A couple of months ago my daughter encountered a very distressing situation. She had a friend at school she had been spending a lot of time with and she wanted to invite her to her birthday party. I sent her off to school with her invitation, and she was so excited! Much to my dismay, she was NOT so excited when I picked her up.
Apparently, when she had presented her friend with her birthday invitation, her friend had said “No, I don’t WANT to go to your birthday party!”. My daughter was devastated and very angry. We talked a little bit about how that was not a nice thing for her friend to do, and its perfectly ok for her to be angry about it. I let her feelings run their course through the rest of the evening.
The next morning while we were getting her ready for school, I asked her what she wanted to do with the invitation.
“I want to try inviting [her friend] to my birthday party again.” Ok, that sounded like a reasonable idea – you never know what her friend may have been dealing with the day she invited. I prepped her a little bit, letting her know that she didn’t have to try inviting her again, and if her friend reacted the same way again that she might want to consider whether or not this was a good friend to have. She seemed to understand, but was insistent that she wanted to try again.
This time it went well. Her friend simply said “thank you”. The issue seemed to have been a simple case of someone who had a bad day.
A couple of weeks ago, I entered the school again to pick my daughter up on our usual schedule. This time she was sitting with two different friends I hadn’t seen before. After introducing me to her new friends, she said “[her friend she had invited to her birthday party] isn’t my friend anymore. She was being mean and pushed me down on the playground.”
Now, even just 5 years ago I probably would have said “well, that’s not nice to say someone isn’t your friend” or “maybe she had another bad day” or “think about what she might be going through”.
Not anymore. I’ve learned a little something about boundaries in the past few years. About valuing and prioritizing myself. About drawing the line between me and toxic people. So what did I say? “Sounds like you made a good decision. You don’t need people like that in your life.” I congratulated her. I told her ‘good job’. I encouraged her to continue to find people like her current friends to spend time with. I gave her a big hug.
I am SO proud of her. I knew very little about setting boundaries when I was a child. I took the friends I could find and rarely had the courage to say “no” or to stand up to mistreatment. I’m thrilled to see my daughter paving the way to a very healthy life with very healthy relationships. I realize that this little girl she is no longer friends with may have perfectly valid reasons for behaving the way she does. But I don’t want my daughter to ever feel like she needs to stay in, or enter into any kind of toxic relationship with someone for any reason at all; it doesn’t matter what the other person’s circumstances are. Boundaries are good for my daughter and, frankly, they are good for her ex-friend as well.
Here’s hoping I am raising my own Real Girl (and Real Boy as my son gets older!) who is unafraid to be herself and embrace her value!
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