Growing up, I used to think that one of the most difficult things was being a preteen/teenage girl.
Then, I grew up and became a Mom. Not only just a Mom, but a Mom to a preteen girl. I am not sure that I had really prepared myself for what this would include. I do know that I had a LOT of preconceived notions about how raising my own kids would go. And, a lot of those things have been not at all how it’s gone. I am also pretty sure that I struggle every day to make the right decisions, and require a LOT of grace, and a LOT of Jesus…..and a LOT of consulting with my friends to get through each and every day. Being a Mom is hard. Being a Mom to a tweenage girl is scary, in so many more ways than one.
I guess I will start by giving a little backstory here…most of you know that I have three kids. My oldest is a girl, Kenzi, who is in sixth grade and is 11 going on 26. The poor thing has been my learning curve on this Mom thing. She made me a Mom, and so therefore she has seen the very most of my failures as a Mom. And still, she loves me way more than I deserve, and I am so thankful for her. She is smart, and funny, and wild, and creative, and loyal, and crazy, and fun, and beautiful. Not only is she beautiful on the outside, she has a gorgeous soul, and a heart of gold. (She has inherited her Momma’s attitude and mouth…but, we wont hold that against her right now. Bless it, she comes by it SO honest.) She’s always been small for her age. She’s dealt with a lot of people, adults and kids alike, underestimating her over the years. But, she perseveres. She is talented, hardworking, and one of the most amazing AllStar Cheerleaders I know. I am partial to that, but she never ceases to amaze me with how fast she learns things, and how fearless she really is. Needless to say, she’s pretty much nothing short of amazing.
Let me preface the following with this, I am one of those people who believes that the word “bully” is used entirely too loosely these days. I feel like sometimes just because you don’t like someone, doesn’t automatically mean you are “bullying” them, and I understand that kids are mean and cruel because I WAS a teenage girl once, and I was not nearly as pretty or amazing as Kenzi. I was a chubby, okay looking friend of all the pretty girls and I caught my share of ugliness from boys and girls alike. I was never bullied. So, when all the following sequences of events started happening I was very weary to ever use that word, and went a LONG time before really realizing what was going on. As a parent, this is easy to do, and I hate that it is. But, I am not a jump on the “my kid is being bullied” train just to jump there. I believe in standing up for yourself, and those around you and thought that I had taught my kids the same. But, I figured out really quickly that I wasn’t as on top of it as I thought I was.
Last year, Kenzi had a hard year. It started early on, and she never really came to me freaking out, but it started as comments that she would make about things that people said to her, and about her to other people. I told her to shrug it off, stiffen up that upper lip, chin up, and to ignore them. It was a group of girls who were not even in her small circle of friends. It was a group of girls who decided that they “liked” her “boyfriend” (I use that word loosely because we all know it’s not a real boyfriend in 5th grade, but whatever…). It started as comments to her like “you’re ugly”, “no one likes you” “so and so doesn’t really want to be your boyfriend because he likes me” and so on. A separate boy, told her on a daily basis that she was ugly, and looked like an alien. Again, kids are ugly, but you have to let your kids fight some of their own battles and let them learn on their own to be able to stand up for themselves and that Mom won’t always be there to save them. This continued all year. The comments became more frequent. It kept happening until I came home one day to find her sitting in her floor alone. I got home and went to tell her that I was home, she was folding laundry and as soon as she saw me, she broke down and completely lost it. She let out all those tears that she had been holding on to for I don’t even know how long. She couldn’t hardly get it out. I finally got her to calm down, and she told me that she had been at school and this same group of girls who had been ugly to her pretty much all year had been calling her names out loud in front of the whole 5th grade in the gym. Not to her face. But, talking ABOUT her loud enough that other people overheard and came to tell her. When I asked her what type of things they had called her, my breath was taken completely away. ….bitch….slut….hoe…..These were the words that some girls who didn’t even know my beautiful girl were calling her for anyone to hear. My amazing and smart daughter who had been instructed to stay away from them, and they kept on. I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. Then stomped on. I will never in my life forget the look on her face, and how that made me feel. And, I realized it was bigger than what I thought it was. And, I had to do something.
I did the right things, I contacted the school. They handled it as best as they could, by pulling the girls into the office and telling them that there would be severe consequences if it continued. So, the taunting stopped for a time. Then, that same group of girls suddenly wanted to be her friend, and I had to tell her that it was okay to NOT to want to be friends with people who had tormented you…but, that you had to be nice. That is hard.
Fast forward to this year. It has been different. It was better. Things were moving along smoothly.
Then, something seemed to change. I noticed that Kenzi and her friends were doing this thing called “pranking”. She was on both ends of it…sometimes she was the person doing the pranking, and sometimes she was the one being pranked. And by pranked, I mean that several of the girls would get together and gang up on one of the other girls in their friend group to make them feel left out. To try to pit her against someone else to get her to slip up and say something bad about someone, so that they could be mad. Think three way calling attacks, on steroids. I witnessed her both “pranking” someone (which I stopped as soon as I figured out what was going on) and watched her be “pranked”. The night she was pranked she couldn’t even sit and watch a movie at the movie theater with me and her brother and sister because her phone was blowing up. She ended the night in tears, which caused me to jump all over an unsuspecting 11 year old girl and send out a text to several Moms. I had turned into THAT Mom. I wasn’t really proud of it, but I couldn’t watch her anxiety continue to rise and watch her continue to cry. So, I put a stop to it. The girls got in trouble, and they apologized, and we moved on.
But, it left a rift in their friend group that I can’t help but feel like I caused. I asked myself a hundred times if I should have just stayed out of it and let her work it out or figure it out on her own. Had I crossed a line? Had I done more harm than good to her? I had so many questions. I had so much self doubt.
And, for the most part life went back to normal. I ask her every single day, “What is going on at school?”, “Is everyone getting along?”, “Did anything happen today?” “Who is mad at who, and why?” Because I don’t want to be the Mom that isn’t involved, and I don’t want to be the one who has to look at myself and say that I didn’t ask. That I didn’t try to figure out it out. That I didn’t know. There are so many scary stories and they all start with parents having no idea what was going on. I didn’t want to be that Mom.
Then, when I thought things were okay….another thing hit me. One day, quietly this time, she said “Sometimes I have never felt so alone.” With silent tears rolling down her cheeks. Now, I know most of you will say that she is dramatic. I know she is. But, this was different. Matter of fact. And so incredibly sad. I don’t know how someone who is so loved, and so bright, could feel alone. But, then again, I did understand. I’ve felt that way before. And, knowing that she felt that way, even for a minute broke my heart.
I know she isn’t perfect. She’s not. She’s flawed just like the rest of us. But, at that moment she was broken. And raw. And I really didn’t know what to say. So, I sat for a minute and then addressed it as best as I could. I told her that she couldn’t force people to be her friend. That she couldn’t control who didn’t want to sit with her at lunch. That she couldn’t control what other people said about her, especially behind her back. That she couldn’t control the mean things she had heard about herself. That she couldn’t control anyone’s attitude or reaction but her own. That she couldn’t make people love her like I did. And, most importantly, I told her that all of this was OKAY. You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the orchard….but, there would always be people that didn’t like peaches. And, it was okay. And that she didn’t have to be friends with people who treated her like she was less than. And that she had to take care of herself first, and stop worrying about other people around her. I wish I could take away the crippling anxiety that I see too often. I wish I could quiet her mind at night when she can’t sleep because she is having a panic attack. I wish I could make her see that the way people see her has nothing to do with her and most of the time everything to do with them. I know its a hard lesson. It’s one I still struggle with as an adult. And, I wish that I could fight all of her battles for her.
And, it’s hard on a Momma’s heart. I just want everyone to see her through my eyes. To see the sweet, beautiful, loving, and sensitive girl I see. I honestly wish I could take all the girl drama away. All of it. Because all the girls I know are beautiful and unique in their own way, and everyone brings something amazing to the table. And just because someone is different than you, does things differently than you, does something that you wish you could do, has something that you wish you could have, dates a boy that you like, gets the outfit that you wanted, etc etc etc etc etc etc etc…….it doesn’t make you any less special. You have to learn to bloom where you are planted and be so thankful for the things that you have. I promise, that pretty much every girl I know is fighting some sort of battle that her friends know nothing about.
I know a lot of high school Moms are looking at this saying….”Ohhhh girl you just wait.” And, I know that. I know what is coming….I used to be a teenage girl, remember? And, I am not going to lie, I am terrified. Life in the age of social media scares me. Sometimes, kids have a hard time turning off the things that they her that make them hurt. And, that is scary. But, I refuse to give up. I refuse to leave her to the wolves. And I will continue to tell her how beautiful, and smart, and amazing, and talented she is. And that she’s everything. Because she is. I will tell her every day until she no longer needs me to, until she finally believes me. Because that is what a Mom does.
I am not sure I knew what I was getting into when I had kids. No one prepares you that is is literally like sending your heart out into the world unprotected and hoping that people don’t come along and damage it. Trying to protect it from afar without getting to involved. Thinking it might just be a better not to get involved and just homeschool your kids to protect them. And, not just with Kenzi…..with all of my babies. She just happens to be the first that I have had to learn with. But, you can’t do that. You can’t fight every battle for them. Boys, Friends, Mean People, Bullies…..they have to learn.
I pray every night that I am not letting them down miserably and know that I am doing everything I can to be the best Mom I can be for them. I will let you know in a few years how I did….