We are excited to share a guest post today from My Other Ex contributor Leah Vidal. I got the pleasure of meeting Leah in person at the BlogHer conference in July, and she is just as warm, dynamic, and inspiring in person as she is on the page. I think you’ll love this powerful post from Leah about teaching her twelve-year-old daughter about friendship, social circles, and self-worth. ~Stephanie
I hope I find friends who like the same things I like. What if no one likes Dr. Who or Sherlock Holmes, the BBC version of course, or art or reading the same books I read? What if no one knows who Loki is or Tom Hiddleston or that Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role of Sherlock better than anyone in Sherlock Holmes history?”
The questions tumbled from her lips like drops from the sky, raining down on me, covering me in a film of indecision.
I looked at my twelve-year-old daughter who took her last school by storm in her knee-high rainbow socks and high top Converse, who wore her hair naturally curly no matter how many people offered to straighten it for her and was struck by the fact that all she hoped for was finding people whom she could connect to on a deeper level. She wasn’t worried about what others would be wearing, even though this will be her first time in a public school with no uniforms. She wasn’t worried about her hair or her weight or wearing the “right outfit” the first day of school.
I allowed myself to just sit and be proud of her for a moment and collected my thoughts before responding to her, knowing she would hang on my every word as she so often does when she’s troubled, as though each piece of wisdom I share is wrapped in gold, shiny and promising, and worth its weight in…well, gold.
I tried to remember what it was like at her age, when kids grouped together based on athletics, academics, arts, etc. I tried to remember what it felt like to stand amidst one group, while longingly looking at another knowing in my heart of hearts that I would only ever experience them from afar. I tried to remember why we felt it was so important to remain within our separate, little circles instead of letting them merge and overlap, allowing each individual to share their unique personality and interests with others all the while making us each better just by interacting. Why was it imminent that we only allow ourselves to be ourselves within the safety of one group when we had so much to offer each other – not to mention so much to learn from others?
I’ve always told my children with every one of our moves that they only need one good friend to make it feel like home. And, I still believe that with all my heart. However, I also believe that we become so much more when we put ourselves out there and interact with people whom we can’t imagine having anything in common with and grow tremendously from the simple act of reaching out, or letting someone new into our circle of one.
So, I shared these exact thoughts with my daughter, but there was still more I wanted to say. I’m not sure she’s old enough to really get this yet, but maybe she’ll find herself remembering some of it at some point this year or next and suddenly she’ll get it, really get it. So, while I had her undivided attention I said:
“Know that these groups, these circles, these labels that are the end all be all at your age won’t matter at all as you get older. As time passes and you live, truly live, you will be surprised by the friends that surround you. You will understand that you don’t need to share the same interests to be friends because friendship is so much more than watching the same TV show or enjoying the same book. You will have those friends and share a laugh over a movie quote from time to time, but you will also find yourself learning more about you, the real you, from those that you have nothing in common with because they are the ones who will bring new things to light, who will spark your interest in something new, who will help you grow in ways you never thought possible.
So, as you go about your first weeks in a new school embrace those who reach out to you even if they may not be familiar with your interests and more importantly be that person for others. Do not feel like you have to give up a part of you to be accepted or make friends. You are enough. Your differences may just be what helps someone else grow. More importantly, as you navigate your way through the ups and downs of friendship that will undoubtedly come at your age, know that you have a friend in me.
I also covered her mirror with these motivating stickers so she’s reminded on a daily basis that she’s amazing just the way she is and that she’s enough.
Leah Vidal, author of Red Circle Days and writer at Little Miss Wordy explores BIG lessons from life’s little moments —those that plant the thought provoking seed of self discovery. She believes it is these moments that are life’s biggest lessons. Leah is a 2014 BlogHer Voice Of The Year and her writing has been syndicated on BlogHer, featured on the Erma Bombeck site, Freshly Pressed on WordPress and highlighted on Fitness and Parenting sites. She has been featured on PubSlush Women Of Wednesday and is currently working on her second book.