My nine year old daughter, Kiera, frequently comes home with a host of tales about a particular girl in her class.
I’ll call her Claire.
Claire is, like, uber fashionable. “So in style,” gushes Kiera.
Kiera was enamored with her at first. Claire is new to the school and just exudes coolness. Apparently. “She’s already soooo popular, mom,” says Kiera. To make things even more interesting, Claire gives Kiera all kinds of fashion and style tips.
“Claire says I have to flip my hair behind behind my shoulders because it looks better that way.”
“Oh my god. Claire has soooo many lip glosses. She showed me. She brought them to school in her backpack.”
“Claire is so into make-up and style, mom. She ALWAYS looks fashionable. That’s ALL she talks about.”
“Claire taught me how to walk like a model today. We sway our hips like this. See?”
Oh my sweet nine year old girl. I told her that Claire focuses too much on looks and that perhaps she (Kiera) should redirect the conversation to other interesting topics. Not that fashion and beauty isn’t fun. I loved that stuff when I was nine. But the focus is a bit excessive. In addition, Kiera started asking for particular clothes because “that’s what Claire’s wearing.”
But then Kiera’s stories started changing.
“Claire told me she wouldn’t be my friend anymore if I didn’t wear my hair up.” She said this as tears filled her big blue eyes.
“Claire was telling me that I look funny today. I don’t think she likes me anymore, mom.”
Then the stories started turning into tear-filled tales of Claire’s dictatorship. Kiera couldn’t even draw something in class without Claire telling her she was doing it wrong. Kiera couldn’t play during recess without Claire pointing out Kiera’s failures. Claire would frequently get in Kiera’s face, boss her around, and declare that Kiera was not a good friend if she didn’t wear her shirt just so.
In short, Kiera was beginning to feel pretty damn inadequate. And Kiera feeling inadequate is a HUGE deal. She is the most enthusiastic, positive-thinking, go-getter that I know. She rarely lets anything get her down. She truly is a happy child — one that typically doesn’t care what people think.
I didn’t feel that these Claire episodes were happening often enough that it required me to get involved. Sometimes you have to sit back and let children navigate friendship struggles. I wanted to encourage Kiera to stand-up for herself. So I continued to encourage her:
“If she gets in your face again, tell her to back off. You can tell her she’s being mean and that you don’t want to play with her.”
“But that’s so hard, mom,” Kiera would say, “If I tell her to go away, she says she doesn’t want to be my friend. And then I start crying!”
“Well, you don’t WANT her to be your friend, Kiera! You’re a good person and you don’t need a mean-spirited person making you sad. By crying, you’re giving her all the power.”
Kiera would stand there silently and nod her head. I could tell she was taking my words in but didn’t quite know what to do with them.
One morning, Kiera came out of her room wearing an eclectic, colorful outfit — mismatched and odd looking but it somehow fit her personality.
I’m tired of all this fashion stuff. I’m just gonna be ME. I’m back to my hippy self. I’m gonna dress how I used to dress. This is me, mom.
With Kiera’s change of heart, the tales of Claire began to diminish. Usually a few weeks go by now before Claire is even mentioned. When Claire IS mentioned, however, it’s still not in a nice way.
This morning Kiera told me the following:
“I told Claire that you used to smoke cigarettes and she says that means you’re a bad parent.”
Ok. No. Uh uh. I don’t think so, CLAIRE.
In my extreme annoyance at this Claire tidbit I said, “Tell Claire she’s talking out of her butt.”
Kiera just stared at me wide-eyed.
Shit. I let a third grader get to me.
“You want me to tell her she’s talking out of her butt?”
“Yes, Kiera. You have my permission.”
She shook her head and smiled in disbelief.
What can I say? Sometimes you need a little third grade mentality to tell a third grade snob to back off.
So there, Claire. I said it. You’re talking out of your butt.
Now go away.