Tonight when I came home from work I found a note on the kitchen counter and my son bawling at the kitchen table. I had no idea what had happened. He can occasionally be an overly sensitive pre-adolescent so it could have been anything from a failed test to not feeling well to something entirely different.
Then I read the note. "We all don't want to be your Friend From T,T,J,PAA" (and underneath the letters were the names of the friends - written by my son).
My heart sank. A lump welled into my throat. All the insecurities of youth and even adulthood came flooding back to me. Of peer pressure and targeting, of being picked on, of losing best friends you thought would be forever. I tried not to cry. I tried to hold it together for my weepy son, but I couldn't. I can't.
I had even hoped it was a mistake. That the note was intended for someone else. It wasn't wrong of me to wish that, was it? But on the front of the note it said "To XXXXXX". No mistake.
He had no idea why five of his best friends have turned against him. I questioned him about his actions, his behaviors, his words. We talked. We cried. We tried to come up with answers. My son, to my knowledge, has always been an over achiever at everything. He's an excellent student who will be taking the ACT in Feburary (at 11) to test for a special program through the nearby college for 7th and 8th graders, he's been in the gifted and talented program for two years, he's a great sport, he's an excellent athlete, he is kind and courteous and is an all around good kid. Granted, I know I'm his mother, but I've been told this by teachers, friends, acquaintances, etc. so I'm not completely bias; however, he can be somewhat competitive and his own worst critic (like his mother). I wondered if jealousy may have had something to do with it or if somehow my 6th grade son's behavior and attitude was becoming cocky or bullying without my knowledge.
With his permission, I called one of the mother's of the kids to see if her son had said anything about my son's behaviors. She wasn't aware of the note, but did say that her son had said a few things for the past few weeks about my son. She couldn't remember anything specific but along the lines that he is a "Know it all". She would talk to her son and call me back but also thought that maybe my son wasn't being inclusive in his friendships and was being mean.
An hour and a half later and many tears between my son and I, we had processed the note and school in detail. From conversations that we have had to what he may or may not say with his friends. These are some friends he's had since first grade! He denied ridiculing one for not making the honor roll or for another not being athletic. And, I believe him. I can see his competitive side on the basketball court not passing the ball to a worse player if their team was losing but he's not a ball hog. I asked him if it had to do with girls, he said he doesn't like girls as one of the friend's is a girl. He and I were at a loss.
What it boils down to is...kids don't need a reason. Kids can be mean. Kids can be jealous. Kids can target and ridicule others. Often it stems from jealousy but not always. And all it takes is for one to start and others will follow. It's a hard lesson to learn, but unfortunately it doesn't end with just kids.
We talked about his options. The way I see it, he had two. He could either confront his friends about the note (that was mysteriously dropped on his backpack at the end of the day) and ask what he had done, see if he could change things and make amends and be friends or he could act like he never got the note and see how the friends treated him tomorrow. The choice was his.
I offered to go to the school or to see about getting all of the youth together to talk it out. I did advise that my calling T's mom may make things worse as would going to the school. If T told the others that I had called his mom, it would or could potentially make things worse for my son. But in my son's eyes, this was as bad as it could get, although I knew from experience this could only be the beginning. He passed on me going to the school.
T's mom called back and T had told her that my son was exclusive, that he "flirted" with the girl friend and was a ball hog on the basketball court. He also referenced some things from 4th and 5th grade as well. T was actually the one that wrote the letter suggested by the girl and informed to actually write it by the other T. I didn't know that her son wrote the letter, nor did my son. Apparently her son, also sensitive was jealous of my son. Jealous of his athletic ability. Jealous that he felt his best friend was being taken away by my son. Jealous that the girl friend (A) that he liked was being flirted by my son. Motivated by jealousy...her son would be apologizing to mine at school and even offered to do so on the phone but my son, teary eyed said he didn't want to talk to him. He couldn't talk to him. I didn't blame him, I was crying for him too. Crying for him, crying for the hatred and meanness of peers, crying because friendships shouldn't be like this.
I addressed all of T's complaints with my son. He denied all of them. When I asked him if he knew what flirting was, he didn't. He doesn't like A that way. My son, heaven forbid, is like me. Naive. Naive to think that everyone can just get along. Everyone can be friends. Unfortunately it isn't true. Jealousy exists, even amongst best friends. And truth be told, if best friends will do that, are they really best friends?
But in the end, all that matters is that my heart aches for the broken heart of my son. For his first unfairness and targeting of peers. I wish that I could take his pain away. I wish that I could promise it will be better, that they will be friends tomorrow, that this will never happen again.
But, I can't. And that's where it SUCKS. When kissing the hurts and boo-boos no longer takes away the pain of your child. When you can't make all the wrongs right. When you feel like you have disappointed your offspring because you can't make everything better. And that sometimes, when life gives you lemons you need to learn how to make lemonade.