There are conversations that, in the deepest recesses of my heart, I’m sort of preparing myself to have with my sweet l’il girl when she’s older. And folks, I’m not even talking “the birds and the bees” – a hilarious version of which my immigrant mother thought to try to imbue upon me at AGE 25 (but that’s a whole other story to share another time). I’m talking navigating the world of “mean girls” in secondary school, avoiding gossip (or at least trying one’s best to), crushes and heartbreaks – that sort of “fun”, lighthearted talk. Ugh.
Well, recently I got smacked upside the head by contemporary adolescence. The kids were at school and I was cleaning up in the kitchen when I discovered a note that my 7-year-old daughter, BG, had penned. It read: “Dear Eve, Did you now that Adam likes you? He told me that he likes you as a friend. I think he likes you as love. I think he has a crush on you! Sincerly, BG”
I almost had a heart attack. Likes you as love? What the what? How does my baby know what “crush” means? And love? I made a mental note to take a big, calm breath at pick-up and oh-so-casually ask her about this undelivered (phew!) letter (and of course, to drill the correct spellings of “know” and “sincerely” into her head, darn anally retentive tiger mom tendencies).
But before I could get to this part of the day that I was so (not) looking forward to, I received a text from the mother of another female classmate of BG’s, Kelly, saying “BG wrote this and gave it to Adam. Let’s talk. Not happy.” And attached to this message was a pic text of a colorful, stickered, immaculately written letter that read: “Dear Adam, Why do you like Eve better than me[?] I hope you make your desiction that you like me better than Eve. Who do you like better? Rettern at recese.” And below that were two hand-drawn boxes, next to which the names of “Eve” and “Kelly” appeared, with instructions to Adam to “(Please check who you like better)”. Finally, “Love, Sincerly, your frend Kelly” and a big heart drawn around the names Adam and Kelly. So much for subtlety and [non]subliminal messages.
Thank goodness Kelly’s mom is a friend and we could discuss the matter openly and amicably. After conducting separate mommy-and-daughter Q&A sessions about what exactly had gone down at school, I deduced (hopefully accurately) the following series of events:
BG had overheard Adam telling another boy at school that he thought Eve was “hot”. (Hot?!! Yes, we’re still talking 6 and 7-year-olds here.) BG tells her girlfriends what she heard. The ladies then decide to break the news to Kelly that Adam had “ditched” her for Eve. (Apparently, Adam and Kelly had had a very innocent, never-interacting, mutual crush-from-afar thing going since kinder.) They decide that the best course of action would be to ask Adam straight out (or via a chicken *bleep* letter rather) whom he likes “better”. Kelly isn’t confident in her own penmanship and asks BG to ghostwrite the letter for her. Unbeknownst to me, BG ghostwrites and signs the letter for Kelly later that night, never shows the draft to Kelly, passes the note to Adam in class the next day, gets it back and delivers his response to Kelly, who brings the note home to be discovered by her not-so-pleased mother.
Now, I didn’t want BG fearing she was in any trouble but I also wanted to curtail this kind of behavior and teach her about age-appropriate word choices and female social dynamics. When asked what she thought “hot” means, BG stammered,
“Well…there are two meanings.”
“BG, I don’t mean ‘hot’ as in temperature.”
“Okay. Well, ‘hot’ means really, really, really pretty.”
“Actually, BG, ‘hot’ is more of a grown-up term that also means ‘sexy’, and no 7-year-old is sexy so the word ‘hot’ isn’t appropriate for you or your friends, okay?”
If, in the future, she overhears something that wasn’t intended for her ears, she was advised not to share it with others, especially where the matter is private, personal or could embarrass or hurt the speaker or someone else. BG confessed that Adam might be embarrassed by others knowing how he feels about Eve. I inquired where they got the word “ditched.” She’d heard it in movies and TV. (Note to self: Censor some of today’s [pre-]teen-targeted shows.) I explained that it isn’t a kind word but a hurtful one. And all the meddling, talking, ghostwriting, and hand-delivering were not wise choices and should not be repeated. (I can only imagine, which a 7-year-old couldn’t, what level of drama, friendship troubles, humiliation and hurt would have followed if the parties involved had been a little older.)
At the end of the day, I’m hoping BG learned that meddling in others’ affairs and starting or fanning gossip is unwise, unkind and never leads to any good. As a mother, I wish this had been her first, only and last experience in this tragically girl-eat-girl world, but I know that is wishful thinking. Instead, I will hope that she chooses to avoid gossip and meddling, and aspire to teach her that by example. I confess though – this isn’t always an easy task. We female species seem to be of a special breed that might have to adopt that self-restraint, very deliberately and sometimes painstakingly, one instance at a time. Not sure I, or anyone, can do it alone but it would certainly be easier as a concerted effort among women. So, who’s in??