Girl drama. Ugh. The bane of my existence. I love little girls, really I do. I love to listen to them playing elaborate games of imagination, I love the profuse drawing of unicorns and hearts and rainbows, I love the giggling when a whole gang of them are having fun together. But the drama? I can do without that.
Now, before you start complaining about my discriminatory remarks about girls and insist that boys and girls are the same, hear me out. I’ve worked with kids for 30 years. I raised two boys and my best friend raised two girls. I may not be an expert on everything, but I have enough years under my belt to make some broad statements here. I’m not talking about every girl. There are plenty of girls who steer clear of dramatics but there are some who seem to gravitate toward it. And in general, if boys have a disagreement, there is some yelling and maybe some stomping and occasionally a scuffle. But it usually blows over quickly and they move on because they want to play and ain’t nobody got time for a crisis.
What I’m talking about is when two girls like the same boy or when a threesome of friends suddenly become a pair. Emotions run high. Friends take sides. Snide glances are cast and it begins.
How do you help your daughter navigate this? Some mothers are quick to jump in and try to sort things out themselves. Some mothers listen and give advice from the sidelines. Some mothers call the teacher and get other adults involved. My years of experience working with elementary students have taught me a few things about what to do and what not to do.
1. Don’t feed the monster. If you can stay out of it, stay out of it. Try not to interview her at the end of every day to see how things are going. If she needs to talk, let her talk, but don’t dig for information.
2. If you need to give advice, keep it positive. Don’t encourage your daughter to jump into the fray and say the next mean thing. Talk about ways to show kindness even when her feelings are hurt. When girls get hurt and then, in turn, try to hurt the other person back, the whole situation escalates in a hurry. Instead, ask her questions like, “What have you tried to make this better?” or “What could you try next?”
3. Encourage one good friendship. Let your daughter make play dates with girls that you think are a good match in temperament and a positive influence on her. Can you choose her friends? No, but you can steer her toward positive relationships and see what develops. In elementary school, you still have a lot of influence over who she develops close relationships with because you are in charge of the schedule.
4. If bullying is involved, you may need to talk to the teacher or the school counselor. But if it is just hurt feelings over a slight, listen without passing judgement on the other girl. Remember that there really are two sides to every story and there may be more to it than your daughter tells you.
5. Be open and honest about friendship. As adults we know that we are not going to be best friends with everyone. However, whether we click with someone or not, we need to treat others with respect. Talk specifically about what that looks like.
6. Don’t get overinvested in your daughter’s relationships. The things that hurt you as a child may not be the same things that hurt her. The more you commiserate the more real it becomes, so try not to get overly involved.
My final thought on this is that our children watch what we do and say. If we want them to behave appropriately in social situations, then we should model the kind of behavior we expect. Moms who gossip and make snide comments about others raise daughters who do the same. Treat others respectfully. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Demonstrate kindness. It won’t solve everything, but it is a place to start.
The other day I read a blog post from a young mama who was tired of being told to enjoy her child now because they grow up too fast. I get it. She feels pressured to enjoy the spilled milk and the crying babies even though, as we all know, those aren’t always the fun parts of parenting. She also feels like the point of raising children is to RAISE them and that when we wax nostalgic about how great it is to have babies that we forget that having preteens and teenagers and yes, even adult children, is pretty great too.
I totally get where she’s coming from and she has a valid point. I know I’m guilty of saying this to some young mamas from time to time. From a grandma’s perspective, the charge to enjoy this time is a result of knowing too much. When you are in the trenches and you just can’t wait for naptime so you can sit down and finish the cup of coffee you started drinking four hours ago, it’s easy to forget that this doesn’t last forever. The difference in an old mom and a young mom is that you don’t have the advantage of hindsight. (Or achy joints or cataracts….but that’s another thing.)
I remember that one day it dawned on me that no one had cried that day. And another day, I held my son on my lap for the last time. And one day, I realized that my boy didn’t think all girls had cooties anymore. Eventually, that gave way to my boys being grown and married and raising children of their own. Maybe if I had realized that I was reading the last bedtime story, or rocking them to sleep for the last time I would have savored it a little more. But that’s just it. You don’t know. You don’t know that what seems like it will stretch out forever has an expiration date. You don’t know that the last time they creep into your bed after a scary nightmare is the LAST time.
When old mamas say things like this to young mamas, we aren’t trying to add more pressure to your already full life. We’re trying to tell you that someday this will all be a memory and you’ll look back at pictures of your baby and wonder if you actually did appreciate it enough. Does that mean that when you’re carrying a baby in a car seat and a diaper bag and three bags of groceries you should find the joy in the shooting pain in your back and gallon of orange juice you just dropped on the floor? Goodness no! We’re not crazy! But we do know that one day that will be a funny story and the awfulness of that moment will not always be so…well….awful.
The song goes “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” and old mamas can tell you it is true. Grown up children are their own kind of wonderful, but it is different when they are too old to gather up in your lap at the end of the day. I think that’s why being a grandma is so great. We have the advantage of perspective and we realize that childhood is such a short time. (We also have the advantage of putting off housework and chores until the kids go home—a luxury you don’t have as the mama.) I know for a fact that I appreciate the delightfulness of my grandchildren in a way that I just couldn’t appreciate in my children.
So when an old mama tells you to soak it up and enjoy it while it lasts, indulge us. We’ve been where you are now but maybe our glasses are tinged a little rosy. That must be the payoff for the achy joints and cataracts I was telling you about earlier….
Hi! I'm Janet and I've been the Director of the Before and After School and Smart Start Preschool Programs at the Troy Rec since 1994. My hubby and I have been married 30 years and we have two grown sons. Each of them is married and blessing us with grandchildren left and right. Life is good even when the nest is empty!