“Mean Girls”. I don’t have to tell you who they are or what they do that makes them so mean. You just know them when you see them. The unfortunate thing is the “mean girls” are getting younger and younger by the year. No longer reserved to the high schoolers with MySpace pages and a cell phone with texting options at their fingertips, no, this elite group is recruiting members as young as seven years old. Just imagine the movie “Mean Girls” but with pigtails, riding around on Hannah Montana scooters and packing High School Musical backpacks on their shoulders.
My daughter, Alex, has had the pleasure of dealing with her first “mean girls”. From here on out I’ll just refer to them as Heathers because they are the original “Mean Girls”. (All you 80s kids out there will appreciate the reference.) My daughter is 7 years old, the two Heathers are 7 and 10 years old and up until yesterday, she considered these girls as her friends.
The Heathers were playing the wonderful game straight out of the Mean Girl’s Handbook called, “Let’s ignore her and pretend we can have more fun playing without her” game. There is only one objective…to make the other girl cry.
It’s an oldie but a goodie.
Now being a victim of Heathers growing up I’ll be the first to admit that my perspective may be slightly tainted. Those days of the “ignore game” are all too familiar and I easily spotted it. My heart broke for my daughter when she walked back across the street with tears in her eyes. She had ran over to ask the girls, who were swinging on the porch swing, if she could play. She tells me they just laughed and ignored her.
Me: “Did you ask them if you could play again? Maybe they didn’t hear you.”
Alex: “I did, and they just ignored me again. They just keep laughing and not letting me on the swing!”
I tell her I will play with her. And to forget about them.
But we can’t “forget about them” because the game isn’t over. You don’t know how to play the rest of the game? Well, let me enlighten you. The Heathers then pretend to be having soooomuch fun playing together without you. They laugh loudly, purposely run in front of you giggling, there is even the huddled whispering within close ear shot of you to plan out their next big fake fun fest. The purpose is to make you feel like you’re nothing; to let you know that they don’t need you to have fun. To an adult who has long left our childhood years behind, this seems like the stupidist game ever. But to a 7 year old girl, it’s mental warfare.
I had two choices. I could go over there and grab those Heathers by the arms and shake some sense into them for treating my baby girl this way. Or, I could take this opportunity to give Alex the confidence and the tools to deal with what will never go away—mean people.
As I tried to get the vision of me shaking those girls senseless out of my head, I figured the second option would be a better choice. With my daughter fast approaching tween years, instilling important life skills and values would benefit her more; not to mention possibly keep me out of jail.
Like I said before, I was a victim of Heathers growing up, so I told her something I wish someone had told me back then.
- Ask yourself this: “Do you really want friends that treat you like this?” Real friends wouldn’t ignore you when you asked them to play. They would include you in their game.
- Don’t ever doubt that you are a great girl, who is funny, nice and deserves to be treated fairly and with respect. If these girls don’t want to be your friend then they should say so, not play cruel mind games. Never believe that you have to take the treatment that they are dishing out. That will only make you a doormat.
- Stand up for yourself! Tell them how they hurt you and that it is unacceptable. Let them know that an apology is in order.
- If they come knocking later with an apology, accept it as an honest apology. Sometimes friends make bad choices. You are still young and just learning your way in this world. You are still figuring out what kind of person you want to be. Accept that your friend made a mistake. However, make it clear that if it happens again you will not be their friend. And it will be time to “weed your garden”.
The question becomes: When do I as a parent draw the line at trying to protect my daughter and when do I let her work things out for herself? At some point life lessons must be learned on their own, however painful it may be to watch. Friendships don’t last forever. The friendship you have this year may be different next year based on your interests at the time. These girls attend different schools and have other friends outside their common circle. It’s only natural to have different friends for different stages of your life. My job as a parent is to give her the skills to navigate the complicated world of girl-friendships. It’s only going to get more complicated the older she gets. That, I am not looking forward too. I can only hope she found some wisdom in what I told her and that she finds her inner voice. We will see how this all plays out. Most likely by the weekend it will have blown over. It’s the ever-changing world of girls.
I have to say you handled this much better than I would have. I would’ve probably gone the grabbing-by-the-arms-and-shaking way. Yours, though? Much better.
I have a seven-year-old daughter, and I can attest to the whole Heathers thing. It can get nasty.