DAME’s Friendkeeper tells a mom whether she’s meddling, and reveals when it’s OK to question a volatile couple’s engagement.
I have a daughter going into her last year of middle school and ever since she got there, I’ve seen the nature of her friendships evolve. They’re not the “You like princesses? I like princesses!” playdates of yore. Now that she’s getting older, her female friendships have taken on a whole new scope. She’s not the queen bee of her group, but she seems to be a lady-in-waiting. At least for the time being—allegiances are forever changing and I would need a constant play-by-play to know who’s closest to whom and who is no longer privy to the inner circle of note-passing and sleepovers. But I do know enough to realize that my daughter is dealing with a lot of social complexities, ones that will probably forge patterns and friendships that will last for years to come. Being my wise old self, I feel like I have a few tips for these girls that could illuminate the goings-on of their friendship hierarchy, and I can’t help but want to step in like a friendly friendship coach. But is that my place? Should I just leave them be to work it all out on their own? If this were a Mean Girls–level situation, I’d certainly step in, but it’s just normal tween- to teen-girl stuff, stuff that I happen to have been through, and am kind of dying to advise about.
What should I do?
Meddling or Mentoring
My daughter started middle school this year and I was in a bit of a panic; she’s an amazing child but she marches to the beat of her own drummer and he’s not drumming Taylor Swift, he’s drumming Thelonius Monk. The school is a couple of blocks from my house and one day I was walking my dogs and happened to pass the schoolyard at recess. There I saw my little sweet angel all by herself while other kids were in groups playing soccer, telling secrets, and planning to perform human sacrifices. My heart broke in only the way a mother’s heart can break. I called her over and we chatted and she was very happy to see me. After that I rearranged my schedule to walk over there for recess every day. My daughter would be standing by the fence waiting for me and we’d talk and she’d pet the dogs and my only wish was that I could shadow her throughout the school day … shove kids out of the way that jostled her, respond to teachers questions to interpret text, make sure she ate her sandwich before her cookie. A few weeks into the school year she said she needed to speak to me about something important. “Mom,” she said, “do you think you could stop coming to recess? I end up waiting by the fence for you and miss the time playing with my friends.” DUHHHHHHHHHH, I felt like the biggest mook. In my desire to shield her from this social discomfort, I prevented her from working out the problems for herself. Or I almost did, fortunately she’s smarter than me. The fact is, we do see things that they don’t see, but they see things we don’t see and their capabilities are different. Their brains aren’t quite finished yet—I think that’s why you need to be 35 to be elected president, though I’d wager some of the people throwing their hats in the ring for the next election have less formed brains than some toddlers. Anywho, I’m as helicoptery of a mother as one can be; I’d like to put my daughter in a pink Glinda bubble and never let her get her feelings hurt, but then she won’t be able to run the world, which I am certain she will do … if she wants. Most likely if you told them what was happening they wouldn’t believe you anyway, so you’d be wasting your breath. Just remember you got through it yourself, too.
I have these friends who are a couple, both wonderful people individually, but together they’re kind of a trainwreck. They have one of those “break up and make up” relationships where they’re either in the midst of a horrific fight, or are just totally gross with their PDA and love for one another. In short, it’s not the healthiest of relationships and we all assumed its demise was imminent. Except…last week they announced their engagement. C’mon! Everyone else seems to know this is a bad idea. Am I supposed to tell them that? Or am I supposed to bite my tongue and help plan a damn bridal shower? Feigning believable excitement about this future union will be grounds for an Oscar, so it feels like a no-win situation. Please advise!
Um, hello? Have you never seen a Fred and Ginger movie? Don’t you know that all that fighting is a smokescreen for mad, passionate love? Do you not remember how many times Lucy Van Pelt threatened to slug Schroeder?
But really, not everyone “meets cute.” And there are as many sorts of working relationships that don’t fit the mold as stars in the sky. My sense is that they know what they are and that they like this heat and break up and make up. Some people dig drama. I don’t, I like everyone to keep their voices down. What does all of this mean? Well, it doesn’t mean you need to smile and keep quiet. There’s a reason for that line, If anyone knows a reason why these two should not be wed, let him speak now blah blah blah. I think it would be quite fine to say to whichever one you are closer to, “I was surprised to see hear you’re getting married, I kind of thought you were going to split up.” And they may shed some light or they may not. But then you should get on board and, you know, forever hold your peace.
Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.
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