Lessons Learned on the Playground

My blog has changed since I started writing on The Star’s mom2momkc.com site in 2008. Back then, I wrote a piece each week about our lives. Rosie was in 2nd grade, had no cell phone, no Instagram account and no interest in what I was writing. Now that Rosie’s a tween, I can’t be as honest as I once was, but the lessons we learn each week are just as poignant and painful. 

This week, I’m bringing back some of my favorite posts. Each one hits home as we’re learning new life lessons in middle school although now my wisdom’s not always accepted. This was first published on November 20, 2008.

MP900202055“She’s not my friend anymore. She’s mean!” my daughter exclaimed as she got into the car. She threw her backpack in the seat next to her, buckled up and took a deep breath. “Don’t cha want to know why?” she implored, her blue eyes tearing up. For a fleeting moment it appeared that she was mustering up the courage to continue. Then she said, “Well let me start at the beginning. You see….” And she began to spill the details of the whole sordid mess.

It’s tough to be a girl. Little girls are taught to play in circles, holding hands and giving everyone a turn. It begins with Ring around the Rosy (a magical time even when we all fall down) and continues to the friendship circle that they make at the end of each Brownie meeting. But sometime along the way, most little girls realize that life is not always elliptical. They walk around school in straight lines. There are triangles formed with groups of three and sometimes a pyramid with someone on top.

We all know that person and many want to be she; the line leader in grade school. She’s the girl that everyone wants to follow. She whispers her secrets into her docile girlfriend’s ear and then roars with laughter.  She’s not above bullying to get what she wants. She links arms with her followers, turns her back on you and walks away leaving you to wonder why you are not part of the circle. As the years pass, you move on to create your own shapes of friendship and know it will be better when you’re all grown up.

But is it? I’ve come to realize in my forties that nothing changes as women age. The childhood patterns of play remain constant throughout life. That became crystal clear the day I walked on the tennis court for a lesson and watched in amazement as eight of the eleven women walked to the far court. It was a clear snub, but it had an upside; we got to hit a lot of balls and got a great workout while they spent a lot of time standing around on a crowded court. I looked forward to the next week as I was curious what they’d do. After a repeat of the juvenile behavior from the week before, I moved to a class on another day.

There’s a reason it’s called an inner circle. It’s where all women aspire to be. Women want to be included. They want to be part of the ring that’s formed when like minds come together. But oftentimes they regress to the behavior that they learned as a child. They freely talk about their foes. They bully and cajole. They forget the reason that they weren’t included in the first place. The lessons they missed on the playground. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Play nice. Be fair. Take turns.

I see the pain in my Rosie’s face as she relays the details of the day. “We were all playing and Caitlyn came right up to me and grabbed the ball out of my hands. She said it was hers. And all the girls, they agreed. I didn’t have anyone to play with. They all walked away.  And, it wasn’t her ball. It was the school’s ball. I had it first.” She began to sob, not understanding why she was excluded.

I found myself at a loss for words as I knew nothing I had to say would make her feel better. Sobbing the backseat, she was inconsolable.  Left out of the circle, she was heartbroken. 

 Knowing that this was the first of many times that my child would feel left out, I murmured words to soothe her. I told her that it was wrong to be selfish and the girls should all share and play together. I went on to say that we should always smile and say nice things, even when treated unfairly. Then I stressed something that took me years to understand; while you should try to be friends with everyone, sometimes it’s an impossible feat. She would need to find her own ring of friends. She rubbed her eyes and shook her head, accepting my wisdom.

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About debcb

All Deb wanted to do was work, until she had Rosie. For the past decade, she's juggled a full-time career, high-profile volunteer work and mommyhood.

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