Monday, May 24, 2010

What my daughter and I learned

In the heat of the moment, I fired off a post about a situation involving a clique of Mean Girls with a touch of bullying behavior, and how my daughter's middle school counselor let us down. A thoughtful discussion took place in the comments section, and it's time for an update of what has transpired.

The matter is now resolved, thankfully. My daughter and the "bully" had a conversation, and have worked out an amicable acquaintance-type relationship.

I also discussed the matter with a staff member of the girls' after-school program, a program that has truly enriched our lives. We are trying to find a suitable expert to come talk to all of the middle school girls about the drama that too often consumes their lives.

One commenter brought up Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees & Wannabees, and subject of a previous post on the roles that middle school creates for females in particular. Opening her book was a huge revelation for me, and I would definitely recommend it.

The real lesson here, however, was about holding back trust unless and until it's been earned. The counselor really let us down. While I don't argue that she meant well, I don't think she thought about the long-term consequences, and how to best handle the situation to allow all of the girls involved to be positively empowered. My daughter and I will think long and hard before involving the counselor in the future.

I don't believe that the Mean Girls are lost causes. I believe them to be just as insecure and vulnerable as my own daughter. They have simply found it easy to feel better about themselves by belittling others. I worry about the long-term effects for them, too. I wonder how many of them truly trust in their friendships, and their place in their hierarchy. I wonder if they feel relieved at night when they can let go of the act and be themselves.

After my daughter made up with the girl, I told her that was good, and I'm glad she felt better about the situation. I then suggested that anytime she has issues with a friend, she think about what she gains from the friendship. Does she feel like she can be herself, and accepted as herself, or does she feel like she has to put on an act and watch what she says and does? I told her that she will most likely make mistakes with her friends, too. She may hurt someone she cares about, and will have to ask forgiveness of them so it's okay to forgive someone who hurt you if that friendship really adds value to your life. But there will also be times when it's okay to let go; not be mean, not make someone an enemy, but simply distance herself from that person.

In my original post, my friend and fellow LA Mom Erin S commented that I should follow up with letters to the Principal, the Vice Principal, the Counselor, and even the Board so that the lessons we learned could help others. I totally get what she's saying, but at the same time, I'm having a few trust issues right now. I worry about how such a letter could impact my daughter, as she still has one more year at this school. I wrote about it here because I did want to share it with others who might benefit from our experience (and I'm grateful to everyone who reached out to me, both in the comments and off line). For now, I will ponder and weigh the pros and cons.

And I'll continue to do what I can to guide my own daughters to true empowerment: self-respect and respect of others.

Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, May 24, 2010.

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