sweet betrayal

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?



  1. Gah, you’re such a good, sweet momma. I think most of today’s parents would have written this off as just part of being a kid, it happens, get over it, stop whining, I’ll buy you another lollipop… But you turn it into – I’m sick of this phrase, but it fits – a teaching moment, and one to bond over. Your kids are going to be wonderful people.

  2. This is a blessing in disguise, because it gives you the most God-given opportunity to teach Abigail a myriad of lessons. First that people are often going to do mean things and hurt and disappoint. Some will, others won’t. She can learn the sort of people she wants to spend her precious time with, or not. She will learn that that sort of behaviour was dished out to you too, but you survived, and moved on. She will learn that you were devastated too (BY much worse-ie your first husband). This will bring you very close as you empathise with her and you talk about it. She will be wiser and stronger for this. It is very maturing.

  3. I think its great that she talked to it with you. I would have done it to another kid. I always did that, copied others bad behavior, until high school. She is lucky to haveyou. I love my mom, but woukd have never told her, for whatever reason. You did exactly what you needed to do.

  4. Sounds to me like you handled it just right. The proof is in the way Abigail rebounded. It seems the best lesson she learned that day is that Mom is there for her and she can reveal her pain as well as her proud moments without judgment. The friend/trust lesson will come with time and experience. I hope this new school year brings her new friends who are as kind and sweet as she is.

  5. These issues are so hard for me as a parent. I never know what to say, even if I can arrange somewhat coherent thoughts in my mind. I think you had the best intentions. It’s hard.

  6. The lesson is to not agree to a switch until you know what you’re switching for. Also, have a third, disinterested party take both things, and switch them at the same time. Another option would have been for Abigail to kick the little girl in the shins and then grabbed back her prize. You’re in New York now – time to bitch up and not let people screw you over (and if they try, make them regret it).

    1. I really hope that you’re kidding….if not, you are a prime example of how New Yorkers get a bad rap.

  7. For some reason the children’s book “A Bargain for Frances” popped into my head. I never liked that one! My daughter loved it though. (It features Frances’ frenemy Thelma.)
    Love the other Frances books!

    But I digress.
    Sounds like you handled the situation well.

  8. You hit the nail on the head: not just the lollipop, the trust. My daughter, just about three, came home from daycare telling me her best friend told her not to sit beside her because “I”m not your best friend anymore!”. Not even 3. I hate that I can’t stop these hurts. And feel overwhelmed sometimes, thinking…we’ve only just begun. I appreciated this post because I related to that feeling of keeping it steady and exploring the situation at a level that’s age-appropriate and soothing without feeding the wound. You did good, mama.

  9. I have a 5 and 7 year old, and we just finished 2 books on bullying that were great conversation starters, and were very helpful in identifying what bullying activity is, and different ways to handle it. I highly recommend the books. “Stand Up for Yourself and Your Friends” which is an American Girl book. I have a boy and a girl, so I substituted gender neutral pronouns when I read it, and when we talked about it. And for a younger crowd, “Stop Picking On Me” by Pat Thomas is a great entrance to start the conversation about bullying. We did some role playing. My 7 yr. old girl caught on, and was figuring out past experiences and what she would do differently now with the information from the book. Good luck.

  10. The world can be a mean, cheating, vicious kind of place. Them’s the facts. You can either respond to it by dropping down to that level, or by rising above. I don’t know which is better, but I know that I personally cannot stand the former. Doesn’t taste good nor is it good for my complexion.

    In my world, keeping home the safe place – the place of love and trust and reassurance is the answer. Let the world crash all around you – you keep the babies safe and sound under your strong wings. Feed them strength – teach them to be kind, wary and smart – show them how to surround their enemies with light and love instead of hate and destruction – when they’re big enough, they’ll have the courage and strength to fly and will soar high above the rest instead of wallowing with the pigs. It’s amazing to watch.

    Yep – polly-annaish to the extreme…but at least in my world, I’m right.

  11. I keep thinking of your first book, Straight Up and Dirty, and the Red Flags that pop up in relationships, the early warnings of a person for a person.

    Abigail’s best friend …. was this truly her first negative act of their relationship? Or was Abigail putting up with smaller betrayals the whole time?

    1. Author

      I wouldn’t know, as I’d never met her. I think “best friend” is the term used for anyone they bond with immediately. It’s not necessarily a long-standing friendship.

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