around a preschool birthday party, telling her it’s not OK to tease and chase another little girl. I could see it already, my tyrant in blonde curls was the queen bee of her little posse, she was the mighty, mini trendsetter. Probably our move back to NJ when she was in 2nd Grade nipped that in the bud. It’s so easy to go all Lord of the Flies when your family stays in one insular community, “,,,after all we aren’t savages really…”
I asked my little Mussolini how she would feel if her feet were in that girl’s shoes. Yes, at times like this I would go all biblical, and believe me parents, you will too. I recently read a letter on Momastery titled “Brave is a Decision” this is excellent reading before the little ones head off to school. If you’d like to instill a little compassion and not so much as a mean bone in your child’s body, this one’s for you.
We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done.
We send you to school to practice being brave and kind.
Kind people are brave people. Because brave is not a feeling that you should wait for. It is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.
I’m meeting my “bad” in a good way MIL, the queen bee of her generation who broke a few hearts along the way, to pay homage to the next generation of “it” girls, our Love Bug is turning the BIG TWO. She has just started school and I’m hoping she’ll sit next to the kid without a lunch and offer to share her bento box. But she’ll also need to channel some mean into her young life, so she stands up for herself, so she can fight back when needed.
You can’t take Jersey out of the girl.