By Lisa Barr
In an eight-day period, more than 200,000 parents from coast-to-coast (even from as far away as London, Australia, and Singapore) have read and responded to one particular GIRLilla Warfare blog: ‘Being ‘Left Out’ Hurts — Let’s Stop Social Engineering Now”
Every blogger wants her blog to go viral … and when it does, bring on the bubbly, or as my colleague “Teen Expert” Debby Shulman would say, “Break out the Scotch, baby.” But in this case something else hit hard — as in damn, what’s really going on here is epidemic, and sad. Kids are hurting. Moms are hurting. Kids are hurting one another, and according to hundreds of stories that have landed on my laptop — Moms are blaming Moms for “helicoptering” their kids into the “popular” group and “closed” cliques, and leaving other kids in the dust while insuring their child is properly positioned.
As a Mom to three teenage girls, who are now in high school, I have seen it all. But let me throw out the “hope” flag here — IT DOES GET BETTER.
Middle School is hell. And it’s NOT just a Girl Drama thing. Boys have it rough too.
If you’re not an athlete, you get left out. If you are not on the ‘A’ team, then you get left out. If you are too smart, you get left out. If you are on the quieter side or God forbid — artistic, it’s a tough turf to navigate. If you are gay, or have any emotional/physical/medical issues, too many kids show no mercy. It goes on and on, and trust me, every imaginable/conceivable/painful scenario is Out There. And it hurts. No one is spared: it crosses all races, religions, and socio-economic status.
Nothing pains a parent more than watching their own kid suffer as he or she is trying to develop a sense of self, which truly takes shape in Middle School. And for many of us, even earlier. But the true Mean Girls, Mean Boys, and Mean Moms rear their ugly heads come Junior High.
Why? Because that’s when our kids want us to begin letting go, and we cling to that umbilical cord with all of our might.
Admittedly, it is hard for us Moms (and Dads too) to relinquish control; to give our kids the gift of independence, and NOT fix it (whatever the “it” situation may be). At the end of the day we ALL want two things: our kids to be safe and our kids to be happy. The question is how we get there — what is the means to the end game?
When other kids or Micro-Managing Moms karate-chop our kid’s life experiences and development — the most basic Cave Mama instinct is to clobber the offender, and protect.
Here’s the thing … your daughter may be the “It” girl in sixth grade, and you “think” you are safe, but by eighth grade all of her so-called friends just may turn on her. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times. You may have a kid who is part of the group and you “think” you are safe, but then your third kid comes along and he or she is excluded from the group. In my own ‘hood, one Mom has four children. She was a major “excluder” of boys, insuring that her own son — a great athlete, good-looking kid — had his set group of friends in place. She had parties on the weekends that “everyone” heard about, she Facebooked the pictures, she smiled at you in the carpool line all the while stabbing you (as in your NON-invited kid) in the back … and then a few years later, came her youngest child with “issues.” This Mom learned very quickly the raw pain of what it’s like when your kid is left out, and a Mom is orchestrating it. It took her a few years, but she soon understood the ramifications of her own actions by getting it right back.
Yes, karma is a bitch.
Believe me, the last thing I would want is for ANY kid to suffer, or any Mom to feel it. I work very hard as a Mom to be inclusive. I have had graduation parties for the entire class. It’s crazy, it’s expensive, but there is no more satisfying feeling than watching how many kids who didn’t “mix” at school, all of a sudden, connecting. That said, many Moms noted in letters to me that they simply can’t afford to invite the whole class to various parties or to get-togethers. This is understandable, and a reality.
So what we do we do? When do we jump in? When do we keep our mouths shut and hope (pray) for the best? There are no clear-cut answers, given every scenario is individual. I am not a psychologist just a Mom, a writer, who works with Moms in the “trenches” and hears the countless stories of Suburban Angst. But here are few simple, perhaps obvious, (and unofficial) rules to live by:
1. Let your kid make his/her own friends — because they naturally gravitate toward those who help them feel good about themselves, not so you can feel good about yourself. Do not carve out a blueprint that YOU believe is the right group, the right friends, the right Moms. Fitting in is a “feeling” — not a plan.
2. Teach your kids even if another kid is not his/her type to be nice anyway. Niceness goes a hell of a long way, especially for a kid who already feels awkward and shy. Having someone point out those inadequacies to make themselves feel better only makes that child dig deeper into his or her own dark hole. Teach niceness to your kid the minute he or she starts talking and connecting and socializing.
3. If your kid is invited to a party but already made plans with another kid who was NOT invited to THE party, teach your kid NOT to “blow off” his/her plans, but to stick with them. Or, have your kid ask the “inviter” if it would be okay if Kid B could come too. If the answer is No, the original plans stay. Period. If you allow your child to ditch another child for something that seems better — they will always do that, even as adults.
4. If you are having a party for the class and are inviting say, just the girls — do not invite 10 girls and leave the remaining three out — even if your daughter “can’t stand them.” Teach your kid tolerance. There are going to be people in life who are annoying, difficult, and you simply don’t want to be around them — but you need to know from a young age shutting them out is NOT the answer.
5. Moms, you CAN fight for other Moms’ kids. For example, one of my daughters had plans with several girls on Halloween in Junior High. Suddenly, one Mom in the class decided to throw a party last minute and invited all the girls my daughter had plans with, but NOT my daughter. (Did I want to clobber that Mom or what!? ). One of the Moms whose daughter had plans with mine should have stepped up and made the call to the Party Throwing Mom and said something like this: “Hi – ‘Emily’ was not invited to your daughter’s party but all six of the girls she has plans with were invited, including my daughter. I know they would ALL love to pop by your party together — would it be okay if Emily joined in as well?” If you are the Party Throwing Mom — the answer is 100 percent YES.
6. You CAN step in and call a parent if someone is putting bad things about your kid on Facebook, Instagram, etc. This IS the line drawn in the sand that must be crossed over. Given the sheer amount of bullying on social networking sites — parental stepping in is key right here. I promise you, your kid will beg you not to do it, but do it anyway.
7. You CAN call another parent privately if you know that her daughter/son is being hurt somehow by other kids. Parents DO want to know. Parents DO appreciate the information. This is called: Proactive Parenting – Working Together.
8. Remember that all those pics of your kids in “The Group” that you post on Facebook may hurt another kid who was not invited to your event. (And it’s not just kids, adults feel that Facebook Exclusion too — but that’s another blog …). Yes, you are entitled to showcase fun times — but simply be aware, and don’t go overboard. Facebook Depression is the newest phenomenon affecting this young generation in a big way. In the Old Days if you weren’t invited to the party, it hurt, but it passed because you didn’t actually see it. Now, it’s Up There in your face; a visual reminder of being excluded. Use your social networking wisely and always with compassion.
The list goes on — each scenario is different. Here’s the bottom line — IT ALL TRICKLES DOWNWARD. If you teach your kid to be bitchy and exclusive, I promise you, they will be.
If you teach your kid how deeply their actions affect others, they will enter Middle School (the most vicious of all playgrounds) with their eyes wide open … and hearts open too.
Here are a few more helpful blogs on this subject by GIRLilla Warfare:
– ‘Okay, So Who Put the “Hell” in Halloween?’ What happened to Halloween that it has lost the ‘Fun Factor’ and has become such a Pressure Cooker for our kids? http://girlillawarfare.com/okay-so-who-put-the-hell-in-halloween/
– Homecoming: Look Out — “Alpha Moms” Have Invaded High School — Social Micro-Management, better known as “helicoptering” needs to land. Leave the kids alone and let THEM figure out THEIR OWN PLANS. http://girlillawarfare.com/homecoming-2013-look-out-alpha-moms-have-invaded-high-school/
-Buckle Your Seatbelt — It’s a ‘Yik Yak’ Attack: The Cruelest Gossip App of All Has Landed': It’s the “Burn Book” in drag for Mean Girls, Mean Guys, and Everyone In Between — there is no mercy. http://girlillawarfare.com/buckle-your-seatbelt-its-a-yik-yak-attack-the-cruelest-gossip-app-of-all-has-landed/
– No One Had Her Back http://girlillawarfare.com/no-one-had-her-back/
– ‘Trophy Kids – “What Happened to the ‘Joy’ of the Game?”‘ http://girlillawarfare.com/trophy-kids-what-happened-to-the-joy-of-the-game/
AND FOR FUN (aw hell, why not)….
– Steamy Sex With Your Spouse: One Mom shares intimate secrets on how to get “back on the horse” after years with the SAME guy. http://girlillawarfare.com/steamy-sex-with-your-spouse-a-girlillas-guide-on-how-to-really-turn-it-on/
– Moms “Dating” Moms — Probably the hardest thing for Moms is to make new friends as Moms … it kind of feels like Junior High all over again. http://girlillawarfare.com/moms-dating-moms/