When I ask my daughter who she played with at school, she probably hears a simple question that requires a simple fact-based answer–the name of a person or persons. But when I ask the question, I am really asking for a lot more than that.
I had no idea until today that I am not the only mom who asks that same question with the same trepidation and ulterior motives. When I ask “Who did you play with at school today?”, I am hoping for the simple answer of a girl’s name but bracing myself for all of the other possibilities.
I don’t know if it’s always been this way or if it just took me having daughters to realize it, but girls are really mean and being a kid is kind of hard.
I remember a time when one of my daughters was younger and she was having a hard time with other girls in her class. I innocently asked who she played with at recess. Her answer? She picked up trash. She PICKED UP TRASH! Picking up trash on the playground was a better option to her than trying to deal with the problems she was having making friends.
My friend whom I had lunch with today said that her daughter’s answers are equally as heartbreaking depending on the day. Apparently there are “girl clubs” in the 2nd grade at her school and if you aren’t invited into one, you don’t get to play with the other girls. I don’t mean official school clubs you can join. Or just groups of girls who hang out together. Honest to goodness groups you have to be “accepted” into by the “leaders” in order to play!
As my daughters have gotten older, I’ve had to modify my fact-seeking-questions. Now I ask things like “Who did you talk to at lunch?” and “Who did you sit next to on the bus?” I’m still trying to get at the same things. What I really want to know is whether they are accepted, whether they are enjoying themselves, whether they are interacting well with others. But I’m a mom, and I can’t just come out and ask those questions.
I wonder how many parents out there have no idea that their kids are walking around alone at recess picking up trash. Or sitting on the bus everyday staring out the window because no one will talk to them.
We wonder how tragedies occur when 12-year-olds take their own lives. Are we looking back to the beginning of the story? Where the kids start to feel left out, then “different,” then eventually picked on? Are we as parents taking the time that we should be taking to find out what our kids are really doing when they aren’t right in front of our eyes…and the impact that has on their sense of self-worth?
If we are the parents of the other more popular kids, are we making sure that our kids are accepting of everyone on the playground and reach out when they see kids who are by themselves?
I don’t know what the solution is, and I doubt there is an easy one. The best thing that we can do is to continue to ask the questions and provide guidance. Encourage the kids to get involved in activities where they might make friends. Help them navigate through the hard times. Most of all, just keep asking the questions and keeping the lines of communication open.
How do you deal with these kinds of issues with your kids, if at all?