Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mean Girls

Yesterday my neighbor is sharing her angst with my Mom and I, while we are outside. Her daughter is having trouble with the girls in her elementary school (the typical clickish, one-minute-your-in,-the-next-minute-your-out, mean-girl, makes-you-really-glad-you-ARE-an-adult-and-not-a-kid-anymore, behavior). So she asks my Mom and I, "What do you think I should do? Intervene, or let it go?" My Mom basically told her that's just how girls are. If you let it blow over, it works itself out. She said that if you interfere, it just makes things worse.

I had a different point of view. I said that I thought that she SHOULD interfere. That she should talk with the "mean girls" parents, or the teacher, or principal at the school, and figure out a way to solve the problem. If you don't address it, it could escalate and real damage could be done. My Mother seemed to think that her way was the right way. "After all, it worked for her, with her daughters." And that's when I kind of went "What-the??" I should have just kept my mouth closed. If that's how she remembers my childhood, then what good does it do to go dredging up a past that I recall very differently? But that's what a sane person would have done...let it go...avoid drama...But why would I want to do THAT, when drama and insanity are so much fun?...ugh. So, of course I had to point out to her that I felt like it "hadn't worked" for me. In Elementary, Jr. High and High School, I had had major problems with friends (mostly because of the fact that I had NO idea HOW to be a friend) so during my childhood, I vacillated from being the loner, to having a friend or two, to BEING the "mean girl". It was devastating for me. Maybe the reason that My Mom thought that her "hands off" approach had worked, was because I didn't complain much when I was a child.

I do remember one incident when I was in the fifth grade. I wore these idiotic bows in my hair every day, that looked like they were about to launch in to flight. Not sure if this was a trend that my Mom was trying to start, or one that just hadn't caught on in my ultra-cool-school, but whatever the reason- I got teased because of them. One of the girls became really mean, and would tease me about them every day. It morphed in to other things, and I started to dread school. My one friend and I were sitting with my Mom at the Dairy Queen. I remember telling my Mom about the situation. And I don't remember her doing anything about it. And so I didn't tell her about that stuff anymore. But I remember being in those awful situations a lot; you know- where you have your lunch tray and you are looking around at faces, hoping to recognize one that looks friendly enough for you to sit next to, or walking in the crowded hall to your next class at school, every day, by yourself. Or not going to the football games on the weekends because you don't have anyone to sit next to. I wished it then- that someone would have helped me. I could have learned what to do differently.

I think that part of the problem was that I was allowed to treat my siblings like dirt, and I knew that they weren't going anywhere, no matter how rotten I was to them. And so, I thought that I could get away with similar behavior with all of my classmates at school...and eventually I got a reputation. And when you have a reputation- that's it. It's carved in stone...and it feels like there is nothing you can do. So there I was during my childhood, the loneliest "mean girl" on the planet. The topic had obviously hit a nerve with both my Mom and I. (My neighbor had run for the hills when she saw that it was digressing). And my Mom was angry with me. She thought that I was just remembering only the negative from my childhood, while I thought that she was suffering from early-onset-Alzheimer's, and had forgotten about my entire childhood. I called my sister who lovingly agreed with every word I said, and completely backed me up on my memories being the correct ones...thank you dear sister.

But I still felt awful. Was I only remembering the negative? Was it really THAT bad? Maybe I was overreacting. Maybe my Mom was right...I don't know. And because I haven't had to go through that with my girl yet, I really don't know how I will deal with that situation. All I know is that in my quest to solve the dilemma of how to deal with "mean girls", I kind of acted like one. And for that I am sorry. Which begs the question, What is the best way to handle "mean girls"?


annie said...

Ashley - It was so wonderful to hear from you, so I had to come see your blog. I have to tell you I love your thoughts and your "say it like it is" approach. I am trying to be more like that.

About "mean girls" I remember I have a friend who was a "mean girl" and she would do things that would tear me up inside. In the 5th grade I even considered the "S" word because I didn't have friends because of her and how she got the whole grade to make fun of me. I remember one of the "popular" boys drew a picture of me sitting on the toilet, I was so humiliated. Although I have to confess looking back I was a "mean girl" my self, I would dig people who made me mad and I got into a couple of fights. Still life wasn't fun.

During this time, however, these so called friends were in my church. I would come home crying because of what things they would do. The only thing my mom would tell me to do was to pray to forgive them. I told her "are you crazy, they need to come to me to ask ME to forgive THEM". My mom asked me, "Is, A... hurting because of you? I would say "NO", Is she thinking about how she hurt you???... "NO"

So I got on my knees and prayed like I've never prayed at that time to help me LOVE A... like I knew Christ loved her and instantly I felt an absolute love for her, it was really a miracle. But then the next day came and she did something to hurt me AGAIN! and my mom said keep praying to forgive her every time she hurts my feelings. Fast forward, it took I would say 7 years for that whole process.

There were times in high school that if she got a better offer from her "party" friends she would go with them and drop me. My mom would ask me, "Do you know she is using you?" and I would say "yes, I know" and she would ask me why do you let her? Because she needs me! I really felt that way.

Fast forward again! Before my mission, A and I were talking about how we have stayed friends for so long and I told her how jealous I was because her family had money, big house, yada yada yada ..... and she looked at me and told me she was jealous of me because I had a loving family and we were close. Wow I never knew!

See my friend had a father who verbally and physically abused her, so she acted the way she did because of what he did. He acted that way because of his parents and on and on and on.

We are best friends to this day and now whenever she says something that hurts I know just what to do and let it go over my head and know it's just how she is and I love her for being her.

She was instrumental in helping me overcome some of my weakness's and to help me love people for who they are and not what they should do for me. It was a LOOOONG lesson and I wouldn't want to do it over again but I'm grateful to her for what I learned.

I guess in a short synopsis I would say... Forgive the "mean girls" because we don't know what they are dealing with at home. It helps us become a stronger person for them.

Sorry for being so long, but obviously it struck a nerve with me too.

I know you will be guided to do what you know to be best for your children and because of your experiences in your life you will be more proactive than your mom was.. Maybe you had to go through this to be prepared to help your daughter with challenges up ahead.

Love ya,


Nancy hoopes said...

There was a show on Oprah yesterday about this. Today it is called bullying. Several parents were on the show and their children killed themselves because they could not handle the bullying. Listen to your kids. Talk to teachers, principals, read anything you can get your hands on and remove your child from the school if your child seems to be in a downward spiral because of the mean-ness. Things are different today than when we were children. Everything starts earlier and is more severe. Cyber bullying is also a huge problem. Check it out and get help for the child. It's real.

The Cakes said...

I am sure you don't remember me, but we had classes together in High School. It's interesting to hear your grown up perspective of this because I always thought you were the one with all of the friends. Everything seemed to always go your way. The grass seems greener, huh? Boy, if we had just all learned to be honest and vulnerable we would have saved ourselves a ton of angst. Or maybe we would have suffered more at the hands of the bullies? Anyway, I enjoy your blog (which I found through "a friend of a friend") and your insight.

Ashley said...

Annemarie, you are such a glass-half-full-girl! I think I would have killed that friend of yours after the first two months, and just consigned myself to being happy alone. You are right that every life experience is something that we can learn from, and can help us in some way. I am glad that your journey turned out positively, with that friend. Thanks for sharing that. Nancy, I have that episode of Oprah Tivoed, so I will watch it. I think that you are right on. Nowadays it is so much more serious than most parents want to admit. Thank you for those tips. My gut does tell me that it is better to go the extra mile, rather than just "hoping that things will change". And "The Cakes", thanks for your comments. It is funny (in a sad way) how the grass always does appear greener. I guess that I just hope that my kids have more authenticity and sense of self than I did. It's great to hear from you.

Janet said...

That is a tough call. I think that perhaps is requires a different solution to each situation. I have 3 girls and I worry about this a lot. Right now my approach is to help my girls feel confident with who they are and how they feel about themselves so that when things like this come, (because they will), they will already have some sort of defense set up. Does that make sense? Anyway hopefully I will have more answers when my girls are older.

karen said...

Hi Ash,
I too worry about this with my three girls. Ellison is already struggling with this, and sometimes I think she's the "mean girl" and I haven't yet figured out what to do with that. When I hear her be mean to her friends, I immediately send them home and tell her that if she can't treat her friends nicely, than she won't be able to play with them. I struggle with her often. She is the antithesis of how I was as a little girl (non-confrontational) so I can't really understand her, but I'm trying. We go over scenarios of "when Kaelynn says this, then what are some things you can say back nicely to her, even if she's acting mean towards you?" etc etc.

Caroline recently had an episode with some bullies at her school. I was really happy with the way she handled it. She didn't back down and calmly and firmly stated her position ("I was not laughing at you"). Bullies don't have any fun if people are standing up to them, and they'll usually move on to lower hanging fruit, so to speak. I was prepared to go talk to the principal that week after she told me the girl's 7th grade sister told my 2nd grade Caroline that she was going to kick her a*#. We talked about how she may just try to just be nice to the bully girls. Many times they are miserable little girls who need a friend and will be caught totally off guard if someone is nice to them and asks them to play with them, etc. who knows. My mom always taught me to be kind and treat other people with respect and that's always served me well, and I will teach my girls the same way--have charity. I WOULD get involved if I needed to, however, to nip it in the bud and strangle the wretch who's bullying my child. How's that for charity? :)
half kidding.

heather telford photography said...

This is so funny Ashley cause I remember when we were little freshmans we walked by your room and saw how poofy your bed was (it was the cutest bed i had ever seen). Well then i remember me and a couple friends jumped on it and ruined the puffiness of the comforter and then Kristen told us you were gonna "KILL" us when you saw it and that no one is allowed to touch your bed!! I think i was scared of you for a little while after that!! But of course when i got to know you