Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Critical Mom's Guide to "My BFF Says I Have to Choose!"

"Mommy," says my eight-year-old daughter, lower lip trembling, "Susy says that Mary* is taking me away from her.  She says tomorrow I have to choose whether I'm going to be her friend or I'm going to be Mary's friend."  Before I even say anything, my daughter adds, "I know Susy's just jealous."
"Right," I say.  "Exactly."
"But what should I do?"
"Would you want to have the two of them over together?"
Astonished look.  Arched eyebrows.  "Mommy, they don't like each other!"
"Don't take Susy seriously.  Susy's just being childish."
"I already said to her why should I have to choose?  But she says I have to choose."
"You don't have to choose."
"So I just ignore her?  I know!"  She cheers up for a second.  "I won't bring it up unless she brings it up."  But at this point a tear slides down the nose that has been buried in American Girl's Smart Girl's Guide to Friendship Troubles, where she's hoping to find something under "friendship hot spots" but that lower lip is still trembling. 
"But Mommy, what should I do?"
"How 'bout you smile at Susy and say, 'Susy, you've got friends I don't know, right?  So you have some friends I don't know and I also have other friends, and you and I are still very good friends."
"But she's not going to like that.  She's going to get angry."  This particular friend is not the favorite one of me and my husband.  When he walks our daughter to a meeting point on the corner where either he or Susy's father walks the girls the rest of the way, he gauges Susy's mood by how far ahead of her Dad she is walking, and he asks our daughter, "So how would you rate Susy's crabbiness level today?"
I remind her that Susy is crabby sometimes and she smiles, but then looks worried.
"But she'll get mad."
"So she'll have a little tantrum.  Let her have a tantrum.  She's acting like a two-year-old."  We talk about how two-year-olds act when they don't get their own way, and about Susy's cute little sister.
"But Mommy, what should I do?"  The thumb starts flicking through the pages of Smart Girl's Guide again. 
"I think she'll just get over it.  She's not always that happy anyway, right?  It doesn't have anything to do with you."
"But what if she gets mad?"
"Do you need a friend who's always getting mad?"
"But what should I do?"
"Honey, you don't have to do anything.  Just smile and say you choose your own friends."
This is not comforting.  We have been reading the Betsy-Tacy books, and have gotten to the part where Betsy's friend Tilda doesn't like her other friend, the baroness Helena; the impoverished baroness doesn't like Tilda because Tilda's family is "in trade."  We have talked about snobs and how silly they are.  We have talked about how friendships between girls are often like this.  We have talked about how Mommy has had the same problem, and solved it the way Betsy did and the way my daughter has, by seeing the friends who don't like each other on different days, and by not talking about either one of them with the other.  Her brothers have weighed in with tough guy advice, both of them suggesting she insult Susy with a few choice unprintable words or tell Susy, "Fine!  I'm choosing Mary!  Bye-Bye!" This makes our daughter laugh, but she is still distressed.  So this morning, "Mommy, would you walk me up the hill today?"  And I did.  And Susy, we could see from across the street, was walking way ahead of her daddy.  And when Susy saw my daughter standing right next to me, she had a grim look.  Oh, did she want to get in her two cents worth. 
"Mommy," I'll just nudge you if I want you to say something," for by this point I've told my daughter that if she can't work it out on her own, but I think she can and should, I can talk to Susy's mommy.
By the time we have crossed the street, my daughter looks better and says I can go home.  Stay tuned for an update.
Update:  Susy cornered my daughter the nanosecond I headed home.  "You have to tell me today, by recess, whether you're going to be my friend or Mary's friend."
My daughter met her at recess with the teacher and said, "I would like to be both of your friends.  But if you force me to choose, I'll be Mary's friend."  The teacher wanted to know if the two of them wanted to talk about it for two minutes.  Neither did.
Standoff at high noon! 

*Not their real names


  1. Did you have to name her 'Susy'????

  2. Awwwww. I knew a lot of Susy's. Was actually thinking of a different one, a particularly horrid cousin.