It happened when my daughter was 9, and I knew immediately by the look on her face that something was wrong and she was dealing with conflict.
While the kids around her were all smiling and running – thrilled that school had ended early – she was trudging toward me with her shoulders slumped and a defeated expression.
Before I could ask, my daughter told me that a girl in her class had invited all her friends except her to eat lunch down the street. Pointing over my shoulder, she showed me the pack, and my heart ached as I turned around and indeed saw all her friends giggling and huddled tight as they waltzed away together.
As my daughter tried not to cry, the Mama Bear in me woke up. I was angry at this girl for causing this conflict and her mom, and when my daughter said, “This makes me want to plan something and not include her,” part of me agreed.
Deep down, however, I knew that was an immature reaction. And since I was the adult, I needed to think like one.
So I took a deep breath and tried not to assume the worst. I didn’t know how this lunch had transpired, and trying to guess would be speculation. Rather than go there, I focused on comforting my daughter.
I told her we’d do something special too, and maybe this was an oversight, not an intentional act of meanness. Maybe we should give this girl and her mom the benefit of the doubt.
My daughter can’t keep things in, so the next day at school, she politely told this girl that it hurt her feelings being left out. That afternoon, the girl’s mom texted me to ask if my daughter could play at their house on Friday. At first my daughter was hesitant, but as we talked about how this might be a peace offering, she agreed to go.
When I texted the mom yes, saying my child could come, I got a long text back. The mom said she and her daughter felt awful about hurting my child’s feelings, and it honestly slipped her mind to include us when sending out a quick text the night before.
I thanked her for letting me know, and on Friday my daughter went to their house and had a great time. The incident was put behind them.
It occurred to me as I picked my daughter up – and she came sprinting down the driveway laughing like old friends with this girl – how differently the situation could have played if I’d followed my knee-jerk reaction and let Mama Bear take over.
It could have started a dynamic where the other mom and I started intentionally leaving each other’s daughters out. It could have stirred up division, anger, and suspicion. It could have ruined any chance we had of ever truly liking each other.