I have spent the last week or so trying to help my daughter understand how to be a friend. How she hasn’t yet figured out the fundamentals of this at age twelve is kind of a mindfuck to me, but it is quiet clear to me that lessons I thought were long since learned by my daughter have been eclipsed by her own personality and insecurities and low self esteem.
I see it clearly because I recognize so much of it. These are the issues that plague me too when it comes to interpersonal relationships. I am slow to reach out to people. I am constantly comparing myself to others and often feeling inadequate in the comparison. I pull back and spend time alone when I feel overwhelmed with the ease that others seem to live their lives. And my daughter does all of this too, in spades.
But what my daughter has also done is betray the trust of her friends in an attempt to “step up”.
It’s the age, for sure. She is clearly obsessed with popularity and making friends in the upper echelon social groups. Groups she has always stood on the outside of, but knows people in. She is trying ever so hard to bust on through, but has no idea how. Because she does lack in self esteem. Because she does not have the intuitive sense of what those types of girls are interested in. Like me, she’s always a few steps behind the trend, the crowd. So what she did instead was try and gossip her way into the group.
My daughter, unbeknownst to me, told a girl something her best friend had said about that girl. And in doing so, betrayed a trust so completely that she has now lost that friend.
In addition, I know the mothers of both of these girls. And because of my daughter’s loose lips, they didn’t speak for over a month, apparently. These women are good, good friends, and also both friends of mine.
I am mortified. I am confused. I am angry. And I just am at a loss as to how to help my daughter at this point.
I remember, of course, that need for acceptance. I went through middle school thinking if I just lost ten pounds, or had the right mini skirt, or haircut, that Those Girls would finally like me. That Those Boys would finally notice me. But they never did. And over the years it became less and less important as I found my path and people who were like me.
I want to impart this wisdom, all of the things I learned about cliques and peers and social groups to my daughter. To tell her that she needs to be a good friend to those she has and treasure and value the friends in her life instead of worrying about those who aren’t giving her the time of day. I am engaging her in endless conversations about friendship and trust and respect and feeling all the while that she isn’t hearing a word I am saying.
I am trying so hard to put aside my own feelings (fortunately, the women in question are wonderful women, have since mended their fences and were kind enough to share the story with me in the hopes I can help my daughter become less socially ostracized) and help her. But underneath my concern for her, and my recognition of the things I know about myself in her is this fear that I am failing her. That somehow, somewhere, I haven’t given her enough of something to know instinctively how to be a good friend. How to be a good sister, daughter, partner. How to be able to step outside herself and her own wishes and see things from someone else’s point of view.
I have never felt so inadequate or broken hearted as a parent. But I am resolving to keep talking, keep trying, keep at it. What other choice is there?