I consider myself a staunch opponent when something is not right. I will not shy away from a fight, even one that seems unwinnable. When we purchased a refrigerator, and the ice machine broke shortly after purchase and could never be properly repaired, I spent hours and hours back and forth with the company. They eventually gave me all my money back and let me keep the fridge!
When our insurance company was fighting sending my husband to MD Anderson to get necessary tests following a cancer diagnosis, I did not quit until we got approval to see a doctor there. And when the school board wanted to change the structure of the neighborhood K-8 school to K-5, I joined a committee to ensure that didn’t happen.
I will do everything in my power to win a battle in which I am passionate.
The same used to be true when dealing with issues with my children. If someone pushed one of mine off their bike on the bike path, I was quick to contact the parent. If a child was aggressively harassing my little one I was sure to let the school know and to involve the parents. And if a teacher was being unfair or unjust or ineffective, I had no problem setting up a conference with whoever needed to attend.
But as my children have entered their teenage years, I have had to force myself to step back. To let them fight their own battles. To give them the tools and the words and the resources they need to stand up for themselves, but to allow them the space in which to do it.
And oh my goodness, y’all. The battle I fight with myself to allow this to happen is the hardest battle of all.
Sure, I could swoop in like I always have and contact parents when girls are being hurtful with bullying and exclusionary behaviors towards my daughter. We live in a fairly small community, so everyone knows everyone. It would be an easy text/phone call/email. I know we all say “I would want to know if my child were……….” and I do, for sure. But asking another parent to fight the battle for my child, well, it does not give her the skills she needs that will last a lifetime. Plus, if a child is already being negative towards another, does getting in trouble at home really make that problem go away? Probably not. It probably makes it even worse.
But you know what is even worse than exclusionary/hurtful behavior? Holding myself back from disciplining a child directly. When close friends act unkindly and then show up the next day at my house? UGH! It takes all my power to just say hello! I really want to sit them down and mediate a discussion around inclusion and kindness and friendship. OR, send these children texts to let them know how awful they are being and ask them to correct their ways. But, again, doing so would only solve the problem for the moment and not for the long term.
My son, who started at a brand new high school, was coming home miserable day after day. No close friends. Super hard course load. Loneliness and self-doubt and sadness prevail. Yep, I could find a new high school. Or call all the teachers and set up tutoring. Or force him to invite people over to hang out. Heck, I would have done this when he was five.
But, now, he needs to learn how to handle challenges on his own.
He needs to figure out how to settle into a new place and learn the people and the places and the fun. Because, in less than four years, I will be sending him way farther than just across the bridge to do just that. (Side note, he is now THRIVING at this new school and loving it!
So what advice have I given in recent days? Well, the usual.
- Stand up for yourself.
- Advocate for yourself.
- Walk away.
- Try to seek out new friendships so as not to be limited when friendships turn.
- Get involved in new activities.
- Continue to be proud of who you are and what you like. Be honest with your friends when they are hurtful.
- Be honest with me.
I found this article to be particularly helpful as we have only just begun this journey.
You never want to see your child hurt. Ever. You want to control what you can, where you can. But growing up comes with letting go. So you have to let them go. Let them hurt. Let them fight. Let them cry. Let them figure things out. Because, sadly, life is not filled with only the good. There will always be the mean girls, the excluding girls, the “friends” that really are not. The class that seems impossible, the upcoming dance when you are dateless, the feeling of being left behind when friends move on.
So giving them the tools to deal with these situations, while they are still under your roof and can lean on you for advice and guidance, is oh so important. Definitely not fun. And definitely not easy. But definitely worth it in the long run and isn’t that what parenting is all about?