Lately, I've been re-visiting 5th and 6th grade. You know how you get the wonderful experience of seeing things like the zoo brand new through your children's eyes? Unfortunately, you get to experience all the awkwardness of adolescence through your child's eyes as well.
I had fun as a kid, and I have fond memories of elementary school. We had two families in the neighborhood with girls my age. We walked to school together, and played on the weekends. Then, in 5th grade, something changed. I have no memory of what it was, but suddenly those girls began to make fun of me, and I began to realize that they didn't really want to spend time with me. I honestly can not remember whether a particular event precipitated this, or if it was just that we became different. I can, though, remember feeling hurt. During this time, I made another friend, who lived a bit farther away from us, but close enough still to walk to. I never felt quite as sure of this friend. I don't know, though, whether that was because of the nature of our friendship, or because of the experience of the demise of the previous friendship. As I vicariously experience the girl-drama of Emma's life, I wish I could remember the details.
Because we live out in the country, Emma doesn't have any "neighborhood" friends. She has had close friendships over the past few years at school, and I have watched as friendships have dissolved and new relationships have formed. Last year was really bad; this year has been a lot better. But this evening we talked about friendships that might again be in flux --a great play date with a friend yesterday, another friend who has been acting grumpy and got mad at her, two friends who may have felt hurt/jealous of the play date, a good friend who purposely chose to partner with a different friend during a field trip today . . . . etc. These things left Emma feeling vulnerable this evening, and this evening was one of the class social events --"Rec Night". She still wanted to attend, but as we walked from the car to the school, she said "I just hope I find someone to hang out with." Aghhh, my heart breaks to experience this through her.
Personal relationships are probably the hardest thing we do in our lives. And really, it seems to me that life is all about personal relationships. While I'd love to have the energy and body of my teen or 20-year-old self, I wouldn't go back and actually be that age for anything. But it's the difficult experiences that build compassion for others. If life was always easy, if we never needed to question whether people liked us, if we never needed to acknowledge the masks we wear in different social situations, we could never truly empathize with other people. So part of me is glad that Emma has the chance to reflect on her relationships with her peers. But part of me just wants to protect her from ever feeling any kind of hurt or self-doubt.
As I write this, it's almost time to go pick her up. She was going to call if she wanted to come home early, but she hasn't. I guess that means things went fine, the things she worried about with her friends didn't end up being a problem. I'm so glad.