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Tween Angst

May 15, 2009

autumnThere’s that part of me—that big, bad, protective Mama Bear part of me—that would like to jerk some little girl up by her pony tail right about now. This is the part of me that rises up with a fierceness to stand in front of my sobbing ten year-old as she asks me, “Did you get an invitation for C—-’s birthday party, Mom? Or L—’s? or M—’s?”


Then there’s this other part that sighs inwardly and wonders rationally if she did something to provoke the situation, because I know my daughter is A) a bit of a drama queen B) a bit of my-way-or-the-highway.


When my answer is no, and no, and no again, her sobs increase. I try for reason. “How do you know they’ve already had their birthday parties, Autumn?”


“Because they talk about them! I invited all of them to mine! But only one of them came!” Wailing. I can’t take it.


“I know, honey, I know.”


What is going on here? Autumn seemed to be plenty well-liked at her former school, but every now and then I catch a glimpse of some friendship turmoils with the shift to this one, a Christian private school.  I was expecting, while not open arms and the melodic strains of “Kum-Ba-Yah” floating through the halls, at least some semblance of warmth and “hey, we’re glad you’re here.” (Not just, “we’re glad your money’s here.”) Instead, with the notable exception of a few individuals, I get a very clear cut sense of closed ranks from time to time that is deeply disturbing. I figured, though, that given time and proximity, that those ranks would eventually open to my children. Lawson, starting as he is with kindergarten, doesn’t appear to be having any problems. Autumn, on the other hand, is trying to break into a clique that has been around for the past several grades—fairly difficult for a fourth grade newbie.  


I sat down with her to chat about the problem, wishing there was someone nicer and more sensitive around to handle it. Growing up with three brothers and no sisters, and then marrying Duane tends to stomp on all of your impulses toward sweetness and light. While I know how to be girlie, I honestly don’t know how to be a girl sometimes—fraught with emotion, tenderness, fragility, and compassion. I lean heavily toward the “suck it up” school of parenting and life, and most of the time that works. Not tonight, though. I was going to have to pull out the Girl.


I patted the bed beside me with its quilted squares of pink and brown and cream and Autumn sat, nervously plucking at the quilt as though she had done something wrong. “Okay. So. Tell me how your friends treat you at school. Do they act like they like you?” I asked. Blunt, but I figured it would get to the root.


“Well…” Her fingers grew more agitated on the quilt. “L. says that C. says I brag about my medals, and C. says that L. says the same thing. And M. got mad when I beat her in a race…” The list went on, pretty much all in the same vein. By the time she wound to a close, she was on her knees at the side of the bed, her face mashed into the mattress. Crying. “But I don’t brag!”


“Autumn, how many people thought you were bragging?”


Louder sobs.


“How many times did you carry your medals to school?” When I told you not to, I added silently.


“Only two!”


“No—after every competition you took in your ribbons and medals and flashed them around. How many times do you do your back handsprings and things out on the playground?”


No answer.


“Just because you can do these things does not mean that you should do them. No one wants to be reminded constantly that they are unable to do something, or to feel like they’re not good enough. Do you understand what I’m saying?”


Muffled hiccup.


“When you’re friends with somebody, it should be about your friend, not about yourself. Maybe you’ve been forgetting that a little bit, and that’s why your friends haven’t been as nice to you as they should be. Never brag on yourself—your daddy and I will take care of that because we’re pretty proud of you. Be humble. Did you know that the Bible tells us to be humble?”


“Yes.” Another hiccup.


There was silence for a few minutes, while I rubbed circles on her back and her crying subsided. Then, thoughtfully, “Mom?”




“What’s humble?”

8 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2009 2:36 pm

    You are a good mom. I would have stewed over that situation and tried to figure out what the right thing to say would be. And once I had it figured out the child would be somewhere in the neighborhood of ten years older and it wouldn’t matter anymore.

    I think it is so tough for kids to figure out the whole humble thing. We encourage them to excel and be their best but then they need to keep it to themselves so that other kids don’t get annoyed at their happiness over their success.

    Anyway… this post really got me thinking about things. And, for the record, my mama bear instincts are fiercely intact, too. Plus, your daughter is beautiful.

  2. May 16, 2009 10:02 am

    You know, I had a boy in my Math class at the start of the year who moved…he was a ‘bragger.’ He couldn’t see what he was doing as being show-offy, just that nobody liked him and that they were all jealous that he was smarter than them all.

    Our discussions of not shouting about how great you are from the rooftops was hard for him to comprehend because he wanted everybody to know and thought that this was a sure way for him to get friends. He was sure that people would admire him, and want to be around him because of it.

    Unfortunately, he moved before we could make any real changes and – from what I hear – the same thing has since happened at his new school.

    I wonder if it would help if you explained it as if she knew somebody famous at her school…and how this person maybe went off about how great they were; how would it make her feel if she couldn’t do those things?

    I always ask my students who it is that they most admire and the year that one of Gerb’s kids was in my class they all said it was her firstborn womancub. They all said it was because she was nice to everybody and friendly. She was somebody who was always willing to help and included everyone else.

    Sorry this comment is so long, but I know how frustrating this must be for you as a parent.

    Good luck.

  3. hintonrae permalink*
    May 16, 2009 9:44 pm

    Thanks, G and T, for the comments and encouragement. I sometimes feel like anything but a good mom, so I appreciate that so much. And I can only pray that she’s young enough yet to have a heart soft enough to actually see wisdom in her mama’s words…not sure that’s the case, but my fingers are crossed. There’s just such a fine line to hobble upon, because there’s obviously some insecurity there somewhere–so you want to build them up…jeezie pete parenting is hard.

  4. May 17, 2009 12:29 pm

    Sounds like you handled the situation well. It is hard being a parent and watching your children feel left out. I love how you explained to her about being humble and most of all about leaving the bragging up to the parents b/c that is our job. Beautiful post!

  5. May 20, 2009 11:12 am

    Oh, man… that is so hard. 😦 I moved in 3rd grade & had my best friend not assertively picked me out to BE her best friend, it would have been VERY rocky. I’ve had a few friends grow up in Christian private schools and it seems like the kids are either super wonderful or ruthlessly mean. I’ll keep your daughter in my prayers that she finds someone to pick her out like my best friend did! God was looking out for me big time… I trust He will look out for yoru daughter, too! Poor girl… 😦

    And thank you so much for your comments about wordpress vs. blogspot. I will definitely keep that in mind!! That’s good information to know!!

  6. Shirley permalink
    May 20, 2009 3:35 pm

    This is the age that ugh!!! gets very tough for girls. For me it was 5th grade, for Jess it was 6th grade and we all remember when it was. Being a girl is so very hard. She probably “show’s off” or “brags” trying to fit in and get them to like her. It’s tough to try to know whether to be impressive to them or be impressed by them. Who knows which is right. We all get through it and are stronger because of it. I say heck!! Let her do her stuff on the playground, if it makes her happy! She’s awesome at what she does and they need to get to know her and they will realize that too!!

  7. hintonrae permalink*
    May 20, 2009 10:35 pm

    M–thanks for your prayers and encouragement for Autumn. I’m so thankful for everyone out there that keeps her in their prayers for the smallest of things.

    S–you are so right, and I’m so glad to hear your perspective on this. Hopefully this will be A’s tough year, and then she’ll be done with it!

  8. May 20, 2009 11:00 pm

    This picture of Autumn is just breath taking!
    You’re such a good mommy! You said such good things to her!

    Umm…. it gets better around 8th grade – at least it did for my daughter. She’s now in 9th grade and we get a long ‘pretty well’. Some times we have spats but for the most part it’s better.

    Then it gets better when they move our or get married and have babies. That is when they realize you’re the best! LOL – at least that’s what happened with my sons! LOL

    Don’t ever give up!

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