I have to give relationship counselling to my children, particularly the girls, on a fairly regular basis. I don’t mean with the opposite sex, although there has been a little bit of that. No, what needs constant help is managing their relationships with their friends.
It’s hard being a girl. I remember it all too well. You never quite knew where you stood. Your best friend could become someone else’s best friend in the blink of an eye. All it took was an invitation out to tea and suddenly the person you thought was your closest ally was off giggling with someone else at playtime. I distinctly recall discovering that I had been ditched in favour of another when the desk next to mine was empty after we came in from break. So cruel.
And now all my girls are in that same position. They get let down, left out and hurt constantly and I’m sure do their fair share of the same to others. And with texts and facebook in the mix it is so much harder. The shame and embarrassment that goes with being ditched is played out on the world wide web for all to see. I think it is even more challenging for them to deal with than it was for me when I was a child.
Ultimately, it all hails from the same human failing – the need to be liked. I assume it’s the same for boys, but I know that girls crave approval from our peers. We want to be the popular one in school, the one that everyone wants a piece of. We are desperate for our friendships to be strong and secure so that they can withstand the ravages of attack from third parties. We want to show our individuality without being mocked or if the mocking is inevitable have enough courage to stick to our guns.
And so I try to help my girls to steer a course through, pointing out how things might appear from another’s point of view and trying not to take sides when all I want to do is to protect my babies from the hurt that I had to learn to deal with.
The funny thing is, that need to be liked never really goes away. Even now as I stand in the playground, often on my own for fear of interrupting other people’s conversations, I fret. We all judge each other by what we wear, what we hear, what we say. The look that you inadvertently give and which is misinterpreted. The friendly smile that you do not see until it is too late to reciprocate.
In the end I can advise my children without too much difficulty because it’s all so very familiar. I think that I’m a grown up but deep down, just like them, I don’t want to be judged. I just want to be liked.