The Exclusion Project
Updated at the Bottom
It is a snowy ice day here. No school, but no sledding unless we aim to be decapitated by the huge chunks of ice. Isn’t that so sad? To finally have a day home due to the weather, but not be able to go sledding because ice is over the snow? It’s like water water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Are we beginning to sound like sledding freaks?
But this post is about something else.
Last week, the ChickieNob was having a shit day. Another child had made fun of the picture she was drawing of me wearing thick, navy blue glasses (note to self: those glasses rocked. Go try to find plastic, navy blue, square-eye frames). And still another told her that she did a crap job of cleaning up their desk. And another told her that she was having a playdate with someone else and the ChickieNob wasn’t invited to join them.
We went up to her office, which is what we call the rocking chair in her room (I always offer: “my office or yours?” with my office being my bed and her office being the chair), and rocked and cried. She was really just having a shit day and it was grey outside and she was having a pity party, listing out all of the tiny slights that she perceived; all aimed directly at her heart.
When I asked her if — perhaps — she was crossing the line from shit day into creating drama, she said, “you wouldn’t understand because you’ve never been excluded.”
Hold your horses, little Miss Six-Year-Old.
Everyone has been excluded; everyone has been snubbed at some point in their life from the Queen of England to Missy No-Mates (which is what I sometimes call myself when I’m feeling lonely; which is different from when I call myself Smelly Melly, which is just my every day name I call myself when I’m thinking).
She challenged me to name a time and I told her about a girl who told me that she wasn’t inviting me to her Bat Mitzvah, which I didn’t believe because who believes that sort of think when they’re taunting you with it? But she didn’t invite me to her Bat Mitzvah. She would talk about it all day at lunch, every day. And I was the only one at the table who wasn’t going. And the worst was that I asked if my invitation was lost in the mail, which just gave her another chance to tell me that I wasn’t invited.
The ChickieNob was delighted to hear this story and immediately forgot about her own friend conundrum in order to ask me to relive my worst moments from childhood. I admitted that most of them had been forgotten — they had hurt terribly in the moment, and if I read about the incident in an old diary, I could remember it. But off the top of my head, those moments were gone.
Still, as a former teacher, I knew how much it meant to students to hear that they weren’t alone in the horror that is growing up. I couldn’t tell them what any other student had said, but sometimes I told them that they weren’t the first person who had come to me crying that day with a friend problem. And that piece of information was enough to get them over the hump that was their problem. Sometimes, all that was really needed was to not feel alone. To not feel like you’re the only one struggling.
In parading out my stories, the ChickieNob stopped crying and critiqued my life instead of her own and left the room 20 pounds lighter, without the burden of aloneness on her shoulders.
And it got me thinking; I think it could help all the girls out there to hear our stories. Sort of in the same vein as the It Gets Better project, except in regards to feeling alone as a child. To feel as if you are the only one struggling within friendships. I’d like to collect these stories so the ChickieNob can read them whenever she comes home feeling like she is the only person on the planet who has ever been excluded. And I’d like all the kids in your life — your children, your students, your nieces — to read these stories too and use them to know that friendships get better too.
Please use the comment section below to write about what it was like for you in the friend department when you were a child and write about a time you were excluded — from an event, by a person or whatever has stayed with you all these years — and if possible, talk about when and how social stuff got better. Please don’t worry if your comment gets enormously long — use the space to say whatever you need to say, knowing that at least one six-year-old, home on a snow day, will be reading it and using your words to make herself feel better. And she will be looking back over those words in the future whenever she is having a shit day.
I will kick it off up here with my story:
My best friend broke up with me after 8 intense years of friendship. We were not only best friends in middle and high school — formative years that I could not have gotten though without her — but we went far away to college together. If you had told my 18-year-old self that one day she wouldn’t be in my life, I would have told you that you were crazy. But then one day, she closed the door on our friendship and wouldn’t give me a reason. No huge fight where we could say why we weren’t friends. People would ask me and I couldn’t answer them beyond, “I don’t know.” (Many of the details are contained in that linked-to post, and here is the aftermath).
For me, social things changed when I got to college. There wasn’t a popular crowd anymore and an unpopular crowd per se — instead, people broke into small groups based on common interests. And that’s where I started feeling more confident in myself and was able to be a better friend. And in turn, I got better friends.
I told you mine, now you tell us yours.
Added — Note from the ChickieNob:
Thank you for all of these stories that you had when you were a kid. Some of these stories are the same kinds that I had before! I had some kids say that I’m not going to be your friend anymore or they wouldn’t let me sit with them. After Mommy read me the stories, I felt better. Some of them made me very sad. Please keep sending more. It makes me feel better to hear other people’s stories.