Last night as I was tucking my nine-year-old daughter into bed after a long day for both of us, she reached up put her arms around my neck and asked me to crawl into bed with her so we could snuggle and talk.
When I crawled in next to her she snuggled as close as she possibly could and when she couldn’t get any closer she opened her eyes just long enough to get my attention and said, “Something happened at school today."
My heart dropped as she told me that two of the girls she regularly plays with have spent the last few days building a snow fort with a couple of the other girls in their grade. A fort that seems to be off limits to my daughter and her BFF. Instinctively I was surprised because these four girls play together every day. They are a regular foursome in the playground and at birthday parties.
I asked the anticipated questions trying to understand if something happened, if words were said, if there was a falling out. Tears brimmed and my sweet little girl told me that she didn’t know why and she was sure she hadn’t done anything to hurt their feelings and that the only reason they are excluding them is to be mean.
Within a split second I had plans to email their mothers, to call the school, to protect my baby’s feelings. Instead I took a deep breath and looked my far-too-young-to-be-dealing-with-this-just-yet daughter right in her eyes and said, “I want you to remember how this feels.“
She closed her eyes knowingly and snuggled in a little closer.
“I know this feels awful and I wish I could tell you that it will never happen again but the truth is that girls can be mean and exclude and gossip for no reason and I want you to remember how this feels because I never want you to be the girl that is mean.”
I waited, to see if she would object. To see if she wanted me to be the momma bear and instead she said, “I know Mom. I don’t ever want to make someone sad like this.”
I hugged her tight and made promises of seeing what happens tomorrow and that I will always be there to listen and gave her kisses on top of her head until she fell asleep.
The next day she went to school with a smile on her face and came home tired and content. She told me the other girls got bored of the fort and they played together just like always.
I want to tell her to stay away from those girls, to stand up for herself and to tell them they are wrong. But we’ve all been through this and she too will have to learn to navigate the mean girl waters.
Did I do the right thing? Did I say the right words? Should I have emailed those moms? I still don’t really know. But I do know that my daughter was hurt and for the first time I asked her to remember what that feels like and I hope that hurt and my words will stay with her always.
It won’t save her from being hurt like this again but it may save her from hurting someone else’s daughter.
Today it’s a snow fort… tomorrow a boy… the next day who knows…
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