Ladybug among bees

I’m impressed by my 8 year old. She has a different take on other people and fitting in which is years ahead of where I was at twice her age. I’ve written about girl dynamics before (Girl drama); my daughter has learned to handle these situations.

M has been at her school for 5 years, since Pre-K.  She has been with the same group of children for that time with a few moves or transfers. M is her own person. Her dad and I appreciate that. and we also know it’s who we have shaped her to be. We are a non-traditional family so we have a non-traditional daughter. While she is experiencing anxiety and insecurity, M is independent. She is clear about how she likes to spend her time and what she likes to play or discuss. Things that would have hurt her feelings in the past don’t affect her in the same way.

She was recently part of a clique. I had trepidation because cliques have a tendency to exclude and/or break apart; these situations tend to get worse over time. Every day, we talk about who she sits with during snack and lunch and who she plays with during morning and lunch recess. I’m less interested in weekend events like sleepovers; I’ve outgrown my concern about that. In the past, I would feel heartbroken if she wasn’t invited to a birthday party or a sleepover. In part, that’s on us. We have a busy schedule. That hasn’t changed and won’t be changing any time soon. If she doesn’t get invited, I don’t dwell on it.  M is aware and honest about the social configurations. I directly asked her how she feels about the clique’s breakup. She was hurt when it first happened. She has noticed that part of the original group is hanging out with former rivals but that’s so typical of girl dynamics. First of all, those grudges aren’t as deep as we make them out to be. Secondly, we want so much to belong so we compromise. She’s gossipy or rude but she’s fun or she takes risks. We weigh the pros and cons of each person.


M is definitely more like K.C.(as portrayed by her idol Zendaya on the left)

My daughter is a cheerleader but she’s never been part of the A group. That may seem strange to admit as a parent but I’m comfortable with that fact. She has always been part of another group. Now that group has broken apart, she is hanging out with her best friend. M says it bothers her to see her other friends hanging out with different girls but she accepts that they are doing what they want. She shared with me what she has in common with her best friend and the ways in which they differ. Her explanation was mature and wise beyond her age. I reassured her that popularity is not everything. I told her I want her to be true to herself. I did tell her popularity is a reality that she will dealing with for at least 10 more years. I explained that it loses its importance in college for most. M asked if adults care about popularity. I wanted to laugh because those issues certainly come up in work or in social circles, even in my beloved dance communities. I said, “Unless you’re on a stage singing “Candy Girl”, popularity is not that important.” (Yes, I’m still talking about New Edition non-stop.)

I also shared that I found being unpopular a blessing. It hurt in the moment but it gave me appreciation for myself, for my true friends, and it kept me from engaging in unsafe behaviors. M and I have open, though age-appropriate,  conversations about my concerns.

M went to school in a great mood. It’s important to tell her it’s ok to be different. I told her I was a weirdo and proud of it. I’m grateful for the sense I developed of myself as an artist and a person. It hurt at times.  The queen bee is always going to look at you funny because you’re a yellow jacket or a mayfly or a ladybug. You ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing but you have to be true to yourself. M gets it.  You got this, mija.


Like mother, like daughter: say it with your tee


The battle against girl drama

Hurt that’s not supposed to show
And tears that fall when no one knows
When you’re trying hard to be your best
Could you be a little less

Do you know what it feels like for a girl
Do you know what it feels like in this world
What it feels like for a girl

Strong inside but you don’t know it
Good little girls they never show it
When you open up your mouth to speak
Could you be a little weak …”What it feels like for a girl,” Madonna

During the early weeks of my pregnancy, I was convinced my baby was a boy. I immediately began referring to “him.” When I went for my ultrasound, I saw my baby’s face but not gender. My baby kicked and rolled quite actively.  While at work a few weeks later, I received the phone call revealing my child’s gender. She was a girl. I sat at on my desk and wept for several minutes. I wept with joy, fear, and sadness.  I would be parenting a girl.

I call them girl mommy woes. I know parenting is tough work and can sometimes be emotionally exhausting, whether you’re a mother or father, whether you’re raising daughters or sons. As a woman, I struggle with raising my daughter to face the challenges in dealing with other girls.

The infamous holiday talent show from _Mean Girls_ 
“Girl drama” is a problematic term for me. I know it’s real and yet I wish it wasn’t. Those struggles hurt M and they hurt me.  I find myself talking about other girls and women with vicious judgment and even rage. Rambo helps to balance out those moments. Though he is quick to communicate with teachers if he senses any pattern of bullying against M or other girls in her class, he also reminds me that M has the power to respond(or not) to these situations.  Me ha costado mucho trabajo, I have worked my tail off to calm down, breathe, and not let M see how angry these situations make me.

What my daughter is experiencing isn’t anything unique.  Almost all women have faced and continue to face gossip, exclusion, and verbal harassment. It’s especially difficult when your closest friends are involved. That’s what hurts M the most, when her “besties” opt to leave her out of activities or make mean comments to her. Like many women have and do, M has to contend with the mean girls. Earlier this week, M wore a pair of sky blue short shorts to practice. I had initially purchased them for her use at dance, specifically for the dance convention workshops she will soon attend. Rambo and I have complained about the hemline time and time again pero mija es muy hardheaded (wonder where she gets that?).  She has worn these shorts to practice at least three times with no negative feedback from either coach.  One of her friends proceeded to tell her in a rude voice, “You shouldn’t be wearing those because you’re going to get kidnapped.” The girl then added, “Everyone can see your butt.” Two other friends, including one of M’s closer friends, chimed in with “you look naked. You’re naked.”  M chose to move elsewhere in the practice formation and near three friends who seldom or never get involved in altercations.  M didn’t cry until she was safely in my car on the way to dance class. I reassured her that she had done the right thing and I offered other options such as informing the coach and letting the girls know she did not like their comments.  By the next day, those same girls were being nice and sought out M during meals and recess.  M shrugged it off by observing “they are not my bffs” and that “they need to stay in their lane.” She also pointed out that she knows which friends are truly best for her.  
Mean Girls antidote: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 

M is 7.  What will be like when she is 11? 13? 16? I admire M’s strength, her confidence, even that hard-headedness that frustrates me at times.  I’m no longer in control of the people spends her time with and definitely not in control how she interacts with them. I know these issues will continue over the years; shoot, I still deal with this kind of nonsense at work (grown women upset over Halloween costumes!) 

50s gals; apparently this group costume theme caused a negative reaction

I will continue to provide M with opportunities to be part of positive communities such as her dance studio, with SambaFunk, and with our extended family of lifelong friends.  

Dance sister silliness 

Rambo and I will offer advice on how to be proactive when dealing with interpersonal challenges. I will continue to check myself, to not let my anger and resentment over my own girl drama scars hurt my daughter unnecessarily

The problem with Sea Monkeys

(All group and individual names have been changed)

When I was seven years old, the back cover of the Archie or Richie Rich comics often featured an ad for Sea Monkeys.  You opened a packet into a bowl of water and splash! Instant pets! I sent away for them once. The little shrimp looked like brown sprinkles of cinnamon or cumin, not like the ad’s images at all. They died within days.  The experience didn’t stop me from sending away for toys and trinkets advertised on comics or cereal boxes. But I learned that friends don’t appear by simply adding water.

Fast forward a decade and a few years to college. I was one of many cute Candy Store Girls, a cashier/clerk at the University’s Student Store in the candy and greeting card department. The CS girls were all cute and friendly, either Latina or Asian, some also members of the same sorority, all of us a tight-knit group that liked to drink, dance, and blast disco music while we stocked the Jelly Bellies and wrapped up truffles for our clientele of harried professors, starving students, and Berkeley’s most famous eccentrics and/or celebrities (Rick Starr, the Naked Guy, Jason Kidd).  Soon, the CS Girls became managers and only hired their friends.  But once in a while, the non-student management weighed in and that is how Cheryl got a coveted spot in our department. 

Cheryl was not your typical CS girl. She was a mousy little freshman with straight brown hair, small green eyes, and a sprinkling of freckles on her button nose. She hailed from a small town in the Central Valley and wore t-shirts in neutral colors and faded jeans over white canvas sneakers. We got to know each other over curling ribbon on the quarter pound bags of candy.  I could tell she was overwhelmed by our campus so I gave her advice on classes and the best places to study.  In gratitude, she bought me a Chinese fast food dinner. 

From that first work day together, Cheryl became my loyal new friend. She wanted to know everything about me. She wanted to meet me outside of work to hang out at a café or share a meal.  I was a first-year grad student so I was busy with my two jobs, coursework, and student-teaching but she would call me on the phone when I declined her invitations. I liked her and wanted to support her. Soon, her behavior went from charming to irritating. She wanted to know all about Peruvian culture and food and asked if she could meet my family some weekend.  She loved my clothes and shoes so she went out and bought her own.   When she started chatting up my ex-boyfriend Julius, a security guard at the campus store notorious for his womanizing ways, I really became disturbed. The other CS girls joked that I was just jealous but they had not experienced Cheryl’s neediness the way I had.

One afternoon, I stopped in to check the schedule.  Cheryl presented me with a tissue-wrapped object.  It was a simple sterling silver ring. She proclaimed me her best friend. Freaked out, I made an excuse and left.  I threw the ring away and stopped taking Cheryl’s calls.  Within days, there was an awkward conversation at work in which she focused on Julius as the problem between us.   In delayed response, I wrote her a note requesting that she leave me alone.   If we worked a shift together, we did so in relative silence.  Eventually, she took a position in a different department and I never saw her again. 

Sometimes I wonder if I wasn’t too harsh with Cheryl.  She was younger than me. She really needed a friend. She wasn’t a terrible person, just lonely.  I could not and did not want to live up to her expectations. I can only hope that she learned that friendship doesn’t happen in an instant.