What a difference a couple years can make.
When my daughter was in kindergarten, she came home with the typical complaints about friends getting upset because there was some kind of confusion over which one was her “best” friend.
After experiencing a brief but painful flashback to grade school and realizing that my daughter was already having considerably more success than I ever did in the popularity department, I sat her down to listen, get past her words and hear what this little girl who really didn’t have the tools to manage all of these emotions yet, was trying to express.
“They say I can’t have more than one best friend. And now they’re not speaking to me until I choose.”
Yes, she was definitely out of my league.
I wiped away her tears, gave her a hug and promised to help her figure it out. I loved how comforted she was by that. Sometimes they don’t need answers, just support.
I’ve been trying to figure out when it is that girls begin looking at friendship as a competition. Often, a girl takes this concept well into their 30s.
Those of us over 40 don’t waste time on any competition that doesn’t offer extreme personal achievement, free tuition or a spa makeover.
And when it comes to friendship—the more the merrier.
A competition is one thing, but young girls today are not just looking at friendship as a competition. It seems to be viewed as a weapon.
She’s now in fourth grade and comes home stressed about who might be mad at whom, and being at the “bottom of the food chain.”
Years ago, I wrote I’ve Got Friends: An autograph book for kids. I designed it so a child can collect autographs from friends, under categories like, “friends who make me giggle,” “friends I met at camp” and “friends in my class.” You can even make up your own categories, and when kids fill up the book, they eventually begin to notice that people sign their books more than once and nobody is excluded.
So I'll be helping her collect those autographs. And I’m hoping that by encouraging little girls to look at friendships in unique ways, we can avoid the kind of social warfare that seems to be impacting our daughters.
At least we can plant the seed.
Taryn Grimes-Herbert is the author of the I’ve Got character-building book series for children, and was 2010's Woman of Achievement in the Arts Honoree for Orange County, NY. Calling upon her professional acting experience on Broadway, film and television, she speaks out and takes her books into classrooms hoping to help kids build character, develop empathy and learn to create a positive future through creative dramatics activities.