Some people will tell you that having toddlers are harder than having babies and that teenagers are harder than toddlers. I have always said that each stage is different and comes with different challenges.
Eventually, you get to the stage where you start to step back and guide your kids as they start to tackle these challenges on their own. You can’t do everything for them forever, and they won’t grow as a human if you solve all of their problems for them.
And when life throws you curveballs, like a pandemic, you need to be even more patient in your guidance because you’re faced with challenges no one ever expected — lockdowns, physical distancing, and virtual school.
Maintaining friendships wasn’t something that could happen every day at school. A conscious effort was made to keep the kids connected with their friends in any way they could. We went from trying to limit their time on their phones to allowing them more time so they could Facetime, call, Discord, anything which helped them be social.
After 18 months of virtual school and a disjointed connection with their friends, the girls went back to school in September. We talked with the kids to prepare them for the potential changes that may become more apparent. But I’m not sure Craig and I were prepared for what actually did happen.
One of our girls had a core group of friends and for the first few months, everything seemed to be going fairly well. Some of the kids had become closer to some than others, but, hey, that happens with adults too.
At the end of October, we noticed that things with the friend group were starting to change. New people were being included and others were stepping away. The ebb and flow of friendships.
Some of the changes weren’t all that great. By February, the dam burst.
One of the closest friends, through a text chat, accused our daughter of manipulating them and other hurtful accusations. Our daughter got manipulated by this teen so badly in this chat that she apologized for things that were not her fault and that she did not need to apologize for. And at the end of the chat, the other person said…
“I don’t think we should be friends anymore.”
Her confidence was shattered. There were so many tears. We were so upset. I was shocked when I read the text message thread. How could one teenager be so hurtful?
My heart broke.
Over the next few days, my daughter told us that she was eating alone in the library because she didn’t want to be with a group of friends due to that one person. I wanted to scream. This manipulative kid gets all the friends and tramples on my kid’s emotions.
This is where I could have stepped in and called the other kid’s parents to let them know what was going on, but I didn’t. Having parents jump in a try to force a friendship back together wasn’t going to be good for anyone.
Then we spent the next few months trying to build our kid’s confidence back up. We encouraged her to reach out to other friends, and join groups or clubs. We made sure that she stayed connected with the rest of the friend group outside of school so she didn’t feel like she lost everything.
Thankfully, after March Break, more activities at school started back up. Now it’s April and there are a few new friends to have lunch with, clubs and choir at lunch, and band after school.
We are so proud of how she handled this whole thing. Not once did she say anything bad about this other person. Not once did she try to turn the other friends away from this person. She took the high road and walked away.
One of the things that I am thankful for is that my kid was willing to talk to us. Our family communication is amazing. She knew that she could share this with us and that we would love and support her. I think that this may have helped our family communication become even better. Every day we check in with each other to see how each other’s day was and we celebrate the good and support the not-so-good.
She knows that she did the right thing, even though it wasn’t the easiest. The things that she has learned about herself through all of this are some of the most important things she will carry through life.