When Ava came home from school yesterday, she wanted to work on her science project, and I said, "That's Daddy's domain. When you need help with an emotional problem, Mommy will help you, but science projects fall to Daddy." She accepted this, and on the van ride home from the library she told me that she had an issue with some friends at school during recess and wondered if we could talk about it.
I love those parenting moments. For me, it's as if the sky opens and the sun beams down when I hear my daughter ask to talk through a problem. Since William chatters non-stop in the car, I asked her to wait until we got home. We got settled in and she told me about a couple friends playing fort at recess, and when Ava asked to join them, she was told she needed a secret password. She immediately went to the supervisor to complain, but recess was over, so she told her teacher when she got back into the classroom.
Listening to this stream of consciousness, I immediately took the side of her friends, amazed that Ava would be so quick to tattle on them. We talked it through, and I tried to dredge up all of the parenting advice I've ever read or been given, and asked her how she could've handled the situation differently, so she could learn some problem solving skills on her own. She said, "I could've told my friends that my feelings were hurt and they should give me the secret code so I could play too, but I've done that before and they have said no, so I went straight to an adult for help."
I couldn't fault her logic here, but it was my parenting job to help her see that if the situation was reversed, she would be upset if her friends ratted her out at the first sign of trouble. I encouraged her to think the best of her friends first, and make every effort to work it out herself, and only go to an adult as a last resort. Her fabulous teacher pretty much told her the same thing, and with no hesitation at all, the secret code was given to Ava, apologies were made, and they went on nicely as friends.
I told my daughter that as adults, we have no one else to go to when our feelings are hurt. We have no choice but to work it out on our own. She will be so far ahead socially if she can learn to manage her conflicts with limited outside help at 7 years old. I know it's a long process, because I'm 37 and I still struggle with ways to get along with everyone in my life.
Just before supper she wanted to have a snack and I said no, that supper was almost ready, and she burst into tears and fled into her room. At first I worried that she was hurt because I didn't immediately support her with her story from school, but then I slowly realized as I got supper on the table that she was embarrassed about her behaviour and beating herself up about it. This hurt me deeply because I do it all the time, and I desperately want her to extend more grace to herself than I know how to do for myself.
We talked about it from this angle, and I saw her relief when she realized that we all make mistakes, and learn from them, and that's okay. I need to remember this too. Making ourselves sick over stupid things we've said or done is a fruitless exercise. Much better to forgive us our own trespasses, and move on with a new perspective on the situation that will help us another time. Lessons like conflict resolution are not learned overnight. They take a lifetime to refine and grow in our spirits, to make us into more compassionate and loving friends.