We dropped Big Girl off at camp on Sunday, but not without a little drama and a realization: I am not immune from helicopter parenting.
Big Girl, if you’ve not met her, is fun and sweet and friendly and a bit snarky with her humor (I don’t know where she gets that!) and has lots of friends. Socially, she describes herself as “not popular, but at the top of the middle group.” I love that. How do tweeny teens not see that having a good cadre of friends is the very definition of popular? (Aside: there’s a song in the show [title of show] (and yes that is the title) that goes “I’d rather be nine people’s favorite thing than 100 people’s ninth favorite thing.” That’s how I feel about high school popularity, we’ll see how she feels when she gets there.)
Big Girl’s only had one episode of mean girl drama, and it was quickly and easily solved. In early elementary, a new girl came to school and she became friends with S, Big Girl’s BFFB (best friend from birth). Soon the new girl began taunting Big Girl with “S is my friend now, she’s not going to be your friend any more.” My little daughter was distraught, and begged me to call her mother and tell her to stop. I knew that would only result in more teasing. So S’s mom and I had a sit-down with our two girls. S was told that she had to be the one to stop the teasing, that she should say, “I have room enough to be friends with both of you, but you can’t tease Big Girl or I won’t be friends with you.”
We never followed up on exactly what was said and when, but after that I never got any complaints about that girl, and the next year she and Big Girl were in the same class and became friends. Oh good, we got the mean girl drama done early. Not so.
The past two years at sleep-away camp, Big Girl has made good friends. I even had to drive her to Westchester County in a slushstorm so that she could have a sleepover with a camp friend. Glad to do it. But it ate at my guts that there’s been one girl in her bunk who’s been consistently unkind to her. She’s taken in stride and just enjoyed the rest of the girls. But this year it went to a whole new level.
Just before the first session of camp (obviously Big Girl is only going to the second session), my daughter was IM’ing with two camp friends. She made the mistake of mentioning the other girl (DB used to call a guy at college The Unfriendly Dude, so we’ll call her The Unfriendly Dudette) in an unkind manner, and within a literal minute TUD found out and started a chat with Big Girl. A mean chat. Nasty language, vague threats, enough to make my sweet girl cry and come bawling to me when I came come an hour later.
She was angry that I printed out the conversation, but I wanted it as evidence should anything else happen. Then, against my daughter’s wishes, I called the camp and spoke to the unit head. It took a week of phone tag, but we talked and decided she shouldn’t be in the same bunk with TUD. Big Girl had at first agreed to this, but as her camp time approached she was brave and didn’t want to be seperated from her other friends. I assured her that she would be with a couple of them, but probably not all. She wanted me to call back camp and switch her into her old bunk, but I didn’t.
Upon our arrival at camp, Big Girl was devastated that she was in a suite (her age group is all housed in a big house) with all new girls. Because, of course, Mommy had said that Big Girl was great at making new kids feel welcome (which she is, ask her newer school friends). She was furious at me for arranging this, so we talked to the unit heads and to their credit they switched her back in.
So now Mommy got a lesson in hovering too close, and Big Girl is getting a lesson in living with her decisions. I really, really hope TUD comes around, but I’m not betting on it. I’m betting on my daughter’s ability to rise above it. I’m betting on that while I’m wringing my hands and pacing in my mind and waiting to get my first letter…