And it’s not even because my baby started Primary at church. *sniff*
So I need to give you a little backstory first:
There are seven girls (including L~) in L~’s primary class in church. There is a division in that class that existed before we ever moved in. Though I don’t think the girls are overtly rude or mean, there is a group of three girls who are decidedly The Girls, while the other three are . . . not. They don’t even seem to be their own group. They are just three girls who seem to not be part of The Girls.
When we moved here, L~ became girl number seven, and she was quickly embraced and accepted by The Girls (putting that group up to four) (in case the math is too difficult for you). At first I thought maybe I was imagining the divide, but the teacher told me one day that she was concerned about the divide in that class.
I talked to L~ about it. I told her I was happy she had made friends so quickly (because I was) and I told her I was happy that she feels like she “belongs” (because I am); but I also asked her to please make sure she was never mean or exclusive, either intentionally or accidentally, to the other girls in the class. I asked her to please make an effort to be friendly to them, and talk to them, and involve them as much as she can.
She said she would. She said that, as far as she could tell, the only reason the other girls weren’t involved with The Girls is because they didn’t want to be – they didn’t talk much. I told her nobody ever wants to feel like they are on the fringes, and if they don’t talk much it is probably because they feel unsure about how their involvement would be received by the others.
L~ is not a mean girl. Don’t get me wrong, if she gets really mad at one of her siblings she can be sharp-tongued and shrill, but she is not mean-hearted (just intensely defensive of her position).
But she is a pre-teen girl – a pre-teen girl who is happy to be accepted by the group that seems to be The Group, The Girls. I can’t blame her for that. Who doesn’t want to “belong”?
Today L~ and one of The Girls straggled into primary several minutes late. They had spent a little too much time in the bathroom. When they got into the primary room, the other two girls who are a part of The Girls were sitting next to each other. Next to them was one empty chair, then a chair with another girl, not one of The Girls, sitting in it, then another empty chair. L~’s friend sat in the empty chair by The Girls who were already there, which left L~ looking around, realizing she wasn’t going to be able to sit with her friends.
Without being asked, the other girl scooted over to the empty seat next to her so that L~ could have her seat by The Girls. It was such a kind gesture, and my heart broke for that sweet little girl as I sat, watching from behind, while she gave up her seat to my daughter simply because she knew she isn’t really part of The Girls and my daughter is.
But then my heart shattered into a million little pieces as I watched L~ scoot her chair over as close to her friends as possible, thereby scooting away from the girl who gave up her seat.
I quietly got up (luckily it was not yet time for me to do singing time), walked over to where the girls were sitting, tapped L~ on the shoulder and gestured for her to follow me out into the hall.
I whispered, “She gave you her seat. You should have thanked her.”
“I did,” L~ whispered back.
“Do you understand,” I asked, “what message you just sent her by scooting away from her?”
L~ looked slightly horror-stricken. I really don’t think she saw it as scooting away from that kind girl. She just wanted to sit closer to her friends.
I was fighting back tears, and she could tell.
“You might not have meant to, but you just reaffirmed to that girl that she is not one of you. That you four are a special group, and she is not part of it. You have just made her feel less.”
I was still whispering.
“When I was your age, I was that girl. I wasn’t one of the special group. I was on the outside.” I was really fighting back the tears as all the memories and emotions from that time in my childhood were flooding through me. “I cannot watch one of my daughters do that to someone else.”
L~ was . . . I don’t know. Shocked might be the best word. Mortified, perhaps? As far as moms go I’m . . . umm . . . not the frumpiest one she knows? I’m not saying I’m a 40-year-old hottie who everyone thinks is the cool mom (I’m sure my kids will tell you just how un-cool I am), but I don’t think I come across as the “outsider” type (I’m doing my best to avoid using the word “nerdy” and failing miserably) (I should have e-mailed Michelle for a more delicate synonym – she’s the queen of those). So to see me standing there, trying to not cry about how badly the thoughtless (and sometimes very thoughtful, but not in a good way) actions of others hurt me when I was her age, to realize that I really wasn’t one of the cool kids . . . I think, I hope, something really clicked for L~.
Like I said, we’ve had conversations before about the importance of being nice to everybody, but I’m not quite sure she got what all that meant. I think maybe now she gets it a little more. Again, I hope.
We went back into the primary room and she quietly took her seat, then scooted it back to its original position.
Later in the day, at home, I told her I thought maybe she should invite the girl who gave up her seat over for a day, or for a sleepover. L~ said she had been thinking the same thing already and was going to ask me about it. We’re going to try to find a day that works next week.
I don’t know what else to do.
I see a real opportunity here for L~. She is in a position where she could help bring the other girls into the circle of The Girls, and I want to help her do that, but I’m not sure how. How do you help an 11-year-old girl understand that she could bridge a long-standing divide and make a huge, positive change in the lives of a few girls? How do you help her actually bridge that divide?
I don’t know. I don’t know because I spent most of my childhood on the wrong side of the divide.
I wish I were Lorelai Gilmore. She’d know exactly what to do, and it would involve merriment and great hilarity. And maybe muffins and nail polish. Hmm . . .