Mean, tweens and go-betweens

This nonsense about being a role model for youth is exhausting.

Apparently, upon becoming a parent, you are supposed to set an example for your children — and I don’t mean the “serve as a terrible warning” type either.

No, you are supposed to be a good example. You are supposed to be the bigger and better person. I have never exactly excelled at bigger and better. Smaller and pettier has always been more my thing.

With that in mind, you would think I would be perfectly suited to tread the muddy, drama-shark infested waters of preteen girls. You would be wrong.

She said

I know that girls in the 11 to 14 age range are fraught with hormones and natural human emotions. They barely like themselves at that age — let alone other people. Still I soldier on, bravely trying to be the good middle school mom and understand the ins and outs of preteen female friendship.

Unfortunately, I get one sentence in to my daughter’s recount of an epic tween girl battle and become hopelessly mired in conversational confusion.

“And then she said that she said and so-and-so said she said that…”

Then I stab myself in the head with a sharp No. 2 lead pencil. OK, no, wait. That last part was just a pleasant daydream.

Quicksand

Little girl fights are verbal quicksand.

“She’s not mad at me but she’s mad at my friends so that makes her mad at me and then she said that she said she isn’t but she is …”

“She”

“Who?”

“SHE!”

“Then she wouldn’t talk to me!”

“Well did you talk to her?”

“No!”

Sure, violence gets a bad rap but boy-fights are easier. They shove each other, someone throws a faux punch, everyone gets hauled down to the principal’s office, a week later they’re probably friends. With girls, it’s three straight days of emotional blackmail and endless blah blah blah to get to “so anyway, she’s mad.”

Eventually the original warring parties are best friends forever again while the rest of the group, having already drawn up sides, suffers the fall-out.

End

Some mothers, young ladies, and I have had discussions about this very subject. The girls want to know what they can do to end all the “drama.” Because I’m a giver (and have no patience for this nonsense) I’m here to help.

To the mothers: Diva is an over-used phrase. Diva is code for “brat.” If you or anyone else has ever described your daughter, or excused her bad behavior, as being “a diva.” Seek help now. We’ll wait.

To the girls, I say that conflict, even among friends, is a fact of life. It should not, however, become a group activity. Keep it simple. Go to the source. It’s the go-betweens, and the “I’m just trying to help” friends that will trip you up. This is true whether you are 13 or 30.

Even the sweetest, nicest girl who truly wants to “help” doesn’t do so by running between you and whoever is mad at you carrying messages and a play-by-play of every hair toss and eye-roll. The quickest way to fan the flames of anger is to add others to the mix. The quickest way to put them out is to speak face to face so you are reminded that the other person is a person who has to own her words.

No saying something snide and then denying it later “no, she said it wrong, that’s not what I meant.”

Remember: Just say no to being, or having, a go-between. If you heard it secondhand from “so and so” then assume it was never said at all.

On that note, please open your eyes and start seeing patterns of behavior. If the same people are involved time and time again, they may not be hapless victims. They may, in fact, be the common denominator. Sometimes the only answer to someone who has drama with everyone is “honey, maybe it’s YOU.”

Choose your true friends wisely.

True friends

Best friends forever are earned, not declared, and they don’t get there overnight. While some feel you should keep your friends close and mean girls closer, I disagree. When you are friends with someone who speaks negatively about your other friends when they are not around you are not special. She talks about you when you aren’t around, too. This is always true. Trust me.

Finally, the number one rule for “girls” of any age is this. If you are about to utter the phrase “I don’t mean to be mean but …” Stop talking. You are surely about to be.

Remember: Being nice to someone you don’t necessarily like isn’t called “being two faced,” it’s called being a grown up.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt says that she said that you said that she welcomes comments c/o LifeOutLoud@comcast.net; P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460; or www.KymberlyFosterSeabolt.com.)

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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