January 18, 2012
I never know what I’m going to hear when I ask my daughter “how was school?” Most days, I hear about the daily drama. Girls who tell her “I hate you.” Girls who tell her “You’re mean.” She is supposed to write something on the board that she did over the weekend. This week, she wrote that she broke a swimming record after working really hard for it, and that is apparently “mean.” The day after she got another Junior Olympic qualifying time, she didn’t even mention it, opting instead to talk about how much fun she had at a sleepover. She’s not the type of kid to brag and rub things in. When you tell her she did a good job with a race, most times she smiles and then stares at the floor. She rarely takes credit for all of her hard work, and she does work hard. After working so hard for months to break that record, she was excited to share it with her class. And what did she get? “You’re mean!” whispered to her across the classroom, then screamed in her face at lunch in front of a table full of girls, and then told via one of her friends through the grapevine too, because the other two methods weren’t enough. Why is the other girl mad? Because she used to beat Swim Girl in that stroke. Not anymore, not even close. I always tell Swim Girl that jealousy and nastiness weigh you down and cause drag, in life and especially in the pool. How right I am.
It’s not just the mean and nasty stuff that bothers me either. Yesterday, my daughter showed me the “status” of some of her friends on Skype. Two of her friends have something that says they are “in a (sic) relashinship.” My question is “how can you be in one if you can’t even spell it?”
I happen to be friends with my daughter on Skype. I don’t allow her to have a cell phone at the very young age of 10. However, she does have an iPod Touch that she saved up for and bought herself. She has Skype on it and uses it primarily to communicate with her grandmother and grandfather who live hours away. I like being able to text her at swim meets and when she’s at a friend’s house. I am constantly monitoring her communication on Skype, and I often don’t like what I see from some of her “friends.”
Yesterday, she had a friend telling her to change her status to reflect that she is also in a “relashinship.” She happens to have a boy who is a friend that she hangs out with a lot at school. Sometimes he calls her. I monitor those calls too. Mostly, they talk about cannibalism, funny movies they’ve seen and other random, harmless stuff. They don’t talk about their feelings. There’s no “I love you” or not drama. They are just two kids who get along really well and have a lot in common. They remind me a lot of me and my best guy friend in school.They frequently sit together at lunch or talk at recess. They are friends and it is a completely innocent friendship. I see quite the opposite with some other girls who are her age.
The truth of the matter is that many girls her age like boys; my daughter likes to swim. Swim Girl spends at least five days a week in the pool which amounts to about eight hours minimum each week (not including meets). She practices “up” with the older age groups and she more than holds her own. A couple weeks ago, she heard a couple girls talking about her in the locker room after practice. They were talking about how hard she works and how much she deserves the successes she has had. She has found a really great group of girls at her swim club, a group that supports her accomplishments. At this past weekend’s meet, one of the 13 year old girls came up to her after her 50 free race and gave her a high five. This 13-year old then turned to me and said, “She had an amazing race! She is only like two seconds off of my time and I’m 13! That was awesome!” I only wish she had more girls like that at school.
There are a few of them. One girl swims with her at her club and is quite good herself. The two times in recent weeks when Swim Girl has been attacked by the very jealous “You’re mean” girl, this friend has stuck up for her. They do exist; I have to keep telling myself that, because otherwise I would want to rip her out of school and just home-school her. I know you can’t protect your kid from nasty people. The truth is they exist and they’re everywhere. At some point, she’s going to have to learn how to deal with them; she actually did a pretty good job of it yesterday. I just wish she had a little more time to be a kid before her dad and I had to start having “insult class” with her at home, to teach her how to hold her own when girls are nasty. I wish I had a little more time before I had to be lying in bed at night thinking about how to insulate her from this crap.
While many parents dread the day when their daughter moves on to middle school, I can’t wait. Diluting the nastiness is exactly what needs to happen; and I’m hoping that she will expand on the few good friends she has at school now and form a solid group that insulates her from all the drama. When my daughter hears about someone else doing well with swimming, she congratulates them and she truly means it. She shakes hands with the girls who beat her at swim meets and the ones she beats too. I have raised a good little athlete, but I have also raised a good sport. Shame on the parents who haven’t.