A bad Momma moment this morning. The usual chaotic run through of the checklist as I was sending the kids off to school: Did you brush your teeth? Your hair? Lunches? Backpacks? Gloves? Where are your gloves? Where did you last see your gloves? I have one glove. Where is the other? Where is your book report book? Snowboots? Snowpants?Okay, Alexander checked off.
Sophia, cramming her bright pink snowpants into the extra bag she needs to bring to school to fit all the extra snowgear she needs in winter, turned to me, smiling, and said, “Yesterday, for recess I lent Morgan (not her real name) my snow pants because she didn’t have any.”Instead of complimenting my daughter on her altruism, my anger immediately took hold. “Absolutely NOT,” I said sternly. “You do not lend your snowpants to anyone.”
Sophia looked crushed, confused. After all, haven’t her father and I been teaching our kids that it is important to share with those less fortunate, to be charitable, to be kind and when possible selfless? “Why not,” she demanded, her voice taking on an anger to match my own.“You don’t share your snowpants.” Even then, in my irrational ire, I knew how ridiculous that sounded, like an absurd decree from the Monarchy of Rigid, Inane Rules.
“But WHY? WHY?” Foot stomping now.“Because they’re expensive.” When searching for some rational reason, parents can always fall back on how much things cost, right? Because I wasn’t even sure why I was so angry that she’d lent Morgan her snowpants at that very moment, except they were Sophia’s, except that it meant that Sophia went without her snowpants for recess and it was pretty damn cold and Sophia isn’t exactly a hurly burly girl, so that meant for the twenty-five minutes or so, she probably froze her tiny butt off.
But why? I had my niggling speculations, but those didn’t surface until Sophia swept up her various bags for school, and I had to re-emphasize one more time (why did I? why couldn’t I just let it go?)—“You don’t lend your snowpants, Sophia!”—“I KNOW!” she shouted back—and headed downstairs to the car, kicking over the dog gate—Whack! Bam!-- for her added emphasis, angry at me.“Don’t you want to make up with her before she leaves?” Christopher said, grabbing the car keys.
“Not really,” I said. “I don’t like the fact that she’s thinks she needs to buy friends. That’s the girl that brought her to tears the other day.” Bingo! Niggling speculation.“I don’t think she necessarily thought that’s what she was doing,” Christopher said.
I shrugged. He left. They all left, leaving me to feel like shitty Momma.Because of course he was right. I’m sure Sophia was just being Sophia, her usual big-hearted self, compassionate to all in need, whether it be kittens or puppies or penguins or bitchy girls who treat her like a BFF one day and then turn on her the next. She forgives and forgets. Not like me, with my steely heart, and despite ECT and the exception of the past year’s memory wipe-out, I remember everything, every slight, betrayal, wound, word. I’m not proud of this; I wish I could be more like my daughter, forgiving, letting bygones be bygones, always seeing the good heart in everyone. For instance, the other day, she remarked, “Even murderers in jail must have something good in them. They can’t be all bad. And I bet somebody loves them. And they must love somebody.”
Because of all I have been through, part of me wants to toughen her up; her vulnerability to heartbreak terrifies me. Won’t her generosity be taken advantage of? i.e., the pink snowpants? Because you see, I have been studying the trajectory of her friendship with Morgan. And yes, I understand the nature of friendship between girls at this age (9) is complicated, fraught with gossip and the intricacies of shifting loyalties. But I also know that the so called “minor” hurts inflicted (and if inflicted on a regular basis) by “friends” at this age, can scar you for life. Believe me, I know.Just four days ago, Sophia received from her teacher a “change-your-seat slip.” Her teacher gives these out as rewards for academic success and good behavior—you can cash it in to change your seat in order to sit next to whoever you want to in the class. (Don’t get me started on the appropriateness of such a reward and the kinds of catty tensions this might create—the evidence is forthcoming). So Sophia cashes hers in and chooses to sit near her friend Morgan! Except Morgan, too, receives a slip, and quick as lightning, cashes hers in and chooses to move away from Sophia to sit near another girl, her “newer” BFF.
When I picked Sophia up from school, she was able to walk a half a block maintaining her composure, and then broke down in sobs. “When Morgan did that,” she said, “my eyes got all teary and my legs started shaking. None of my friends want to sit near me. No one likes me anymore. I don’t know why. Why Momma?”I just hugged her and kissed her and cried with her and kept my ball of fury contained—wishing I could have been in the classroom with Sophia to protect her from the heartbreak of being left behind, left out, left alone. To gather her shaking body against mine, to let her cry in my arms, to let her know that I understood because it happened to me—singled out, set upon, suffering for so many years
alone. But then, magically, by chance, in 6th grade, I found my BFF: Erin. My teacher assigned our seats randomly, and we thought, initially that we hated each other—but as it turned out, we became inseparable. Twenty-nine years later, we are still BFF’s.
What I want to tell her is all you need is the One. The one friend who will matter the most. Who will sit by you. Stick by you. Won’t break your heart. And if you lend her your pink snowpants, it will be because she truly is your BFF and you won’t get cold anyway or you don’t care if you do because she’s colder than you. And if she tears a hole in the knee? Then I won’t care even if they are expensive because I can see how happy you are because when I pick you up from school the two of you will be whispering about some secret I can’t know but you’ll both remember and laugh about, maybe even twenty-nine years later, too.I know when I pick Sophia up from school I will apologize to her and try to explain some of this, and of course, tell her how proud I am of her good, kind, big heart which shows me, every day, the path to loving kindness.