Oh, That First Mean Girl Moment...
You know those events that occur, and as they unfold before your very eyes, you think to yourself: "This is a defining moment."?
It could be anything, on any given day. Like, that moment at the beginning of a run when you consider turning back and eating a box of Peeps in your pajamas on the couch or picking up the pace and taking the longer route. Or, when faced with an especially annoying email, you immediately type back a heated reply but then take a pause to reconsider before hitting "send". You instantly realize that whatever decision is made in that moment will impact everything that comes after- be it self-esteem, reputation, relationships, and so on.
The other day at my daughter's gymnastics class, I had one such defining moment- and handling it thoughtfully was twice as important since it would not just be a defining moment for me as a mom, but also for Alexa as a girl.
And, to intensify the situation, the subject matter of said moment was one very close to my heart, one that instantly ignites emotions and memories of wounds that, while long ago healed, I can easily remember as if they happened yesterday: mean girls.
Well, in this case, one mean girl. Who, according to Alexa, allegedly pushed her and spit on her the week before. Upon seeing her from across the gym, tears started flowing out of seemingly nowhere- and even though minutes before Alexa couldn't wait to go to class, she crawled onto my lap and between sobs begged me to let her sit class out. I didn't know what to do. Regardless of the fact that I had no way to know the actual truth of the situation (I mean, these kids are five- I know better then to take her word as gospel on most things), it didn't really matter because in her mind, it happened. And it was everything.
My heart ached for super sensitive Lex. I saw myself instantly, and could empathize completely. Part of me wanted to let her stay on my lap, to show her that she could come to me openly with these kinds of things and know that I would have her back. Why add anxiety to her plate, it was just a preschool gymnastics class, missing one session wasn't going to be the make or break to secure a future place on the Olympic team?
But the more mature, forward thinking mom in me knew better. Letting my daughter skip an activity that she loves because one girl in class was allegedly mean to her is just not an option. Because there are always going to be mean girls, and if we let them dictate what we do, we give them the power. And they don't deserve the power.
I took a deep breath (or 50) and eased Alexa first into the gym on my lap observing, then over to the trampoline to bounce with her friends. Promising not to leave her sight line, I watched Alexa warm up slowly, comforted by the huge smiles of her super sweet friends. Eventually, she wasn't looking back to make sure I was there every 3 minutes, so I quietly told her I was going to sit outside with the other mommies, and if she felt uncomfortable to come and get me and we would talk about it.
Sure enough, I didn't see her again until she skipped out of the gym after class, excitedly showing me the heart stamps she and her friends got for being such good girls. There was no mention, nor has there been since, of the alleged spitting pusher.
Patience paid off. The easily frustrated and self conscious mom I once was would never have had the chops to get through a situation like this gracefully. And while I am (this deserves all caps) BY NO MEANS A PARENTING EXPERT, I can say that based one this experience, when the stakes are high, your gut will know it. And as a result, you just may totally blow your own mind with just how grown up you actually are.