Empowering a Junior High Girl

After 12 easy years, it’s time to get my gun out. The enemy? Teenage punks –errrr– boys.

Like many parents, I have the luxury of raising kids of both genders. While they each come with their own challenges, I will say that I’m much more apprehensive as a dad when it comes to my daughter. With my son, it seems to be more about reliving some of my own experiences and hoping he doesn’t make the same mistakes or rises above some of the challenges I had more easily. But with my daughter, it’s more about keeping her safe from an ugly world and giving her as much guidance about her biggest enemy…boys.

But luckily, jr. high school isn’t all about boys. It’s also all about status and friendships too. And my favorite time is when all of these things collide. I was hoping I’d get one more year of sweet innocence, but no such luck. Now, my daughter happens to be very diplomatic. This was a likely by-product of being a child of divorce and not wanting to rock any boats (She is also the queen of prefacing a request for something she wants with an introduction that assures a probable “yes” from me). So, with this skill, I tend to trust that she can handle certain situations on her own. Still, jr. high can be a jungle and so I’ve spent a lot of time with both of my kids talking about personalities, setting standards, and knowing that most things are temporary.

A little throwback to a time where there was less drama...only because there was no Facebook or cell phones.

Despite all this, I want to micromanage. It’s in my nature. Any life event is a “teaching moment” and my kids can attest to lectures or anecdotes that probably go on for too long (anything over 10 seconds). But I’m very proactive here. I like to start conversations about things that are going on and things I hear about from either their mom or their sibling. I try to impart as much wisdom as I can knowing that most of it will not sink in. And then I sit and hope that they get through their teenage years without too much drama.

So far, she’s had little girl drama to deal with and, after a couple of instances, she’s understanding a lot about taking the high road and also choosing to invest her time with people who are uplifting versus mean girls. In fact, as her brother attempted to tell me about another drama girl incident his sister had to deal with, she protested. I supported her protest and told her, “I trust you to be able to handle this the best way…I’m here if you want to talk about it, but I know you will make good decisions because you always do.” Yes, I wanted to know what the drama was. And yes I wanted to micromanage it. But, I knew this type of problem was not going to be the last and she needs to feel confident in trusting her own instincts, which are quite good. It’s been a month and I still don’t know the story.

But then it happened.

A boy. A boy who is “funny.” A product of a divorced set of parents who failed to teach him certain things about respect, honesty and etiquette. A boy who chose one girl over another but continued to text flirty and dirty things to the unchosen girl much to the shock and dismay of his mother who chose to parent him by living four hours away while insisting he “would never say such things.” Okay. The texts from his phone weren’t from him. You say a friend of his must have texted them? You say you’ll get to the bottom of this and then call me back? (she never called back)

Some may think this age is too soon for boyfriends, but since being “in a relationship” consists of hanging out at school, not holding hands (or worse) and the occasional group of friends movie, I felt it was worth the life experience. What I didn’t expect was the type of experience that’s usually reserved for adults.

No, the texting isn’t the reason I’m an angry dad. But the break-up and emotional manipulation at the end is. I get that a 13 year old boy doesn’t have the sack (figuratively and literally) to have a face-to-face conversation and instead resorts to texting a break-up. I get that he had to play the ignore game for an entire group date. But what I don’t get is the pathological lie. Really? Cancer? It’s not enough that you understandably want to move on, but you have to lie about having cancer? Idiot. Yes, 13-year-old idiot punk.

My daughter, who would have handled the “break-up” fine was upset all weekend because she thought her “friend” had cancer. A quick call to the distant mother by my ex to offer sincere sympathy was met with the truth. No cancer. Just a lying punk. His punishment? I’m sure her “sweet little boy” got a soft singsongy “that was wrong” two-second lecture.

How did my daughter handle it? She confronted him the next day (she’s good at confronting people) and said, “you owe me an apology” to which he replied, “for what?” Her response? “You know.” And she turned and walked away. The punk couldn’t even apologize.

Yeah. I don't need her growing up to become one of these girls.

I guess I owe him thanks. She learned a very real lesson about people and character. We talked about standards to set for people and not settling. I reminded her that she could give him grace for being an idiot but that she didn’t have to put herself in a position to be lied to by him again. Like I said, she’s pretty good at figuring this stuff out. She’s even better at taking the high road. And my job is to make sure she’s encouraged to trust in herself even though I’d like to take some type of revenge for her.

But then again, that’s what older brothers are for.

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