My daughter is not your typical little girl. She prefers playing soccer to dress-up, battling Bay Blades over Barbies, climbing trees instead of jumping rope and singing Pink‘s songs versus show tunes. This, however, does not negate her love of skinny jeans, high heels, purses, lip gloss and boys.
She had more in common with her favorite third-grade classmate, Johnny, than any of her girlfriends. Her favorite activity was skateboarding with him around his backyard. He was also her first real crush. Johnny’s mom, Patty, and I grew a friendship as well. She was a good friend and she loved my kid.
Toward the end of the past school year, the word got out that my daughter and Johnny had crushes on each another and, suffice it to say (as an elementary right of passage), their classmates teased them.
Immediately, and very typical of a third-grade boy caught red-handed having play dates with a girl, Johnny immediately stopped playing with my daughter. He even went as far as putting the kibosh on any form of communication, refusing to even glance her way.
Regardless of my daughter's tomboy nature, her emotions are nothing remotely close to a Tom or a boy. She was heartbroken, and reacted as any child, uh, female would—being bossy. Anything to incite a reaction! Only at 8 years old, one doesn’t realize negative attention is just that, negative. (OK, maybe one doesn’t realize that at 42 years old either, but that’s for another story…)
Her emotions were compounded by the fact that Johnny and his family were moving out of California soon. She cried each night as I tucked her into bed.
Kids, left to their own devices, usually will work things out on their own. Yet, three weeks passed and still nothing had changed except the amount of tears shed by my daughter. She just couldn’t handle Johnny’s avoidance.
Playground politics don’t interest me, but this went beyond.
I reached out to Patty, suggesting a get-together, which took more than a few calls, texts and e-mails to garner a single response. I knew Patty didn’t do well with confrontation, but come on—her avoidance of me was messing with my little girl.
Eventually, Patty explained that Johnny’s opinion of his former, favorite, secret play date was that she was “bossy and mean,” and there was nothing she could do to change his opinion nor was she going to ask him to acknowledge her. Did I mention they shared a desk in their classroom?
I knew my daughter could be bossy, but mean—not so much. Patty concurred.
After weeks of discussing Johnny with my little girl, I completely ran out of ideas and suggestions on how to help her; she knew it too.
One day, I was standing in the doorway of their classroom, as I did every day, when the dismissal bell rang. My daughter spotted Patty, and, bypassing me, made a beeline for her and said, “Hi, Patty! Why won’t Johnny talk to me anymore?”
Patty responded with a resounding, “Johnny’s a shit!”
I stood speechless! On the one hand I dug Patty’s honesty as it did create a diversion (for the first time since it began my daughter laughed about the situation), while on the other hand it did little to ease her confusion.
Two weeks before school ended, we were invited along with the class to a going-away party for Johnny. I thought perhaps this was his attempt at reconciliation. My daughter set me straight.
“Mommy, Johnny didn’t invite me to the party, Patty did," she said. "I want to go, but I know they don’t really want me to be there.”
It’s a blessing and curse to have an intuitive child.
Sure enough, an e-mail from Patty was sent at 1:52 a.m., 10 hours before Johnny’s party, detailing the reasons she decided to un-invite my daughter.
I will spare you the banal details of the e-mail.
While it made me sad to watch my once enthusiastic, wide-eyed child who lovingly jumped into Patty’s arms, mourn the loss of not just her first crush, but also the comfort of a trusted adult, I had an "aha" moment: I realized that while there will be many seemingly illogical consequences to very logical events, time tells us again and again that real lessons are learned through “scraped knees” and that, although not everything makes sense in the moment, there are reasons for everything, and in time we appreciate the value of the experience.
The other day, my daughter called while away on vacation with her dad and said, “Y’ know, Mommy, even though Patty and Johnny moved away and they never said goodbye I’m going to keep them in my heart forever but can I ask you one question and can I say the 'S' word?”
I hope this is a reminder to us all that kids do crappy things, they call each other names, they throw balls at one another, they hurt each other’s feelings, they antagonize one another, they love one minute and hate the next. But they are byproducts of us, their parents. They are deeply influenced by our actions and lack thereof—though we make many mistakes it is not how we fall but how we rise.
Oh! And Indian givers suck!
We heard that Patty and Johnny made it to their new home safely. We wish them all the best. We still love them and will forever be grateful for the time spent and the lessons we learned because of them.