October ushers in not only high pollen counts but the hugely anticipated and often dreaded homecoming dance. Non-stop chatter regarding the “right” dress, the “right” date, the “right” group, the “right” after-party—and all the wrong values—float in the air like additional allergens and seem to infiltrate every pore.
It started when a friend called to tell me that her daughter’s two best friends decided this was the right time and season to unfriend her—not only on social media, but the good old-fashioned real-life way as well. She got ousted from their homecoming plans, and they’re currently in discussions regarding her future status in their lives. While this particular teen girl had the guts to tell her so-called former friends to halt their deliberations and saved them the trouble by saying goodbye on her own terms, she’s crushed. Really badly. And her mom is broken up too, because this was long, convoluted, calculated, and plain nasty.
And it made me wonder, where are the other parents? Do they know? Do they wonder what happened to the BFF whose house their daughters practically lived in? “We’re not getting involved,” seems to be the high school parents’ party line. Are they not all grown up and ready to conquer the world on their own?
When my daughter was in 5th grade, we moved to a new community. I’m not sure who was more nervous, my 10-year-old or me, as we walked into her new religious school class that Sunday morning. I was already stressed out from our move and from the intimidating first few days at her new school (yeah, those new moms scared me).
We gathered in the sanctuary with the other returning families, and my daughter sat with her designated class. The veteran girls seemed to leap into the pews, falling into each other’s laps, hugging and giggling on their reunion after the long summer break.
“Can you move over one seat?” they kept asking my daughter so that they could sit with their friends. No one was intentionally cruel, but they didn’t make an effort to be nice, either. They didn’t know my daughter and just wanted to sit with their friends.
One of the moms sitting in front of me took notice and turned around to introduce herself—a seemingly obvious gesture—but one that touched me so deeply, my eyes filled with tears. She offered to arrange a play date for our girls, so that mine would feel more connected. Luckily her daughter, beloved by her classmates, was a wonderful and warm young lady. I will never forget what her mom taught me that day.
Too many mothers don’t notice what’s going on around them, and as long as their kid is fine, they’re fine. This mom not only noticed, but reached out and took action. How many people do that? Not enough.
True, not getting involved is often the right answer. How will our kids grow, learn, and figure it out for themselves if we are constantly stepping in and micromanaging their lives, especially now that they’re teens? But perhaps because they’re now teens, aren’t the stakes higher and the lessons and consequences more profound?
Let’s face it, it’s scientifically proven that teens’ frontal lobes can be sluggish, resulting in a hit-or-miss decision-making process. Add immense social pressure, self-consciousness, and some degree of self-centeredness to the mix and you have a formula for potentially stupid and callous choices. Is now really the time to throw our hands up in the air and stop guiding?
Also, shouldn’t we stick together as parents a little bit here? I’m not suggesting that we plan support group meetings, drink wine, and hold hands singing Kumbaya (wait—that doesn’t sound so bad), but can’t we support one another? Just because it’s not happening to my child doesn’t mean it’s not happening to someone’s child. There are times when teens still need us to intervene. Maybe just when we thought they were all grown up and had it all figured out is when they need our guidance the most.
I will continue to encourage my daughter—to insist, actually—that she take the high road and think of others always. I know she will stumble; we all do. But my job is not done.
In my friend’s case, the parents of the mean girls kept out of it. But the parents of another group stepped up to explain to their daughters what was happening, and after a lot of guidance, tears, and drama, those girls did the right thing. In their group discussions, they actually asked their friends to step into her shoes and imagine how rotten she feels, and it worked. All they needed was a push in the right direction.
I know we may be sick of hearing it, but it takes a village. And the village can’t function ethically and selflessly if we’re all in our huts with our heads buried in the sand.