Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mean Girls

Last night I asked Neil what he thought my greatest weakness was. While he stalled in his answer, all of the things he might say swirled around in my head. I understand his reticence to answer me, being honestly critical of another person is difficult. And when that person is your wife, it's damn near impossible. So when he finally answered, I wasn't sure what to expect. Would he take the easy road and tell me my greatest weakness was being such a darn good cook? Or would he be truly honest and tell me that I'm a terrible housekeeper or that I don't have enough patience with Sophie. He went the honest route.

His answer: that I don't have enough confidence in myself.

I sputtered and said "I don't have enough confidence? I don't have enough confidence? Meeee?" I wasn't angry, I was surprised. Not because I honestly think I'm brimming over with confidence, but because I generally think I do a fair job of hiding the fact that I'm not.

But then I chewed on what he had said for a moment. While I was waiting for his answer, I had come up with literally dozens of possibilities for what his response would be. The list of things I saw wrong in myself was long and varied. That just doesn't seem like the sign of someone who has a great deal of confidence in themself or their abilities.

Truth is, self-esteem has always been an issue for me. Growing up, we moved a lot. I was always the new kid, forced to make new friends at every stop. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes not. In some places, the kids were so entrenched in their relationships that there simply wasn't room for the new girl and I floundered.

When I hit middle school, the very worst years for all but the most lucky of pre-teens, I struggled extraordinarily. Grotesquely skinny, acne and a nose that had outgrown my face, combined with the hormonal peaks and valleys of puberty to make me a pretty unhappy kid. And while I've grown into my nose, the acne is under control and I've definitely got the curves (and then some, SIGH) I longed for in 7th grade, I honestly don't think I've ever recovered from those years. From starting my first day in a new school and having the kids taunt me with "big nose" and "ugly." From one of my first real boyfriends breaking up with me because his friends told him I wasn't good enough for him. From no dates for dances.

This afternoon, I took Sophie to the park. When we arrived there were three little girls playing on the jungle gym. A year or two older than her, they were involved in a detailed role playing game. From the moment she ran up to them, they were exclusionary and rude. When Sophie attempted to join in their play, they squealed and ran away. When Sophie would follow them, they would say "SHE'S BACK! RUUUUNNN!" and run away. Despite my attempts to direct her towards other kids or playground equipment, she was not to be deterred and continued to follow the girls around. I looked to the girls' mothers, who stood not far from me engrossed in their own conversation, hoping they would tell them to be nice, but they never did.

As I watched this play out, I almost started crying, because suddenly I didn't see her, I saw myself. I saw me timidly approaching kids and being rebuffed or ignored. Right now, my daughter is brimming with confidence. She experiences not a moment's hesitation when approaching someone new. The vast majority of the response to her is great positivity. She is the friendliest, most enthusiastic kid around. She oozes sunshine. But how much will it take to beat that out of her? How many mean little girls will it take to break her confidence? At what point did mine go? How do I ensure that in 5 years, 10 years, 25 years, my daughter will have the confidence to approach any person or goal and know that she is worthy?

I wish I could go back and kick those little girls' asses. But I can't. All I can do is love on my daughter, tell her a hundred times a day how beautiful and wonderful she is, and pray that is enough.


  1. OMG ... there must be something in the air, because I just dealt with this SAME thing the other day. And I swear, I just blogged it too ...

    Sending hugs to you. From someone who just begged for a few myself.

  2. Totally sucks. I ask these same questions myself. I also vowed to be settled somewhere by the time she starts school. But rational me knows that won't stop mean girls. Sigh.

  3. It is amazing how long we can things around with us through our lives. Why girls are so much meaner to each other than boys is beyond me...sometimes I'm really happy I had a boy.

  4. You probably won't believe me but I am totally relate to this post. Sure, I put out a front that says I am confident but the truth is that I am really shy. Growing up, I was painfully shy. I am gone to great measures to make sure that this part of myself is hidden but everyone now and again, it surfaces.

    I love how confident my kids are. And I hope that they always will be. I pray that the world and those mean people don't change them like they did me.

  5. Yes. I remember those horrible days of kids making fun of my black keds and red hair and last name which was a kind of toast (melba). I have tried to affirm my children in their strengths and love them and shower them with heartfelt compliments on who God has made them to be. I can only pray that they believe me and not the mean people....but that stuff does make us stronger....right?

  6. Wow. Good post. I got goosebumps. Yesterday at probably the same time of day, CRW was rebuffed by a kindergartner and it stung me. I know it went over his head though. The best advice I think I can give my kids in this dept. when they get older is to use humor. I laughed my way out of alot of situations and poked fun at myself before someone else could. Turns out, Ryan did the same when he entered 6th grade. He was kind of quiet and wimpy. He said he made his mind up to not let other kids pick on him, so he picked on the bullies first, as well as use humor. I am grateful for my confidence. Sometimes it wanes, but for the most part I know I am the best I can be in many areas. We just need to remind ourselves this from time to time.

    PS: I still cringe when I think of my middle school years. I think everyone does.

  7. Oh, Lordy. That is the hardest thing in the world to witness. I think I would have gone up to those mean girls and said something to them. I really would have. Probably not a wise decision, but I would have been so furious! I'm sorry. Mean girls suck. I had the worst grade 7 and 8 experience ever. High school was much better, but those 2 years were brutal and awful. I can't believe how mean other children can be to one another, for no good reason at all. Of course it affects our confidence levels. Your daughter will thrive and be wonderful. She will. :) I'm sorry you had to see that, though.

  8. Oh boy.

    Yeah. Been there. Done that... wore that t-shirt.

    And I hate it. I hate that the world is like that and we come out on the other end with scars.

    But then there's a part of me that.. well... I like my scars. The real ones.. the scar in my tongue and the scar on my forehead and the 6 on my shins.. cause there are stories attached.

    And I have some internal scars. Kids telling me I was so fat I was going to explode. That HURT. But you know... I look at it now... and while I wish they hadn't said it, there's a part of me that says "Yep, you said it. You were mean. And look at me now. I'm still fat. I didn't explode. But I was a good person, and I AM a good person, and I've got a great life... so... suck it"...

    And of course... carrying around the last name Beaver... yeah... no torture there. But that one too, i KNOW my sense of humor comes from having to deal with that. Learning to make the joke before they did.

    I'll hush now. Suffice it to say I totally know what you're saying.

  9. Unfortunately, what you're seeing on the playground now I'm still seeing and my daughter is almost 12. Mean kids suck but they are a part of growing up. As you said, all you can do is love her, tell her how great she is and pray. That's all any of us can do.

  10. Those little biznatches (yes, at that age, I know!) have their parents to blame. You just teach your daughter the best you can. She's be what she'll be. And it'll be her. :o)

    I think you're very confident. So that answer is surprising. Then again, I just know you from Bloggy land, but you seem very confident to me.

  11. So, I'm noticing from the comments on here that we've all experienced this confidence bashing side of women. My question is WHY? Why are women like this? It seems to me this world would be a lot better, friendlier place to live in if the women (notice I am including myself) lifted each other up and not put each other down and were nice to each other instead of trying to always make people think they are better than them.
    Ut-oh. Maybe you hit a nerve there.
    I'm sorry those girls were mean to Sophie. She is a special little girl made just the way God intended her to be.

  12. Ugh. I can really identify with this. I think most women can, especially those who have daughters. It's so hard. The world tells us we shouldn't like ourselves how we are, and even worse we tell each other this. I have to believe that loving our daughters and affirming the strong sense of self they seem to be born with will overcome anything any mean girl or boy will ever say or do to them. And even if it doesn't make it all better, at least they'll know they can always come to us for a dose of confidence when they're feeling down.

  13. Oh honey, I have so been there. My son was 3 when some little snot at the pool told him, "Go away, little boy." And I wanted to punch her!

    But he's 6 now and has grown into this incredibly empathic, friendly little boy who includes everyone because he didn't like how it made him feel when he was the one being excluded. So, some good can come out of it anyway.

    It strikes me when I read posts like these how many women had confidence issues in school, how many of us felt awkward or ugly or were teased or didn't get asked to the dance. Even women who were popular in high school or seemed happy. It would seem a lot of us are very very good at faking it.

  14. Thank you for stopping over today and I am sorry I haven't gotten back to you on the BlogTrotting. This was a very good post.
    I didn't have those issues growing up but my daughter did and it crushed me to my core. It just takes a few mean girls to hurt your heart. I believe that because you have been there that you have the tools to help your daughter grow into a very strong and confident person. She is a doll and your love will help her overcome all the obstacles in her life. I am pretty sure that you have more confidence then you realize. Sophie will be fine.

  15. The EXACT same thing happened to me and my eldest daughter a few months ago. ALL my middle school memories flooded back. Honestly, I was more upset by it than she was. I was literally shaking as we left the park. I remember how those mean girls made me feel, and I never want that for my girls.
    But I also know it's inevitable--I just hope that I can prepare them as well as possible.
    (It will still break my heart though. Such is the life we chose when we became mommies, I guess.)

  16. How did I miss this post last week? I still tear up thinking about an incident at the park a couple of years ago when some older boys were pretending to make pancakes and kept telling my happy, eager, smiling Bub, whose only crime was being younger (and sweeter?) than those boys. They were all, "No! You can't make pancakes. Get away." Over and over.

    It is so hard sending kids out into the world. I guess we just love them and build them up as best we can. Plus, maybe we help them when we believe in ourselves and our own strength.

  17. I cried as I read your post. Yes, I have been there, too. Rejection hurts. When you see it happening to your kid not only are you pained for your child but it also brings up those old feelings of rejection from your own past. Ouch! It doesn't just happen with girls. That exact playground experience happened to my son with a group of older boys. I, too, wanted to pummel those little creeps! It's the mama-bear instinct in me.

    I wish I knew exactly how to prevent this kind of hurt from happening to my sons or any child for that matter. As parents I think the only thing we can do is love our children and tell them we love them. We can instruct them on how to be kind to others. And, in accordance with my personal beliefs, make sure they know that God loves them and will be there to support them no matter what.
    ~Heidi P.

  18. It's true that nothing hurts more than when our kids are involved. {sigh} I'm sorry that Sophie is already experiencing the prejudice in this world & even more sorry that there is nothing we can do to stop others from being that way. All you can do is be there for her, and show her that true acceptance comes not from others but from within.

  19. Aw. From your posts, Sophie to me seems like a girl who will be able to hold her own. I think your sensitivity to the self-confidence issue will help you raise her to be confident -- because I feel the same way. In fact, when I was pregnant, I hoped and prayed for a child who would be bold and not take anyone's crap as I had done (because basically, that's how I was raised, to be meek and to put more faith in other people rather than myself), even if that meant he would be a handful for me to raise because in the long term it would be better for him. And yes, he is a handful, and yes, I think he is as confident as a four-year-old could be!

    Great post.

  20. Cara,

    Love this post... Number 1, because I asked my husband the other day what my greatest weakness was, and you know what... I blocked out what he said... just this moment I can't remember...LOL NOW that is paramenapause for ya.

    Anyway, one of my greatest goals in life is to write about bullying and snotty middle school girls..(so for the moment I'm writing about middle school girls at a summer drama camp and there are some means ones and they're based on people I've known..LOL) I want it to be a musical and I want it to be brilliant, but I haven't figured it out yet. But I do know when the moment was that I first doubted myself.. No one forgets that moment. And for me it happened in the second grade. And Jesus knows, again in the 7th and 8th.. God help the tween.

    Thanks for letting me post about Nashville! Such fun! And I wanted to tell you that I have a friend who calls her daughter "bean".. it's so cute!


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