What do you say when your daughter tells you she’s been demoted in the hierarchy of her girlfriends?
by Sherry Antonetti
“How was the party?” I asked as my daughter buckled up for the ride home. I expected a litany of her favorite things: the pink cupcakes, the karaoke machine, her best friends, glitter art. Instead, this slumping person said, “It wasn’t the best day.” which meant someone said something that hurt her sugarplum nine-year-old heart.
“What happened?” I asked.
“She said I was only her third best friend.”
My heart sunk. Girl friendships sometimes act like the weather and have these sort of ups and downs, rankings and badges. I’ve come to loathe the title BFF, which can be lost or gained in an instant, and which, when missing, seems gone forever.
Racking my brain, I summoned Parent Strategy #1: Kiss the booboo and say, “It will feel better.” We talked about how we love all our brothers and sisters, but sometimes, even though we love them, we fight, and that friends have the same sort of issues.
“I know.” She stared out the window.
Parental wisdom wouldn’t satisfy, so I opted for Parental Strategy #2. Diversion! “Hey, you know Dad’s planting a garden this afternoon. You can help plant the carrots.”
She perked up a little, and by dinner, was deep in the dirt with her father. But after a shower and dinner, as I was tucking her into bed, she came back to her friend and the hole in her heart where her sureness in her friend’s love used to be.
Deploy Parent Strategy #3, which in retrospect, should have been #1: We prayed for her friend, and for her. We talked about how friendships require give and take and forgiveness, and how real friends talk to each other when something goes wrong. She gave me a kiss. I’d finally given her a strategy for dealing with the problem, as opposed to brushing away or trying to will away the pain.
Turning off the lights, I thought about friendships and offered a mother’s prayer that all would be well. I decided to schedule a quiet play date.
Teaching prudence in friendship is like teaching chastity to a teen.
The next morning, when she brought up the party again, we talked about how even Jesus had troubles with his friends sometimes.
She nodded. “I know, but it still stings a little.”
“Maybe we should just drop the rankings of friends,” I suggested. “You will know how close you are by what you share and how much you enjoy each other’s company.”
She said, “Well, I like thinking of all my friends as the best.”
I understood her desire to have a full community experience, to feel that secure in your heart with everyone else. Teaching prudence in friendship is like teaching chastity to a teen: it isn’t something easy, because we’re made for community, we’re made for love, and the desire to have that affirmation, whether emotionally or physically, seems like the real thing even when it hasn’t been tested or proven or fully grown.
Grown! The Holy Spirit hit me over the head with the garden.
“Do you think the carrots are ready for harvesting?” I asked.
“No Mom! They’ll take at least fifty-five days. I read the packet.”
“The carrots are mature for eating at the end of that time?”
“Yes. Though some won’t grow and some might need more time if it rains or is too cold.”
“Carrots are much less complex than friendships.” I said.
“Well, maybe your friendship with your friend needs more sun, more rain, more time before it can be harvested and declared a fully mature carrot.”
She gave me one of those “Ohhh!” looks, and we phoned her friend.
Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer with numerous Catholic publications, including the National Catholic Register, Catholic Digest, Catholic Standard and CatholicMom. She is currently working on her second fiction book, and you can buy her first, The Book of Helen at Amazon or from her publisher’s site, Museitup. You can reach her at sherryantonettiwrites@yahoo.