When Adelade was in the second grade, she had a cute little best buddy at school. The girls did everything together, including sitting next to each other in class, saving seats for each other at lunch, and making up funny games to play at recess.
But, one day Adelade arrived at school and her best buddy wouldn’t speak to her. In fact, she moved away from Adelade in class, sat at a different table at lunch, and played chase with the boys at recess instead of making up funny games. She began to whisper about Adelade and even went so far as to tell her that they were “frenemies.” When I googled it (um, I’m old), I found out that a frenemy is either someone who is your enemy but acts like your friend, or it’s someone who is your friend who is also your rival. Really?? In second grade?
The drama with this little girl went on for months. One week she wouldn’t speak, and the next week she would act like they were best friends. Adelade cried lots of tears about it. She had plenty of friends, but for whatever reason she REALLY wanted this little girl to be her best pal. By the end of the year, Adelade finally realized that this little girl really wasn’t a very good friend. And, I learned a lot about parenting. Here are three things Adelade’s frenemy taught me.
1. Kids need to work things out on their own. Unless there is serious bullying involved, you should resist the urge to approach a child about how she’s treating your baby. Kids’ relationships ebb and flow, and next week they may be best friends again. So, in most cases, giving the child a talking-to will only further strain their relationship and complicate the situation. Plus, kids are pretty sharp, and you don’t want to give the child the impression that you don’t like her. Instead, talk through things with your child and help her know the best way to handle things.
2. Remember that there are two sides to every story. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but your kids are NOT perfect. They make mistakes just like any other human. So, don’t jump to conclusions about how things came about, and even when your child tells you the whole story, consider it skeptically. The more you realize that your child messes up too, the more grace you’ll have for other kids, and the more likeable you’ll be as a parent in your community. You are doing your child a disservice if you jump and run every time she claims to have been mistreated. Listen to her, advise her, and leave it alone. In this life, everyone is sometimes treated unfairly, and we all survive.
3. Cage that mama bear. A feeling comes over me when I feel my baby has been wronged, some sort of weird combination of rising blood pressure and an extreme desire to do someone bodily harm. But, acting on that mama bear instinct is a bad, very bad, idea. First of all, acting on that feeling almost guarantees that you are acting before thinking and before hearing both sides of the story. Plus, a lot of times, our mama bear instinct is truly, completely based on irrational thoughts and feelings. If you feel you must act on your child’s behalf, wait until you have thought about it, prayed about it, gotten advice from trusted friends, and have calmed way, way down.
One of the main things for us to remember is that we can support and love and sympathize with and comfort our kids without taking over difficult situations in their relationships. They learn how to relate to others by watching how we handle things, so we don’t want to teach them bad habits like flying off the handle. We want them to learn that they are the best person to handle their own relationship problems, and we are here to guide them through and help navigate tricky waters.
By the end of her second grade year, Adelade had stopped crying over this little girl’s fickleness. She had learned to be confident despite the drama, and had realized that her real friends treated her with love and kindness. She isn’t immune to girl drama by any means, but after going through that experience and handling things on her own and in her own way, now she can brush off moodiness and meanness when it comes at her.
These days when one of her friends has a non-speaking day, we just sigh and smile and say, “Girls are weird.” Adelade knows now that even great friends have bad days, and she feels capable of handling her relationship issues without my interference. When I don’t panic and make a big deal out of the drama, she doesn’t either. And, I am all for a drama-free existence, whether with friends or frenemies!