‘Sorrows’ has been struggling with watching her eldest daughter suffer a broken heart and as sure as if the Universe is playing voodoo dolls – every poke she gets is a pain that I feel.
My eldest daughter (Peanut, age 8.5y) has had the same best friend since she was 4. Kiwi (not her real name) and Peanut have shared their first days of school, the deaths of both of their doggies and their first ‘I’m not at a family member’s house’ sleepover!
Kiwi is like a member of the family at our house. I could go on and on about how deep our history runs with this girl, and how much she is loved by not only Peanut but by my other daughter, my husband and myself, but the details aren’t important – just know that we’ve spent the past 4 years building a relationship with Kiwi that is loving and special.
Peanut and Kiwi, in addition to being neighbors, have managed to stay together for 4 out of 5 of their academic years – both granted boundary exemptions to attend a school that wasn’t in their district, both attending a few years of French Immersion before both transferring to the school that the rest of our neighbourhood children attend. Kiwi is more of a shy and cautious child than my Peanut is – new experiences or situations have always been a bit more nerve racking for her, but Peanut has always been supportive and encouraging, holding Kiwi’s hand when she wouldn’t get on the school bus, signing up for clubs when Kiwi needed a wing man.
Six weeks ago, I started to see a change in my normally happy Peanut. Melancholy, withdrawn, and moody, my ‘How was your day?’ would be met with evasive and distraught mumblings.
Then the bed wetting started.
Then the crying at night.
I literally remember the day that this same little girl, at the age of 18 months, wrapped her little arms around my neck and cried for me not to leave her at the babysitters that morning and wave her pudgy hands signaling her want to come to work with me that day. I remember this day specifically, not because my Peanut was ever clingy or I would encourage that behavior, but because it was Peanut’s very first lesson in feelings. Aware that most children experience tantrums or frustrations due to the inability to articulate their feelings, I’ve made it a top priority to teach my daughters at very young ages, what feelings feel like.
It’s because of these lessons (we’ve covered jealous and insecure as well) that Peanut was able to cry to me one night and say “Mom, I feel lonely.”
It turns out that Kiwi had been sat next to a little girl in class and had striked up a wonderful friendship with her. Fantastic! That little girl, however, preferred to play with Kiwi by herself. Instead of including Peanut during recess and lunch breaks, Kiwi and her new friend would run from my daughter and say that they didn’t want to be disturbed.
Weeks of this took their toll, I encouraged Peanut to ask if she could play with them (that’s a new dynamic – Peanut had to ask to play with her own best friend??) but each time she was told that there wasn’t room for her in their game, or that they wanted private time. Even when other little girls would join their routines, Peanut was still excluded.
“I just go play by myself now Mom, it’s ok – today I found a bouncy ball that had a smiley face on it! We played hide and seek! He’d hide… I’d seek…” she said, genuinely proud of her comradary with this ball.
Her resort to play by herself everyday has and continues to break my heart. And it angers me. It’s the anger that I have the toughest time with.
Of course, I asked her to talk to Kiwi about this. She did, and apparently Kiwi said it’s not her fault – that the other girl won’t let her play with Peanut. When I pushed the issue, Peanut replied that if she bothered Kiwi about this too much that Kiwi wouldn’t be her friend anymore.
“Then that is not the type of friend that you want.” I concluded. “That’s not a good friend, never mind a best friend. A best friend would stand up for you. A best friend would defend you. I’ve raised you to be loyal, and to be kind, and there is a reason that your Principal chooses you to be the ambassador when a new student arrives to the school and needs a friendly face. It’s because you are a good friend, my beautiful girl. You are the kind of friend that gets off the school bus to hug your scared best friend on her first day of school and tell her ‘It’s ok Kiwi, I’m here with you.’ I am proud of you for being the type of friend that you are, and if Kiwi can’t see that, then we don’t want her.”
We both cried then. Peanut: for the loss of her best friend. Me: for the loss of a child that I loved like a daughter, and for the hurt that my baby girl was enduring.
The next day was the girl’s final Cross Country race for their school. Sadly, I watched Kiwi and her new friend exclude Peanut during warm up, even scoot away when she’d attempt to join their twosome. When the convener called for their heat to get to the holding pen, Peanut called to me in a panic, “Mom! Where’s Kiwi? It’s race time and she isn’t here!”
“Don’t worry honey, I’ll find her.” Baby girl, even through all the hurt, you’re still looking out for your friend…
I didn’t have to look far; Kiwi and her bud were located and were joining the rest of the heat.
This particular day, I was suffering. The night before we had cried about losing Kiwi, during pre-race I watched Kiwi carry on as if she’d never even met my daughter, never mind been her best friend for more than half her life, but it was what happened after the race that fueled my fire.
Post-race, hugs and high-fives given out, my husband, Peanut and I are standing a few feet away from where Kiwi, her new BFF and both of their mothers are. With Peanut in full open view, Mrs. Kiwi has both Kiwi and BFF pose for a picture, arms wrapped around each other, participation ribbons in hand. The look on my daughters face would have made a statue cry.
The anger I felt would have scared the devil himself.
You see, I can’t blame an 8 year old girl, I can’t hate the little girl whom my family grew to love… but this grown woman, this Mother and person who has known my baby for an equal amount of time that I’ve known hers – her, I wanted to strangle. I wanted to scream at her viciously “Seriously?? Seriously??? Last week, when you and your husband couldn’t make it to their race, and your little girl crossed the finish line and busted into tears that you weren’t there, it was me that made sure I was there to see her cross, it was me that ran to the halfway path and clapped and cheered for her, it was me that showed her the pictures I took of her, bought her a cold drink and it was me that wrapped my arms around her and kissed her little crying face! And you can’t even snap my kid’s photo!! You can’t even tune in to the situation and become aware that my daughter is watching you validate the hurt and rejection that she’s been experiencing since the beginning of the school year! Haven’t you asked Kiwi once this year ‘How’s Peanut? Everything ok with Peanut?” My tirade would continue, “Come to think of it, thanks to facial recognition on my Mac, I can tell you I have several hundred photos that I’ve taken of your daughter, in addition to the footage I’ve recorded of her Christmas concerts and dance recitals… ya think you could at least include my baby in your post-race victory shot?!?!”
Something awoke in me that was probably a long time in the making… it’s called my Momma Bear. Furious at this woman, not just because she wasn’t considering my daughter in this situation, but for a long list of not considering my daughter; Momma Bear roused.
Only a few weeks ago, I called when the prospect of taking the girls to see a Selena Gomez concert came up. The first person I called was Mrs. Kiwi. In fact, for the past 4 years, I’ve taken Kiwi, my eldest daughter and my youngest daughter to a Christmas show religiously. Not taking Kiwi wouldn’t even have occurred to me. Just like the picture at the race, Mrs. Kiwi didn’t think to return the favor, she had purchased two tickets for her and her daughter. Only mildly put out by this, I just let it roll off my back. But when you added it to weeks of Kiwi’s rejection, the incident at the race, and frankly, months without an invite for a play at Kiwi’s house, it’s bubbled in to a situation that I can’t stand the thought of this woman. Every day, when I see her at the bus stop, and I can’t even stand the sight of her, I want to scream at her… I want to scream “How can you NOT be aware of this??” Instead, Momma Bear just growls softly… curling her top lip threatening to pounce if her cub is hurt any further.
Perhaps she didn’t see my Peanut that day; didn’t see her before, during or after the race… perhaps she didn’t want to take anyone else’s child to see a concert, perhaps she isn’t comfortable having play dates in her home for fear of mess or something like that… I don’t know. Or perhaps she doesn’t value childhood friendships. Perhaps she never experienced the hurt that my baby is experiencing at the hands of her daughter. Perhaps she hasn’t had the same best friend throughout her entire life like I have or know the value of having a relationship like that. Or maybe my Peanut is a bad friend too.
“You should call the school!” my family quips when briefed on the situation we have been dealing with, “That other girl is bullying!”
They’re right you know – apparently exclusion, isolation and manipulation of friendships is called Social Bullying and is one of the more prevalent forms of bullying with young girls.
“You should just encourage her to move on – Kiwi isn’t a good friend to her and you should just encourage her to form a bond with another girl in her class” my trusted friends advise.
It’s not that easy. Just like anyone who has ever loved a boy that hasn’t loved you back knows, not just any boy can take their place. Despite feeling sad, Peanut still loves her best friend very much. She isn’t at the ‘ready to move on phase’ yet, nor have I actively encouraged that.
Right now, I don’t know what I should do. I only know that every day I watch Kiwi skip away from the school bus stop with Mrs. Kiwi, both of them unaware of the suffering that has gone on just five houses away.
Throughout this ordeal, I haven’t wanted to lose my head about it. They’re not married, I’ve told myself. They’re just two little girls and one of which has found chemistry with another. But then my Momma Bears asks: Then why the exclusion?
So I ask you: Would you press the friendship and help Peanut and Kiwi mend their relationship? Peanut is afraid that any reprimand to Kiwi would only make Kiwi mad at her. Would you address the ‘bullying’ with the new friend’s mother or teacher? I doubt this little lady is malicious, she’s just established a fondness for Kiwi and sees the best friend (Peanut) as competition. Would you address the issue with Mrs. Kiwi? I may have failed to mention that Mrs. Kiwi and I don’t exactly communicate effectively.
This may be the first time Peanut has experienced this, but it won’t be the last. My job, as her mother, is to teach her the skills she needs to handle these traumas on her own. There are no more tears, and few nighttime accidents, but there is a sad loneliness about her now that I fear has changed her as a girl. Please, help me. What would you do?