We have a lot of estrogen flowing through this house. And a lot of garbage, too.
My almost-12-year-old marched into my bedroom Tuesday morning to announce that so-and-so and so-and-so and possibly a third so-and-so think they’re all that because they did all this, and can you believe how awful they are?
So I put down whatever it was I was doing and stood with my hands on my hips. “How do you know everything about everyone’s business? How is it that all these goings-on are public knowledge in the middle of the summer?” Then I removed the rock I had been living under and was reminded of all things involving social networking, which, when you are 12, is not networking at all. It is gossip and posturing and hearsay and insecurity. And I can’t do a thing about any of it. Except try to break it gently to her that “obnoxious” and “mean-spirited” cross all generations. In my day, we had loose-leaf paper shaped like footballs and filled with outdated gossip. Her generation has e-mail, Buzz, Facebook and texting, all transmitting real-time drama.
The tools have changed, but the results are basically the same. So I shared with her the following:
“I’m going to tell you what I wish someone had told me when I was 12. Twelve-year-old girls can be . . . jerks. No two ways about it. They can’t help it. They don’t all have character flaws, necessarily, but they are 12-year-old girls. They experience great joy in leaving out other 12-year-old girls. They delight in having things that other 12-year-old girls do not have and doing things that other 12-year-old girls may not get to do. Cliques are grand things when you’re 12–and when you’re a part of one. But then you grow up, and by the time you’re, say, 18, those who have survived and come out of it without an eating disorder are practically normal.”
By this point, she was lying face down on the floor. Still, I continued. Then I made a prediction. I told her, “You are going to be better than all of them. In fact, you already are. You’re growing up a little more slowly, and that’s A-OK. You don’t try to one-up the next girl, and you’re not falling head first into this garbage. You just got tripped up a little.”
Maybe all she wanted was for me to agree that some girls are simply awful and rude, but I gave her more than she was asking for. “Can I go outside now?” She was so worn down by my rant that she seemed to have forgotten why she even entered the room and why she was so bothered to begin with.