***POST POST COMMENTARY: Two days after I posted this, my daughter was invited to a friend's house to play with DUN, DUN, DUUNNNN... two other girls. And it went swimmingly. Absolutely, wonderfully without drama. The other two girls are lovely little women, they all got along, and apparently ate a lot of burgers! I suppose sometimes the universe sends you a message designed to temper your limiting beliefs. So I still stand behind my assertion that three girls is often a tricky, sticky situation. But perhaps we should simply proceed with caution and never, ever, say never.
Never, ever, host a get together of three girls. Never. Ever. I don't know what it is about the number three and girls, but it is most certainly a recipe for at least one of them to morph into a mean girl. I remember as a child being excited to go to a friend's house from nursery school (Yes, I remember back that far). I was probably five years old and "play date" was not yet a term, but that's what my mother set up for me. She dropped me off at the house of a girl in my class and I remember the anxious tension that always accompanied being at a new friend's house for the first time - walking through the front door and taking in the pattern of the wallpaper in the foyer, the unique knick-knacks that always seemed way cooler than the ones at my house, and just the fact that she had stairs was fascinating to me. And I remember my disappointment when lo and behold - the neighbor friend was there as well - cute braids and all. Since she had gotten there before me, I was naturally the odd man out and though I don't remember all the details, I do remember feeling like they were ganging up on me and just wanting to go home. My mother recalls me crying and that my friend's mother was not too happy with her daughter. It's all very vague - but whatever happened made an impression. Girls can be so mean.
I also remember a time in junior high school when I was responsible for creating a three-girl fire. Perhaps because we simply had nothing better to do, I called a friend who had said unkind things about another friend while this other friend was at my house. I baited my friend on the phone and tried to get her to repeat those same mean things so my other friend could hear for herself. WHY would I DO such a thing? I can't even fathom why I would act so disgracefully, and I shake my head looking back.
Who knows why girls act so mean sometimes and of course this doesn't only happen in threes, though it does seem to make things worse. But I've been a mean girl, and I've also been a victim of mean girls - even after the pre-school incident - and I think most girls, at some point in their life, have been on both sides. There are always outliers and some girls who just truly cultivate kindness and friendships with everyone they encounter. And there are those girls that seem bound and determined to do nothing but cause heartache. But if you notice tendencies in your daughter that concern you and make you wonder if you are raising a mean girl, stop and take a deep breath. Remember who you were at her age and go from there. I've had to do it a few times.
I've seen my daughter cling to one friend and ignore others in some situations, and then ignore the friend she clung to in favor of those she ignored in other situations. I've seen her unintentionally make her friends feel excluded or small. I've been informed by mothers of other girls of situations my daughter was involved in - perhaps the MOST important reason to cultivate friendships with the parents of her friends. They will trust you enough to tell you when your kid was a jerk - and you need to know this, so you can help her fix it.
On the flip side, I've seen my daughter purposefully reach out to someone that was being excluded. I've been told of times she defended someone when others were attacking. So in each of these situations, I talk to her. I ask her why she did what she did - right or wrong, good or bad. And we talk about whether she would like to have someone take those actions with her, and what needs to continue - or change - moving forward. The best thing we can do as parents is to keep an open line of communication.
Talk. To. Your. Daughter. About EVERYTHING!
There are so many messages flying in the face of our girls, telling them how to act and how not to act, but ultimately they want to know how mom and dad think they should have handled a situation - even if they act like they don't. Watch out for the mean girl moments - because they can cause pain that lasts a lifetime. But don't panic or assume they're headed for Regina George status right away. We've all had our moments. And if you sincerely believe you've got a bit of a monster on your hands, intervene - NOW - and not alone. Enlist the help of a counselor or trusted teacher at her school or start a girls group with moms that you trust. But always keep the conversation going and remember how unsure of everything you felt at their age when you were trying to figure out who you were and where you fit in. Be honest - even if it hurts a little - and always forgiving. And never, ever host a get together of three girls.