It’s tough being a girl these days. Sometimes I wonder how long it’s been like this, but then I remember my own traumas at the hands of vicious twelve year olds, and the stories my mom tells of her childhood and crappy things girls said and did, and that was waaaay back in the sixties.
So it’s been like this for awhile, I think.
I have a theory that sensitive girls are more likely to be targeted for bullying. Just to be clear, that theory is based entirely on personal experience and observation over the last 20 or so years of my life. Not on anything like science or facts.
I have a sensitive girl. She is the sweetest. And the quirkiest. She’s the type of kid that makes a power point presentation to propose throwing a tea party for her grandmother’s birthday. (Of course we said yes.)
She’s the type of kid that makes a card everyone she ever meets and has zero qualms about telling people how and why she loves them.
She’s that kid that all the moms at church ask to babysit their kids, because they know their babies will be loved and quite possibly a little smothered with intense attention. But in a good sort of way.
Don’t get me wrong. This kid can sass like you wouldn’t believe, and several times I’ve found myself humming if looks could kill… as I send her upstairs to sit in her room–Because for an extroverted people-lover like this one, sending her to room is The. Worst. Possible. Punishment.
She also has an extremely wacky sense of humor and has been known to utter incredibly inappropriate jokes that make even my father, the former sailor, laugh out loud. That’s an accomplishment worth mentioning in this family.
So, yeah, she’s a sweetheart, but she’s also a little crazy.
But no matter what her personality is, she is above all, sensitive. This is a beautiful trait to have. Sensitive people are generally not only sensitive to their own feelings, but to others as well.
Even when she was a baby, she could sense when I was sad and would hug me or wipe my tears off my face. She is always the first person to try to make the new kid or the loner feel welcome. She gets her feelings hurt when someone she loves is hurt, or even someone she doesn’t love. She just has one of those hearts.
The downside to all this is, of course, that her heart breaks more easily and more often than a not-so-sensitive girl. So when she comes up against one of these mean girls and they say one of their mean things to her, it cuts her deep.
But even then, she is the first one to forgive and try to see things from their perspective. “It’s okay, Mommy.” She said recently, when I was all worked up over something someone said. “She’s having a really hard time right now at home.”
I’m not going to share what she has been picked on for, or what has been said to her or about her, because she is eleven years old and really doesn’t need me validating those things by sharing them with the world.
And can I just say, to all the bloggers that are moms: Their stories are not ours to tell. We can share things about our kids, but some things belong to them and only them. Forever. Please respect that.
Anyway, back to my girl. She’s been really blessed with a few lovely friends that don’t need to put others down to feel good. We thank God for them regularly.
But the mean girls still exist and one cruel exchange can stay with a sensitive girl for a very long time.
So how do you raise a sensitive girl in a mean girl world?
This is how I’ve been doing it so far: With patience, grace, plenty of hugs, and lots of listening and long talks, and…Jesus.
Patience, because sometimes her sensitivity will overwhelm you and you’ll want to snap, “Get over it!” because, come on already. And patience because sometimes the urge to fix things will be so, so strong in you. And you have to ignore that urge and let her feel pain and let her make mistakes with friends, and let her learn and grow by doing so.
Grace, because you’ll need to show her grace over and over so that she can show these mean girls grace. That’s just how it works. All the telling in the world can be swept away in a split second of showing. So show grace. Over and over.
Hugs, because she needs to be held and told that she’s lovely and worthy, and she needs it often. From you and from her Daddy. In fact, sometimes I suspect that if you rounded up all the mean girls in the world, the one thing they’d share in common is that their Daddy didn’t do this nearly enough.
Listening, because there will be times you’re the only person she can safely talk to without fear of being judged. Just listen. You don’t always need to teach a lesson or make things right.
Long talks, because sometimes listening isn’t enough. Sometimes she needs guidance, or a warning, or wisdom, or a reassurance. You’ll know when she needs what, because you just will. Except for when you don’t, and you screw up and lecture her and realize she really just needed you to listen. But that’s when you figure out that it’s okay to screw up and, hey, at least you are here, trying.
And, Jesus. Because nothing we believe about how we’re supposed to treat others makes any sense, unless you have Jesus. And because now is the time to teach her to go to Jesus for comfort and guidance, because you won’t always be there to give it to her.
And all of these things are great and fine, but guess what? Sometimes I let my emotions get in the way and react based on my feelings instead of like a rational adult.
Like that one time, when my daughter was telling me something really cruel that one of her friends said to her, and I said without thinking, “What a b*tch!”
Remember that whole showing grace thing? I kind of forgot it in that moment.
And when that happens, you show yourself grace, too. And you apologize and tell your kid that you shouldn’t have reacted that way, and you pretend you don’t see how delighted she is that you were swearing on her behalf. And you hope she never mentions it to said friend.
I was tempted to leave that story out of this post, but with all the wisdom I am sharing here, you should know that I am still getting the hang of this grace thing.
Because as a sensitive mommy to a sensitive girl, it can be hard to watch her be hurt and see her confidence be chipped away.
And please know that there may come a time when a difficult friendship starts seeming more like a pattern of abuse with malicious intent, and you have to instruct your girl to keep their distance from a certain person. And that really sucks. It can have lasting effects on a family and its circle of friends. But you gotta do what you gotta do.
And that’s really what it all comes down to as a mom. If your kids know that you are on their side, no matter what, they’ll be able to face anything that comes their way.
And if it all gets a little too hard to handle? Do what I do and call your mom and whine about it. She’ll understand.