Last month, my tween girl was subject to some bullying at school. Because of Covid, she couldn’t interact with those outside of her class, so she spent multiple days in a row by herself without anyone to play with or talk to. She was crying everyday, and even though I could keep it together in front of her and offer advice, I was dying inside. I remember how mean girls can be. Heck, I know how mean grown women can be! Meanwhile, my husband was barely phased by the emotional turmoil going on in our house. It was such a foreign concept to him.
I’ve always known I was an empath—someone who recognizes and internalizes the feelings of others, and usually I can go about life without any struggles. But this year, as my tween has started dealing with more ‘girl drama’ in her life, I’m finding it really hard to separate her feelings from mine. Surely, I thought this was just an empath problem, so I reached out to a mom Facebook group I’m in to ask for advice. Ladies—it wasn’t good. Turns out we’re pretty much all suffering along with our kids.
The drama at school was short-lived, so my sadness was too. But last week—more drama. This time, my daughter teased one of her good friends at a party. It was incredibly out of character for her, but she was acting as part of a group and is 100% guilty.
My daughter didn’t tell me about it initially. We were at the neighborhood pool two days later and a mother we don’t know (but who clearly knows the friend’s family) came up to my daughter while she was on her own and berated her for her actions at the party. Maybe she was kind about it. Maybe not. I only got the second hand version from my very traumatized 10 year old. Either way, I found this completely shocking and inappropriate. If you don’t know the child, you don’t have the right to talk to them. Period.
Now I’ll caveat that to say—it scared the shit out of her, and I’m hoping maybe it was enough for her to never want to hurt another kid and risk some adult coming and giving her a verbal spanking.
Of all my daughter’s friends, this one she hurt is one of my favorites. She’s sweet, shy, thoughtful, and has an awesome mom. So my empath feelings were taking over my life all week. I was crying every day; moody; frustrated I couldn’t solve it and make it better… The mother didn’t text me back for days, and I thought I’d lost that friendship too. Is it normal to stop being friends with the mom when the kids are no longer friends? I went back to good ole Facebook and ran a poll. Turns out, it is normal. Most felt like in the same situation, they’d be polite and friendly in public, but they’d no longer text and be friendly when it wasn’t socially required. That opinion changed depending on how deep the friendship had been, and in those cases, the moms tried to remain friends while still staying loyal to their own child.
So if all of us moms are feeling the pain, how can we survive these difficult years?
I talked to a child therapist about it, hoping for the magic pill to make raising girls easier. It may come as a disappointing surprise, but it turns out, there isn’t one! I know, I couldn’t believe the lack of resolution she offered.
While there’s no magic cure to make it easier on us moms raising girls, she gave me the most basic advice that we’d all do well to remember.
- Be there to listen. Offer advice. Counsel them. It may be hard for us to walk through the middle and high school years all over again, but remember how hard it was the first time? What a gift we can give our girls by walking along side them and guiding them through it.
- Rupture and repair. The therapist used this term with me. It’s basically how these kids are going to keep making mistakes, getting hurt, and struggling through challenges. And when that ‘rupture’ happens, we help them through the repair phase. We’re there with the support and advice. See step 1.
- I wish there was a third tip. There’s not. It’s our jobs to listen, support, and encourage the repair process each and every time they experience a rupture.
I will admit, one thing that helps me is finding an escape each day. I’ve been on a workout kick lately, and that hour helps me focus on myself and the needs of my own body. I’ve also heard that water is great for empaths—a bath with epsom salts or lavender, a swim in the pool, a quick 20 minutes in a hot tub.
Another thing I’m trying to remind myself is that these lessons are a part of growing up. My kid isn’t going to be perfect. She’s going to make bad decisions and face the consequences. She’s going to learn that what a group does isn’t always what’s right. And standing up for what is right is almost never the easy thing to do. But you’ll feel so much better doing what’s right than just doing what’s easy.
And mamas, we got through it once. We can do it again.
You can follow my daily battles of motherhood, being an empath, and keeping the house running over on Instagram. DM me with all the advice you’ve got for my journey ahead, so I can keep sharing what I’m learning along the way!