Oh, I forgot we were going there,” says Kiele, my 7-year-old daughter, as she sighs from the back seat of the car. She goes silent, and I feel her uneasiness. Kiele needs to know I will be there for her, so I try to reassure her by saying, “There are times in life when you will need to work things out with your friends. The two of you are in the same class at school and not talking to each other. You have been good friends. I will be with you, helping you work this out.”
Days earlier, Kiele arrived home from school in a bad mood, saying she didn’t want to go back there. She loves school, so I knew I had better take her seriously. She explained she had not been talking to or playing with her friend, Adriana. I called Maureen, Adriana’s mom, and gave her the rundown. We thought it would be a good idea to get our daughters together to find out what is going on between them.
Walking toward their front door, Kiele whispers in a nervous tone, “I’m scared.”
“I will be right beside you the whole time,” I say as I hug her.
Talking it out
Kiele rings the doorbell, and Adriana opens the door. Normally there is uncontrollable excitement between them when they see each other. Smiles and hugs are always exchanged, but today is different. Adriana doesn’t even say hello, and immediately turns around, walking toward the kitchen and leaving us to let ourselves in.
Maureen is standing behind her kitchen counter. We exchange hellos. Kiele is chatting with Maureen about her sister’s upcoming birthday. Adriana is milling about, nervously weaving around with a frown plastered on her face. The girls are purposefully ignoring each other. Maureen sees this, and she realizes they aren’t going to do it themselves. I get the impression she is going to take the initiative to get the discussion started.
“Ok girls, let’s sit down, and you can start telling us what’s on your mind,” Maureen says. Kiele and Adriana sit down right beside each other, and turn to face one another. Maureen stands behind them, and I take a seat directly across from them.
“So, what are you two thinking?” asks Maureen. Turning her head from Adriana toward Kiele, she adds “Adriana values your friendship, and wants to be friends with you.”
Kiele, who typically is not shy, starts. “Why aren’t you being my friend at school?”
Adriana begins with a quiet answer, “I am.” Though, in a split second, she turns from a lamb to a wolf when she quickly fires back, “You said Haruka is your best friend!”
“I did not!” Kiele snaps back in defense.
“When we were on the blacktop, I asked Haruka if I could play with her and you. And she said no.” Adriana sadly snarls, feeling again the sting of rejection.
“Yeah, she said it. I walked away, because I didn’t want to get in trouble,” declares Kiele, throwing her hands up in the air. “What about yesterday, when I was talking to you and Emily pulled you away?”
It was time for me to interject what I was thinking, in the hope of bringing a quick resolution. “What it seems like to me is this: there are girls out there jealous of your friendship. They are trying to stop the two of you from playing. It is okay for both of you to have friends besides each other. I’ve heard both of you call each other best friend, but I think the two of you should start saying you are good friends, not best friends. The best-friend thing seems to hurt other girls more, and saying good friends is a nicer way to say it.”
Kiele and Adriana begin smiling at each other. They stand up and walk away shoulder-to-shoulder, giggling to one another. They run upstairs, sending the message that it’s over, and we are back to the way things have been.
“Wow! That ended quickly. I’m glad it’s over,” I say to Maureen as I was walk toward the kitchen counter, finding my usual seat across from her.
“Me, too,” she agrees.
The mood lightens as everything returns to the way things have always been: Kiele and Adriana playing happily while Maureen and I chat.
A couple of hours later, walking toward our car, Kiele says, “Mom, thanks for your help with Adriana.”
“That’s what I’m here for, to help you solve your problems,” I say, giving her a hug.
I am grateful I was there to help with her first big friend problem, though the reality is I will not always be beside her. Yet, I know I have started laying the foundation of her problem-solving skills—facing her problems, not running away from them.
Sarah Kendall is a freelance writer and mom to two girls.