She came home from camp with her face in her hands. No sound coming out. I knelt down to ask, touching her arm, letting her know I was there when she was ready.
Every day when Abigail returns home from camp, she springs through the door, all muscle and determination, hands full of drawings and bead bracelets, smelling of sunscreen and ice cream sandwiches. She and L. Beckett speak over each other, telling stories of the day. I passed my deep swim test. Caroline said I was the best walker. Random bits of pride mingled with requests for a snack. Not today.
Their last day of camp, my first day of Valium.
Abigail was deeply upset, she confided, that her best friend “tricked her.” I just wrote a very long explanation, describing in detail how I dealt with these new feelings, but it was erased. The short of it is this: I listened. Abigail’s counselor gifted her with a special flower-shaped lollipop, which Abigail was willing to trade with her closest friend, when her friend asked her if she’d trade the pop for something of hers. When Abigail agreed and handed over the lollipop, her friend laughed, saying, “Tricked ya.” And she wouldn’t give Abigail the agreed upon item, nor would she return the lollipop to Abigail. Abigail tried to tell a counselor, but it was too late. Abigail was whisked away without the opportunity to set things right.
I reflected, letting her know I was on her side, that I heard her, that it must be very upsetting, not losing a lollipop, but losing that feeling of complete trust. We spoke about what might have made her friend behave this way, giving possible examples to see if we couldn’t put ourselves in her friend’s shoes. Maybe someone had done that to her (how else would she have learned it, really), and she wanted to do it to someone else to get some sense of power back. Or perhaps she was only playing and she would’ve returned it to Abigail. Nope. Abigail assures me this was not a possibility as she was visibly upset and kept asking, and her friend continued to tell her “too bad for you.” I thought for a moment to give a lesson on how “things” shouldn’t matter to us so much… but then I realized this was not about a thing. It was about feeling betrayed.
I also thought, I definitely did this to my younger sister. No child is a complete saint. They test boundaries and want to see with what they can get away. How should Abigail have handled herself in this scenario, and how would you respond as a parent. It’s not like it was the hugest deal, and she was able to rebound after given some time. She’s no longer upset about it, for example, and knows that she’ll never do it to anyone else. But still, I questioned what a parent should advise her child in this scenario. What’s the lesson to be learned?