My eldest daughter, HipChick, plans her birthday party all year long. At seemingly random times, she will blurt out something like, “I think I just want to invite girls, mom.” To which I say, “To what honey?” I should learn by now that it’s always in reference to her birthday party.
For her next birthday, she wants to have a “game” themed party, on a Friday night. The kids can play the Wii, and various board games. We’ll have a cake shaped like dice, prizes for everyone, and a grand old time. Now, she has been asking for about a year to have a sleep-over, so I thought, what better time to finally realize her dream than on her seventh birthday.
I told her she could have her two closest friends spend the night after the party, and asked her who she thought she’d invite. She unloaded a terrible dilemma, since she had three friends she just had to invite.
“Well, I want to invite Carla, and Amy will be really mad at me if I don’t invite her. And I also want to invite Bonnie.”
There are several aspects of this statement that gave me pause, so I probed a little further. You see, Bonnie is sort of the “alpha girl” in the class. The one who passes out invitations to play with her at recess. You may be her best friend, or you may not exist, depending on the wind’s current direction. HipChick has had her feelings hurt by this girl, and every time I hear her name, it’s in the middle of a controversy. She was also the one who told HipChick her ham sandwich was too fattening! (She had a different name in that post – semantics!)
“Well, from what you tell me about how Bonnie treats you, are you sure she’s one of your closest friends?”
“But, mom, I really want to invite her. And I want to invite Carla and Amy!””
I continued asking her questions about what makes a real friend, and encouraged her to choose friends that exhibit these qualities. Thankfully, she realized that Bonnie may not be the picture of perfect friendship, and decided on the other two, whom I know really are her closest friends.
We also discussed that you don’t do things in fear that someone else will be mad at you. A real friend will love and accept you as long as you love them in return. I was having a foreshadowing moment (or a flashback, I couldn’t tell) to high school peer pressure. I really want her to be secure in herself and God, and not to bend to the whims of flaky girls.
But I totally understand why she wanted to invite Bonnie. I remember the times growing up, when I had great friends all around, but I wanted the “right” friends. In the sixth grade, I went to a magnet school and placed in the top level classes. I stayed with these kids all day, and let me tell you, I did not fit in! I wanted the cool friends, but I got the brainiacs. (Y’all didn’t know I was a genius, did you? I sure fooled them!) One girl, who had gone my to elementary school, was in the “right” crowd, and she would ride the bus home with me each week before dance class. Every week, it was like rubbing it in my face that I was not cool. I begged my mom to send me back to the regular Middle School, and by the seventh grade the cliques were set. I worked all year to break in, and I did it!
Looking back, I wonder. How many real friends did I snub to try to placate the “mean girls,” and get in their good graces. How many times did I do something I knew was wrong so someone wouldn’t “get mad?” And more importantly, what abuse did I willingly take from the “right” friends while I turned away from the “real” friends?
Here’s the sad part. Sometimes, I have to catch myself. Sometimes, I still would rather have the right friends than the real ones: in the real world, the church, and in the blogosphere.
Do you ever struggle with these feelings? Or is it just me (wink)?