"Mom," Jewel said to me last week, "this one girl is always feelingleft-out. So I feel bad and try to play with her. But then she wants me to be mean to my other friends ON PURPOSE. I told her I'm not going to be mean. I'm going to be nice to everyone. And then she said I was the baddest friend in the world."
"So, what did you say?" I asked.
"I said, 'thank you very much, I'll take that as a compliment.'"
I burst into laughter. "And then what happened?"
"She looked at me all weird. But I just went on playing."
This is third grade. At morning recess you're best friends and by lunch-time you're not on speaking terms.
Every day for the past several months, Jewel and I have had an ongoing conversation about how to act justly in the midst of Battlefield Playground.
It's challenging to guide her through this. I was never the popular kid in elementary school. In the pecking order of coolness, I was always at or near the bottom.
Jewel is not at the bottom. In fact, the girls are fighting over her.
"We're BFF's, right Jewel? And you don't like those other girls, right?"
"Hey Jewel, I have a secret to tell you that nobody else gets to know!"
I'll be honest and admit, it feels good to know my daughter is well-liked. I hated dragging myself to school every day worrying about whether I'd be called "horse-face" at recess.
Back then I would have given my right eye to be the cool kid. I didn't realize that being popular is a tough gig, too. You have to constantly prove your friendship to the girls you like most (here's a Littlest Pet Shop you I'll let you take home!) without being unkind to the girls you don't like (um..do you want this used eraser?).
You have to put up with the whiny kid who goes around all mopey. You know the one? Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I'll eat some worms.
You have to be nice enough to this kid or else her mom is going to call the school (or show up) and demand that you be nice to her poor, little Suzie.
You have to pretend to like everyone. You even have to help that boy who never does his homework. Why does the teacher sit him next to you, anyway? He smells. And he farts in class and then says you did it. Disgusting boys.
Yeah, being popular is tricky. You're walking across a mine-field of raw, immature third-grade emotions. Step one way, this girl gets upset. Step another way, that girl goes home crying.
Sometimes, you just can't win.
In third grade Jewel is learning a Big Life Lesson: you can't make everyone happy.
But you can still play nice.
How do you handle Little Girl Drama? Do you intervene? Or do you just let them "figure it out"? Please share!