Never in a million years did I think it would be this hard.
A few weeks ago I called a girlfriend and even before she could muster the words, “Hey girl,” I interrupted with complete desperation, “How did you do it? How did you raise manage to raise three amazing girls with all this childhood school drama stuff?”
Fourth grade is hard. Personally, I remember it being really lonely, but all the days seem to blend in when I try to put myself in my daughter’s shoes. What I do remember is when school was hard for whatever reason, social or academics, 6.5 hours, 5 days a week to a 9 and 10-year-old is easily comparable to a dreaded 40 hour work week. Now add what is considered “ghosting” and the “Queen Bees,” what I would hope be a magical time is actual very painful to many girls (and boys, I’m sure.) The worst part? These are the days and circumstances shaping the future of their teenage years. One can only hope it is similar to the pain of childbirth. Labor is so excruciatingly painful, but yet you forget that pain and bury it in the deepest parts of your brain only to do it all over again with hope and love.
Unfortunately, tween and preteen years are not the same as when we were kids. Now it’s filled with insecurities, sucker gut punches, and passive aggressive social media tactics. These types of emotional cuts are scars that don’t heal. These cuts and bruises take much more than a Band-Aid and Bactine to stop the bleeding.
But God bless this kid. She has not given up hope.
When Did Elementary School Turn Into a New Soap Opera?
Kids don’t bully with name calling and physical harm anymore. It’s become much more methodical and all under the radar. In the course of three weeks my daughter was told, “Nobody at school likes you,” in a matter of fact way, and then the same girl told her she didn’t want to be associated with her because my daughter, “Pressured her into this friendship.” “You pressured me into this friendship,” like a break-up line from an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, but it wasn’t, it was playground talk. I was hoping C was being overly sensitive or being a brat to cause this, but when my husband was at school taking down fliers, the girl (not realizing my husband was C’s dad,) asked him for “the one with the girl on it” and pointed to my daughter’s photo. My husband told her he was giving them to their parents to take home and silently cringed at the thought of what the girl could have or perhaps would have done with the photo of our daughter. It was a turning point, maybe our child isn’t as sensitive or overbearing as we think.
In our home we stress, “It’s kind to be kind and there’s never a reason not to help if you can. ” I know my daughter does her best, she’s goofy, and I’m sure she’s given a snarky answer here and there because she’s certainly not perfect. But I have never witnessed her actually being cruel to a child. So needless to say it crushed her when the girl she had been spending time with for a few months got her kicks playing the Queen Bee mind games. Suddenly, 4th grade is on par with the movie, Heathers, with my daughter being casted as the leech.
Full warning: Navigating the tween years are not for the meek or weak of heart.
The school and staff take these things seriously, and they teach lessons in anti-bullying, acceptance and tolerance, but the pint-sized perps flash a big smile and continue to hurt because clearly they must be hurting, yearning, or insecure about something themselves. It’s a vicious cycle, but the sad part is they will most likely get better skilled at the manipulation part and others will earn more scars that I hope she’ll wear as badges of bravery and perseverance and not reminders of other’s insecurities projected on to her.
Thankfully, I have no reason to be worried about my daughter’s physical safety because she avoids conflict like the Bubonic Plague, but I found out last week that we’re not the only family facing this epidemic. All this time I was really hoping I was making this stuff worse than it really was, but when I received phone calls from three different moms (not connected to each other,) also dealing with this 4th grade nonsense. It’s not about bullying anymore, it’s an epidemic with mind games. Sophisticated mind games. As I spoke to each of these moms my heart broke more because these are children you would want your child to be friends with. It wasn’t just about my child anymore, it was about a few.
13 Reasons Why
It was during this time I forced myself to watch Netflix Original 13 Reasons Why. I thought it would give me some insight, to what? I’m not sure, but I was hoping for something. I’m a parent who watches things before introducing shows to my daughter whether we watch them together or not. I want to know beforehand what I’m getting myself into, what types of discussions we will have, and anticipate the kinds of questions she may have. And this time, I’m grateful for my decision. While I think she and I will watch the series together at some point, definitely not in her tween years. I think for now, I’ll stick to pre-approved episodes of Friends and Glee since there’s enough to discuss right there between those two.
As for 13 Reasons Why. Parents, I beg you, please carve out the time to watch this series. Something in life happens and we tend to forget our feelings from childhood and our youth. The kids are right. Parents just don’t understand. We really don’t. New generation, new problems. As we get older things start to make sense, and we learn “Not to sweat the small things,” but that’s just it, the small things are ENORMOUS to our children because that is all they know. 13 Reasons Why is the wake-up call we need as parents to remember the struggle is real growing up. That our children are navigating these problems for the first time and for everything we think we know, there is a million things we don’t going through their minds.
For those who are watching 13 Reasons Why along with their child, please preview episode 13 first before your child. While the rest of the series is developed around many emotional situations in a Beverly Hills 90210 kind of way, the final episode is all too real. And may be too real for many either going through similar struggles or simply not mature enough to handle the visual, mental and emotional scenes of this episode.
Here are some suggestions from our partner Netflix on shows to watch to encourage discussion and dialogue amongst parents and teens.
Which Shows Do You Watch With Your Kids?
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