It is okay for my kids to be left out. The weight of it hit me like a ton of bricks.
A brewing, stormy friendship had reached capacity and all those big feelings bubbling just under the surface, could sit idle no longer. Standing smack dab in the middle of a bustling, gymnastics pickup, random kid shoes tossed in all directions and about a million people to witness… I cracked like an egg.
Queue the waterworks.
Between my daughter’s gaping expression, concerned neighboring parents and all those hazardous shoes threatening to take me down, I couldn’t get out of that building fast enough.
Adult friendships, y’all. Where is the manual for that?
RELATED READING :: Fear of Missing Out
Once safely in the car, my emotions relatively in check and Kidz Bop Kids aiding in distraction, I couldn’t help but giggle at the irony of it all. Just last week, I sat in a similar space, calming my 8-year-old as she navigated some very big feelings related to friend drama at school. In that moment, I had reminded her the importance of talking it out before it grew in to something much too big.
Dearest kettle, the pot says hello.
I don’t regret that I have big feelings or that I allow my children to see the sadness, the frustration, or the worry. All these harder emotions are just the beautiful bits of baggage that comes with loving someone.
Missteps pave the way for growth and we all know that the real work of growing takes one part sunshine but a good deal of rain, too.
The thing is, my childhood friendships weren’t marked with many missteps. Socializing, kindness and flexibility came naturally to this middle child of a big family (Hello, Enneagram 2). I can count on my hand the number of times, I tearfully turned to my parents to navigate friendship woes. In many ways, it made for a really friendly childhood but inadvertently, ill-preparation for the heartache of adulthood.
As the years have come to show, not everyone is going to jive with your personality, some friendships truly have seasons and even your best intentions will at times insult or annoy.
You aren’t going to be invited to every Mom’s night out, BUNCO or flirty, thirty celebration and lucky for us, we now have social media helping us be so very aware of that fact. And it is also okay for your kids to be left out.
Being left out, feeling unwanted or lonely, it packs a sting that gets softened with time and experience. My heart was ill-prepared for navigating those social blows, but my hope is, this won’t be the case for my children. In a refreshing break from helicopter and lawn mowing parenting, the opportunity to support and empower my children to navigate social components of friendships is important work. I guess it helps for them to see –much to my embarrassment– that their Mom is still learning it all, too.
An unexpected win from my sad, children being left out (aside from having them home with me!) has been all the conversations that follow suit.
As parents, we are given this great gift of guidance to our kids, opportunities to help foster their resiliency and challenge them to take the steps to resolve their hurts.
When several, third graders are discussing their weekend sleepover plans in front of my child or my teen comes across an IG feed of fun that she wasn’t invited to, as parents we are gifted the opportunity to grow their empathy.
Validating their hurt is necessary but the added follow-up discussions of how that hurt can change future behaviors is perhaps the more important work.
My hope is that the next time my daughter has a buddy spend the night, she will take the tender steps to not talk about it on the playground because she remembers the feeling of being left out.
When my teen is at a social activity, she might take a moment to consider how her post could affect other friends viewing her feed.
While I do love my chatbooks, for my older kids it has meant that I have to model these behaviors, too. My introverted son, requested to have a very small group of boys spend the night for his birthday and play video games. The big boys laughing and making space for little sisters to play too was absolutely lovely.
This year, I shared that video directly via text to their parents versus my feed. Little steps of growing.
Will my children always remember to take care with their actions and words? Will I?
Missteps are part of growth, remember?
But much like the callouses that came with finally making it across the monkey bars or learning to make beautiful music on the guitar, my hope is that these opportunities of hurt, will grow into something lovely– a feat that they can be proud of.
If nothing else, should they ever find themselves publicly crying during their child’s gymnastics, too, they can smile and know that while lonely, they are absolutely not alone.