Girls, and women, are mean. Don’t be shocked…you know that you’ve thought it, and perhaps even felt it personally too. But why? Why do women treat each other this way? My daughter is in elementary school and unlike her brothers at any age, she shares every little detail of her day. I’m saddened to see that as she grows, this conversation is increasingly focused on recounting unkindness she’s witnessed or been the child to receive. Little injustices like “I’m playing with someone else today” or “All of these seats are taken.”
It pains me to hear the frustration in her heart and yet I give her all the reassurance I can that she is wonderfully made and with God in all things, she is a child of wonder and joy. We talk about how important it is to be flexible and kind, to take turns and include everyone. We talk about how to use gentle words and why its important not to always say what you think We talk about remembering what an unkindness might feel like so we aren’t the one who delivers the same. And we talk about tone and expressions. But she’s so little…too little…to even have to carry this worry. The sad thing is, this never ends. My own childhood includes more scars to my grown up confident soul than we have time for:
Competition through Fashion: When my family moved to Nebraska from Ohio, I was just 14 and the girls were so jealous or unfamiliar with how I dressed, not sure what to make of my pink Izod Lacoste shirts, that it took a long time for them to accept me and was not without my having to stand my ground. I remember clearly standing in the hall one day asking a girl how she could claim not to like me when she’d never even talked to me. By the end of that first year, I had made my way and went on to have an amazing high school career complete with cheerleading, student council, competition show choir and being voted most likely to have my own pair of designer jeans.
Competition through Appearance: Fast forward to my college sorority years where after having gone through a really rough time and gaining my freshman 15 in my sophomore year (fashionably late) one sister said “I’m glad you gained a few pounds, now I don’t have to worry about you stealing my boyfriend.” By the end of that next year I was back on track, having a prestigious Walt Disney World College Program Internship under my belt, serving as my sorority social chair, and met my husband senior year, pinning ceremony at the house and all.
Competition through Children: You know what I mean ~ those Moms at the playground making sure to point out every discrepancy and advantage their high achieving 3 year old has over all the rest of the kids in the sandbox. The fever begins early, from who got into the “best” preschool to which child arrives to Kindergarten reading chapter books and speaking spanish. By the time I had my third child, I was older than most every toddler Mom I knew and found it infinitely funny and just a bit sad to listen to that boundless confidence, knowing that things are never as they seem for far to many reasons.
Competition through Careers: Too many women have war stories of having to jockey for a promotion and finding more support from male bosses than they’ll ever find from a competitive female. I have spent most of my career working from home and the never ending war of judgement between full time stay at home moms and Moms working outside the home is the clearest example I know of how jealously and a lack of compassion that cuts both ways blinds us to see things clearly. How can we judge a woman when we’ve never walked in her shoes? How can we know why she makes the choices she does? And who said it was our right to have an opinion in the end? I am laser focused on being the best mother, wife, sister, friend, and daughter I can be. That definition of success can’t possibly be the same as your’s might be…we aren’t the same woman.
The difference between myself and my daughter is that I’m a grown woman. I can handle my battles, take the high road even when it stings, handle a set back and get myself back on track, and know that its not my job to correct other peoples ills as life will surely come back to greet them with their own demons. Its not to say that my heart doesn’t ache when there is conflict with a friend that won’t mend. But time heals…or it doesn’t…and if that’s the case, then it was meant to be.
There’s no way my sweet child can comprehend these things yet. She just knows if she was, or was not, happy at lunch when everyone grabbed a seat. She just knows that she was, or was not, happy at recess when everyone, or only some of them, played a game.
I’m honored to be co-hosting a live chat on The Motherhood with author Rachel Simmons. Her book is called The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence and while I’ve not had the opportunity to read it, her topic is universal and I am eager to share and learn with you all. Join us Tuesday, January 31 at 12:00 p.m. EST, on TheMotherhood.com, to talk about raising confident girls ~ with a strong heart our girls can do anything ~ and they deserve to believe that they worthy no matter what jealously and insecurity swirls around them. They deserve to have an armor of confidence to carry them through.
Disclosure: I am compensated by The Motherhood to participate in the Live Talk. I was not asked to post and my opinions are my own.