I have an amazing and wonderfully supportive group of mom friends. I love them and they have been right by my side, supporting and helping me through illness and divorce. It’s common for divorced women to lose social connections with their married friends because a single woman is perceived as a “third wheel” at a couples dinner or outing. That hasn’t happened to me, and after three years of being single, I don’t think it will.
However, my mom friends have a HUGE blind spot when it comes to my kids. On one hand, they are incredibly supportive of Eytan, who was a really difficult kid—picky about food, clothes, and just about everything else. He is the classic underachiever, so when he does well in school or sports, it’s easy for my mom friends and me to be proud of him.
My daughter, Abby, is a different animal. She’s my first born and in typical oldest child style, she is a Type A, very intense overachiever. She’s also very smart and works very hard. As a result of her work ethic and intelligence, she does very well in school. She’s also an incredibly good standardized test taker. My personal view of standardized tests is that they mostly measure a person’s ability to take the test. Period. But as a high school senior she’s measured by SAT/ACT scores and AP exams. It’s unfair to the kids, and for me it has created some underlying conflict with some of my friends who also have high school seniors.
I’ve heard so many times from my friends variations on the same theme regarding Abby: she’s the “golden child;” the teacher’s pet; her life is so easy (because she does well in school); she doesn’t need to work hard; everything comes easily to her. These are not compliments. For years these remarks have been said in a snide and snarky tone, and I’m at the point where I don’t talk about Abby to anyone but my brother who adores her unconditionally. Some of my friends’ children have learning issues such as ADD, and so they do have to work harder than Abby, I admit. But then the snark comes back: their children’s extra-curricular activities are so much more impressive than Abby’s, whether being student body president, youth group president, or excelling at sports. It seems that the only way they can build up their own kids is by tearing Abby down, and that is so unnecessary.
As far as Abby having an easy life—let’s rewind a little bit.
I’ve spent hours with her sobbing to me about school, friends, and her father. She’s very driven, to the point where I have to put the brakes on her and tell her to slow down, calm down, and breathe. Just remember to breathe.
Her father walked out on the family her freshman year of high school and immediately moved in with another woman who has a daughter the exact same age as Abby. I cannot begin to imagine how much that hurts her. She’s gone to therapy by herself and with her father to try and communicate her feelings and how hurt she is. He won’t acknowledge her feelings, and now their relationship is so toxic she has no contact with him. The last time they spoke was in June and it resulted in a screaming fight.
As for me, I have a chronic degenerative illness, so since Abby was 14, she’s been raised by a single parent in poor health. Having one parent leave and another parent with a chronic illness is no one’s idea of an “easy” life. All I can offer her is my unconditional love and support.
It all makes me want to scream. I’ve never portrayed Abby’s life as perfect to my friends, and I’ve never mentioned her grades, her test scores, her awards, or anything else. But we live in a small, tight-knit community, so word gets out. In fact, she was nominated for a full-ride (tuition, room, and board) to our state’s flagship university. I’ve told my brother about it but no one within 500 miles of Abby knows because I know neither of us will get any support or “congrats” regarding the nomination.
I just wish my friends would take a more holistic view of Abby and realize that all kids have their struggles, even if they are less obvious to an outsider. And I wish they’d look past her grades and test scores and be proud of her, just as I love, adore, and am proud of their kids.