Sunday, January 15, 2017

Friends and Disappointment

My heart is breaking just a little.  It shouldn't be, but it is and so, I will write about it. Sometimes I find I want to DO something when what I need to do is step back. I've never been good at that. Somehow I think I can fix or guide and help in some way. But it doesn't matter what I've done on this subject...it doesn't help because I can't change people.

Friendship is an odd thing. I wanted my girls to have good friends. Don't we all want that for our children? When they were little they had some interactions with cousins and some kids at church. But most of their friendships started in preschool and kindergarten where most friendships do. Heather found some friends right away. Grace, Mary Barbara and Max. Two of those kids were not even in her class, but she found them on the play ground. She went on to find Madi in first grade and added MacKenzie in second grade.  She is now a senior in high school, and Grace, Madi and MacKenzie are still Heather's dearest friends.  Mary Barbara and Max are friends too, but didn't stay as close. They are still all wonderful, wonderful humans.  Throughout this journey Heather went to Girls Camp. It was a blessing to meet other girls in the stake as she was the only girl her age at church for a while. Girls Camp brought a whole group of girls to Heather's experience. They ate at lunch together during 7th and 8th grade. It was a huge group, and it Heather's friends from grade school were welcomed and included. These girls went into seminary and their first year of high school and walked to school together from the church parking lot just next door. They ate lunch with the older kids on Mormon Hill away from the "worldliness" of the high school scene. Everyone was included. My mother's heart was FULL of joy that these friends were going to be Heather's high school friends. What a force for good they were!  Well, Satan must have known that too. As the second year of high school rolled around the dynamics started to change. Part of Heather's non-church group wanted to eat lunch elsewhere. Heather went with them because she wanted to continue to be a light to them, and they had been friends for so long. But the girls that she left had tarted to change. One-by-one, they started to be rude or exclusionary. Personal interests took them in different directions. Heather had become sick during sophomore year, and although the church girls came to visit, they didn't stay, and they didn't come again. I thought for sure that the church girls would be the rock, but they weren't. They were for each other, but not with Heather. I am sad, but there was nothing I could do. Heather isn't as sad as I am. She is disappointed and she was hurt, but those friends I mentioned, Grace, Madi and MacKenzie, have been true blue through and through. They are not the church friends I thought Heather would have, but they are dear, dear girls with good values. And most of all they LOVE Heather and bring her joy.

Jenna hasn't been as fortunate as Heather. She has a dear friend who she's known since birth. They've grown up with each other and for their first nine years, saw each other almost every day for hours. They are more like siblings than friends which could be why periods of jealousy have occurred and why they have separated a little from each other. They still prefer each other's company over anyone else's when they decided to hang out, but Sarah doesn't choose Jenna as often as Jenna would choose Sarah. Sarah has a gift for making friends and was blessed with a light, easy-going personality. Jenna is her opposite in this way and envy's Sarah's personality. Sarah is a member of the church, but was split into another ward for a while which was devastating for Jenna. Jenna made do, but did not enjoy church as much. As they went to Girls Camp, Jenna counted on Sarah to be there for her, but Sarah wasn't. To be fair, we've learned that Jenna has social anxiety and relies on Sarah a lot. When she struggles at camp, she relies on Sarah. To be fair again, the girls were only 12 the first time this happened. It's hard to deal with a needy friend when you're 12. So, we've encourage Jenna to try to make other friends over the years (difficult when you have social anxiety). She has done so, however, at this stage in her 14-year-old life, everyone she calls "friend" could really take Jenna or leave her. They are not inclusionary and often forget to invite Jenna. Or they decide they want someone else new and shiny to be their friend. The boys turn out to be better friends at this point. Jenna doesn't do drama with others, so boys are great for the no-drama scene. I see an adorable girl that Jenna has known for years and who Jenna has gone to Disneyland with and birthday parties for. But when I suggest a social hang out with this girl, Jenna refuses. I don't know why.

At some point the girls become too old for mommy-orchestrated play dates, but it doesn't keep mommy from wanting to knock some heads together  sometimes. I see how the girls manipulate and are exclusionary and I want to scream, "Are you kidding me??" But I don't. I wipe tears and cry some of my own. Today was a bad day on another front. It's the second time this year that our church has created "tribes" or "families" for a youth activity. In the summer, Jenna was in a "tribe" for youth conference with only one person she knew. It was a girl a year older, and a sweet girl so, there was at least a smile for Jenna. But Jenna's memory of the experience was that she hated it. She didn't like not being with friends. At that point, I knew she was having an exceptional and different experience with the Tabernacle event, and that she would see friends at the dance and throughout their time there. I also thought it worked well because the youth needed to listen to the lessons and not be distracted by friends.  She still doesn't have fond memories of it. She has social anxiety. Everything is seen through that filter. Today they were placed in families for the next camp/conference experience. Again Jenna knows of one girl, but doesn't really know her. She came home in tears. Kelly and I wonder if the Lord is trying to give Jenna opportunities to make new friends. If she were placed with those she calls friends, they would end up disappointing her anyway, so this might be better. We desire for Jenna to develop a testimony of the Gospel while she's with us before she goes out in the world. She can't see past the friendship angle of these experiences. I know from the outside that looks to be shallow, and there are other ways of looking at the experiences, but seriously. When you're a teenager it's all about friends, freedom and fun.

My heart is sorry for the experiences my girls have had. When I look back, my sister and I came out of high school with maybe one or two good friends each. In the long run, we've kept in touch with one each I believe. Our other meaningful, deep relationships were started in college or as married couples. My dearest friends are those I've only met in the last 20 years. I know they will find friends as they go out in the world, but how do I help them now? Heather is fine because she has some dear friends who she can talk to and hang out with. And she has the personality to make new ones. Jenna needs a perspective change though. I guess I can pray for that. She has received two invitations this week from two different girls in our ward, and I see that these are girls with whom Jenna can expand her circle a little, even if it's just for lighthearted fun.

I'm hoping with prayer and faith that things will work out. They have for Heather even if it wasn't the way I thought it would work out. Hopefully Jenna will be able to find some real friends soon. She needs the support.