My Daughter Needed Me, Not My Rage, When Her Friends Broke Her Heart
We all have that memory from our childhood. That moment that’s perfectly preserved in our minds — the one when the people we thought were our people turned out to be not. Mine happened during sixth grade in the lunchroom—all you need to know is I was the one with thick glasses and braces and a table to myself. It’s a memory I never wanted my daughter to have. Unfortunately, as of just a few days ago, she does.
Friends of hers who she’s known since kindergarten did something that broke her heart, and they did it where I could see, but not intervene. They ran away giggling and she returned to me, shell-shocked.
I watched the heartbreak fall across her face. My heart broke for her. No, my heart was shredded and shattered for her. Her heart and mind would remember what those girls had done.
We discussed what happened, then she went to a basketball lesson, and I turned to my phone to address the emotion taking over my entire body—unfiltered rage. My heart rate ticked up and my body vibrated with the intensity of how angry I was at those so-called friends. It was a rage the likes of which could set the world on fire. It was a rage I’d venture to guess most parents in my shoes might experience.
During the basketball lesson, rage consumed me. I couldn’t undo what had happened, but I could make sure my daughter knew I’d be there to catch her, to fight for her, when she needed it. Full mama bear mode.
I drafted a text to the moms of the girls. We’ve all known each other for nearly a decade and surely they’d want to know what happened. I’d want to know if it were my daughter. I didn’t leave out a single detail of the incident I’d witnessed.
Then, I sent that text to a few trusted friends to make sure it was appropriate—that I wasn’t blinded by my rage. I spent time revising the text based on their comments.
My daughter finished her basketball lesson and during the few minutes home, we talked about the incident more. We arrived at home, and I promptly started a phone call with a friend to discuss whether a text message was the best way to address the incident or whether a phone call was appropriate. I debated and paced and talked through scenarios as rage burned through me.
The entire time, my daughter sat downstairs (out of earshot) watching videos on her phone. On my way to get a glass of water, phone pressed to my ear, I passed my daughter. She sat curled up. She looked fine. And also not fine, in a way only a mother could see.
She looked like she needed her mother.
I realized then that while I was reacting, she was internalizing—and what I was doing wasn’t helping her. I wasn’t teaching her that she had me in her corner. My rage had taken priority over her broken heart—but her broken heart was all I cared about.
I realized then all she needed was me. And in an effort to help her, I’d failed to give her that single thing.
I hung up and I put my phone away.
I sat beside her on the couch and told her the things I should have been telling her for the last half hour—that what they did wasn’t a reflection of her, but of them; that they were acting out of insecurity (which isn’t an excuse, but there’s value in understanding why people are motivated to do the things they do); that I wanted her to know I’d burn down the world if she needed me to, and I was sorry it took me so long to realize it wasn’t what she needed.
We ordered in dinner and turned on a cheesy movie series she’d been dying to see. Mostly, we didn’t address the incident again, unless she brought it up, which she did at various intervals throughout the night.
That night, I tucked her in and took out my phone from where I’d hid it from myself. A dozen messages waited for me asking whether I’d sent the text and what I decided to do. I responded to all the messages with the decision I’d come to while I sat with my sweet, sassy, reserved, empathetic daughter—I wasn’t going to send the text message.
Yes, if my daughter had acted the way those girls had acted, I’d want to know. Yes, they shouldn’t get to act the way they acted with no consequences. But my daughter’s heart was broken, her confidence was crushed, her place in her universe was shaken—and she needed me to focus on her. Any time I spent texting those other moms or on the phone with them, would be time I wasn’t focusing on her—her needs, her confidence, and her heart.
I did ultimately reach out to a few of the moms of the girls for all the reasons I’ve noted. But after my rage had ebbed. After my priorities righted themselves. After I made sure my daughter knew that I was on her side, that I’d fight for her, and that I’d be there in whatever way she needed me to be.