The School of Friendship: Guest Post by Kelly Quinn

In today’s guest post, Kelly Quinn, who lives in Ottawa with her husband and two daughters, writes as an emissary from Girl Land.

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This post is a missive from the Land of Girls, a country I know is foreign to the four mothers of 4 Mothers. I didn’t have a preference for boys or girls when I was pregnant (other than that, having had one girl, I had a slight pragmatic preference for more of the same next-time round, for ease of hand-me-downs). And I have to admit that much of my sense of the differences between boys and girls is based on stereotype and first-hand experience of a very small sample group of boys. (Chiefly: one very energetic nephew and last year, after-school babysitting of one very energetic neighbourhood boy. 4Mothers:  do all of them really move that much??)

Six years and two girls in, we have somehow managed to avoid more than a taste of princess culture, hurrah. There is rather a lot of unavoidable pink around, but either I’ve become acclimatized or it’s still within reasonable bounds, because it doesn’t bother me. But on day 5 of grade 1, my daughter came home and told me that at recess, she asked her two “best friends” to play, and they told her that they were playing a game that was for two people only. She followed them around for a little bit hoping they would include her, and finally she gave up and sat down by herself waiting for recess to be over.

I’m sure this kind of thing happens with boys too. But it’s one of those things that many people associate particularly with elementary-school girls, and one of the things that always lurked at the back of my mind as a “con” to girls—having to confront the insidious schoolyard politics of young girls. I remember very keenly my own triangular “best friend” relationship of the early grades: brief honeymoons of playing all together were inevitably interrupted by the exclusion of one or another of us. Seeing my daughter’s sad little face recounting her first experience of this was heart-breaking (all the more so because the transition to grade 1 has been intensely difficult for her—et tu, Brute?, I addressed her little friends in my head).

Because she is only 6, and because she is having such a rough time altogether, and because I am good friends with the mothers of her little friends, it did not take me long to decide to helicopter in. I know eventually she’s going to have to learn how to navigate this territory on her own, but I told myself a bit of hovering was justified when everything else about grade 1 was causing her so much angst. I talked to the moms; they talked to their daughters, and recess, at least, has improved. But when my daughter asks why I can’t keep her home and teach her myself, one of the things I tell her is that school is important not just for the academics, but for learning about relationships with other people. I knew this was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier to witness.

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