Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I Have No Friends, and Other Heartbreaking Things You Never Want To Hear Your Child Say

I had a heart wrenching talk with my daughter, she was afraid to go back to school because she didn't think she had any friends there (insert that horrible feeling of not being able to save your kids from heart ache). She gathered this because the year books had a place to write down the names of your friends and no one wrote her name (not everyone filled it out). I'm also fuzzy on how she saw everyone's year books, but I digress.  She was in tears and ashamed.  She has been excluded by a bullying girl, there's no denying that.  However, she can also be terribly shy.

 I acknowledged that feeling of being left out is awful, and that it's hard to make new friends when everyone else already knows each other. I told her about my experience moving schools.
I'm a stop worrying about it and start fixing it kind of person, so together we went over the names of the girls she has talked about doing stuff with at school.
"What about so and so?  Don't you draw pictures together?"
"She's not your friend?" I asked.
My daughter shrugged. "She likes my art, she showed me how to draw a fox."
"That's her way of trying to find things in common to share with you, that's how friendships start."
"Oh." Honestly sounding surprised.
"That's how my friendship with Kyle, Kelden, and Beth started, but we weren't close right away. We shared music together and then found out we had other things in common and it built from there.  It took just over a year and we all put in effort. So enjoy art with her, ask her about other things she likes.  Some friendships take awhile to build, but that's okay because they usually end up being good ones."
She nodded and snuggled more into me, I could tell more reassurance was needed:
"What about that other girl, the one you email?"
"Oh, we lost touch this Summer."
"So why don't you email her tomorrow and ask how her Summer was?"
"Yeah, I guess I could do that." Her voice sounding a bit lighter.
"Do you have guys you hang out with at school?"
"Yeah, ______ and _______." She laughed. "They are trouble makers."
"Are they mean?"
"No, they just sometimes cause trouble for the teachers."
"Well as long as you don't join in, in the classroom, you could make friends with them. Sounds to me like there are people who want to be your friends, but maybe you aren't letting them in because you
are shy."
"Yeah, maybe."
(I have seen several kids approach my daughter on the street and say "Hi." My daughter quietly says it back then steps away.) I could tell that it wasn't from a lack of interest that she wasn't making close connections. She has a hard time interacting at first, she needs to ease into it.
"Truth be told," I started. "I've been the popular girl in a big group of friends, but many of us weren't really friends, we weren't always nice to one another and I kinda wished that I was in that smaller group of friends, because they seemed to care about and support one another.  Find people or who want to put time and energy into you, the ones who care about your feelings, and do the same for them. Those are the good friendships."
"Okay." She smiled.
"You think you can sleep now?"
"Good night, sweetie."

The kids in the homeschool community were always so inclusive. They were taught to be by their parents.  My daughter could be her shy self at first and still be invited to play in a game, sit in a group etc. Public school is such a culture shock, where many of the kids are guarded and clique. However, this will teach her how to make friends in new cities and workplaces.  I hope she will come talk to me some more about it, friendship is so important.  Luckily, she still has a really good friend from the homeschooling community that lives up the street. So she won't miss out on having girl talk.

Now, I've written that.  I need to compartmentalize and not take my daughter's feelings to bed with me.  Which is hard.  However, if I take on her feelings, she won't come to me anymore because she doesn't want to make me feel bad.  She is a very compassionate little girl, perhaps even empathetic to a fault.  She has such a kind, sensitive, heart, I'd like her to be able to keep it that way.