I never really grew up with friends thanks to the all-too-common moves in the military. It was either me or my friends moving seemingly every year, and I learned pretty quickly that it was easier not to have them. Right choice? No. But it was a choice. And it’s still something I struggle with in a lot of ways… friends moving away.
So that has always been an issue that I’m pretty sensitive to, and it’s also why those people who are my friends know it. Jeff and Sarah, perhaps my favorite friends in the whole world outside of Courtney know that if they called me at 2:00 in the morning begging for help of any kind, including driving the 300 miles to their house, I would be in the car within 15 minutes and on my way. Same holds true for many other people who I won’t even attempt to name because… well, I can’t (though I always have to throw out a special super long-distance hug to the Nashes–we miss you guys!).
So friends… They matter. Perhaps more so to kids though, which makes our current situation so hard.
Katherine has a friend that I’ll call S for the sake of privacy issues. S has been her best friend since last year when they were in Kindergarten together. S has come over for numerous play dates, a sleep over, and other activities. This year, Katherine and S are in different classes. Unfortunately, S’s class has decided that their class is cooler than the other first grade classes, and the attitude is spreading to the playground and impacting the kids.
Recently, S has started to tell Katherine that she won’t play with her. At first Courtney and I were confused by this and wondering if it were something that Katherine was doing wrong. She can be a dominant personality, and that is certainly something that would impact a friendship.
We’ve spent the last few days helping Katherine think of ideas and other things to do. For example, we taught her to not pout and be sad when S says she doesn’t want to play with her. We’ve taught her to cheerful say, “Okay, I’ll go play with someone else.” We’ve identified at least five or six friends who she could play with and who won’t treat her like this. We’ve taught her to think of group activities to play with everyone instead of just the two of them. In short, we’ve done a really good job helping her.
I’ll admit that I spent almost an hour the other night praying and pondering on this situation. It is such an emotionally real one for me, so much so that I took Katherine aside the other day and just held her. I just… it makes me sad to see this, and it consumes me with anguish for her.
Katherine, for her part, has responded so well to all our advice. The last few days, she’s played with other friends, but then we heard from another little girl (one of the “unpopular” ones). She asked Katherine why she plays with S when she talks so badly about her. That was a shock to us, and we wondered if the little girl had misheard.
Until this morning….
When S came by our house to walk with Katherine, Katherine did as we instructed and told S how much she was looking forward to playing with her at recess and that she had a game that she, S, and the ring leader of the “cool” kids (J) could all play together. S promptly replied, “I don’t want to play with you at recess. I just want to play with J alone.”
Katherine handled it perfectly, but I’ll admit I was seething inside.
When they got to school, Katherine and S were standing together when J came over. Katherine again mentioned that she had an idea for a game they could all play together. S, in front of Katherine, looked at J and said, “Katherine always plays such baby games,” along with other disparaging remarks. Courtney overheard the whole thing, as did Katherine.
Courtney–God bless her–immediately changed from sweet charming mother into BANTHAR, GODDESS OF PAIN, JUSTICE, AND PUNISHMENT!!!!! She launched into S and told her off for being, in a word, a jerk. S immediately ran after Katherine, who had started walking away, saying that she didn’t mean it, that she’d play with her, and what not. GRRRR!!!!
Courtney took the rest of the morning talking to other mothers at the school. Here’s what she’s discovered:
- This is a more or less chronic problem caused by the “cool” class thinking they are better than everyone else.
- Katherine is not the only victim.
- Courtney talked to the mom of the girl we didn’t quite believe (T) and found out that that little girl is a chronic victim of bullying from the “cool” class and has suffered considerably at their hands.
Courtney is going to approach the first grade teachers today to make sure they aware what is going on. She’s also going to talk to S’s grandmother. S, as far as I’m concerned, is banished from my house. I seethe every time I think about it, especially considering everything that Katherine has done for her.
As recently as last week, Courtney and I had prayed fervently that we could be strong supports for this girl. She is the daughter of a single mother, and I’ve felt strongly that we have the opportunity to be a good influence on the daughter. And now this?
As I told Courtney, if it comes down to a choice between Katherine and S, there isn’t a choice. I made that choice Day 1, and I stand by it.
So what would you have done? What would you do?
At this point, I am not planning on encouraging any further relationship with S. In fact, Katherine has a play date with a new friend tomorrow, and I plan on pushing that. She also has many other friends that we are encouraging her to associate with. Katherine doesn’t need S and the drama, especially at an age where she doesn’t quite know how to deal with it and where it makes such a life-long impact.
Sigh… I’m glad that Courtney was there when she heard S say that instead of me. BANTHAR, GODDESS OF PAIN, JUSTICE, AND PUNISHMENT is certainly a terrifying and awesome sight to behold, but BANTHAR, GODDESS OF PAIN, JUSTICE, AND PUNISHMENT handled it a lot better than my alter ego would have. 🙂 I would have been terribly tempted to bend her over my knee and give her a good old fashioned spanking, just like I would do for Katherine if I ever caught her doing the same.
Life is too short to waste on false friends. Katherine will understand that some day, but right now she doesn’t. And as long as it matters to her, it will matter to me. That’s the other choice I made that day long ago when I first looked into her eyes. Fatherhood does that to you. Fatherhood should do that to you.