I’ve decided to raise a mighty girl

My teenaged daughter came to know a day before Halloween that her group of friends had decided the group was suddenly too big to go trick or treating and, therefore, one person had to be kicked out of the group. That person would be my daughter.

She came home from school looking forlorn and told me, “Amma, I am very sad.” I heard her out.  Then, I asked her, “So, X, who calls you to play Wii with her, did not stand up for you?” She replied with a no. It turned out that there was one child who didn’t like my daughter and she had orchestrated the whole thing in her absence. Now, my daughter was crushed that she has been left out.

This was simple. Or not, depending on how old you are. I told her to ring her friend and say, “Listen, if you leave me out of trick or treating, then we can’t be friends any more. I need friends who are not fair-weather friends, who find it convenient to play with me when they are free and then toss me out the minute somebody else comes along.” I told her that she needed to stand up for herself. It is better to have no friends at all, than friends who would stab you in the back when you are not around. What kind of friends are they, anyway? It might not be the best thing to make a judgement on her friends, but I am not known for subtlety, especially when my child was hurt.

Middle school can be a terrible time for kids. I too have a few bad memories of cliques and power struggles. This somehow seems more common amongst girls. Boys, in my opinion, are fairly uncomplicated. From what I see, there are no “said and unsaid” messages, with them. There is no necessity to read between the lines or try to interpret the tone. When boys are upset, they probably will punch you and be done with it. Not the best tactic in the long run, perhaps. But because girls are intuitive and emotionally more evolved, many resort to emotional bullying, which is far more difficult to handle. I sought an opinion of a friend who suggested that I step in and sort this issue out with the parents of the girls who were ganging up on my daughter. I thought about it, but later my husband and I decided that this was a teachable moment and my daughter is at that age where lessons like these set the stage for life.

Donning the mantle of a seasoned girl who has been through a few decades of dealing with the species, I told my daughter, “Self respect is more important than anything else. If you do not respect yourself, and you accept this lying down, people will walk all over you.”

“But what if they decide they don’t need me and I have to be alone?” my daughter cried.  I told her then this would be a good time for her to figure out how she can be happy by herself without depending on flaky friends. I also told her that if things do not work out, we will go out for a fantastic dinner at her favourite restaurant and I will buy her whatever candy her heart desires, that she would have had to go to 30 houses to gather.

I must have sounded convincing because then, my daughter called her friends. She told them that she since they were so mean to her, she did not want to associate with them. They immediately retracted and said, “No, it was just one girl who proposed this plan, we were not for it.” Finally, they agreed that the girl who proposed kicking out my daughter can figure out whether she wants to join the group or not, but the group is going to stick together.

Long story short, my daughter was beaming when she put the phone down. I was beaming myself at the calmness in her voice with which she spoke to them. No drama queen hysterics. Just a handling of the issue efficiently. No shouting. No wailing. No whining.

Not to miss the opportunity for another mini lecture, I told her, “Look, never be afraid to be alone. There are two kinds of leaders in the world. Those who wreak havoc like Hitler, and those who fight for peace like Gandhi. But the fact of the matter is that the world will look up to strong people who stand up for themselves or for a cause. There are always strong leaders and then there are the rest , who are unsure of themselves and hence nod their heads for everything. You proved to yourself today that you can stand up for yourself, at the risk of alienating all your so-called friends, and you should be proud of yourself.”  She smiled and said, “Thanks, Amma.”

I think I can bask in that victory for a month!

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