Monday, May 13, 2013

BFF: First Grade Girl Drama...and Mama

 ** The poem above was penned by my lovely Rosemary. It's the "teaser" for a joke book she wrote with her friend Becca. :)

I have two little girls. Four and seven. 

And sometimes I swear I just don’t know where to go with girl drama. Already.

I remember precisely when it started: when Rosemary was in the 4-year-old class at preschool. This is when suddenly it became a big deal to have a “best friend”.  It was sort of like calling “shotgun” to reserve the best seat in the car…Once somebody said you were  “best friends,” from that time on, if another girl asked you to be her best friend, your moral obligation was to squash all her hopes and dreams like a worthless bug by giving her resounding “no”. It’s enough to make you want to run right out to Claire’s and drop $8.50 on a pair of mood ring necklaces, one bearing the word “Best,” one bearing the word “Friend”, just so you can wear it with your BFF right in front of all the other little girls who totally wished they could be your BFF except that you’re taken.

Or not.

It’s funny how something that can make one little girl feel so completely special can make other little girls feel especially left out and alone.

In the 3-year-old class, it was easy for me to push my “we’re all friends” agenda. You can be best friends with everybody when you’re three. But it seems like the more kids age, the more exclusive friendships become, and by the time they reach high school, everywhere they look, there are already established cliques, and you have to find your place within the system.   

This leads me to Rosemary and her friends. From what I can tell, on any given day, “best friend” in first grade can mean
  • the girl in class who understands me and plays with me
  • the girl I'm allowed to talk to at lunch
  • she who has been assigned to me, since everybody else is already paired up
  • she who tries to control me
  • the girl I get to control
  • the girl who tells everybody I'm her best friend, whether I want to be or not
  • the daughter of my mom's friend
  • the girl who watches the same shows I watch and reads the same books I read

And I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface. I’m never sure what my role is here…Dealing with these social issues is just not my strength. Initially, I wanted to help her realize that being friends with everybody was the way to go. But that’s just not realistic anymore.  

This morning, on her way out the door, Rosemary said, “Mommy, what was it you said again that I should say to Emma?” (She spent the weekend rehashing yet another issue with yet another friend.) I was stuck. She didn’t know what I said because my advice to her didn’t make that much sense in the first place. These are the things I never figured out; how am I supposed to help her learn? I spent my childhood lonely because I couldn’t figure it out. 

How do you help your little girl form (and maintain) healthy relationships with other little girls, help her to be empathetic, and also teach her to be assertive? And when should you just stay out of it and let first grade drama work itself out?