It is playground duty day, and I am trudging around outside, trying to avoid as much as possible the remaining patches of snow and ice. I am wearing a heavy winter jacket, snow pants, a hat and gloves with a pair of unfashionable black, knee-high riding boots. I may look like a frump, but I am warding off the chill with this get-up. By the looks of some of the students, many of whom are underdressed, they might be wishing they were as prepared as fashionable Mrs. G.. Last week was unseasonably warm, but after a cold front blew through, the temperatures are back to seasonal norms. I try to think warm, fuzzy thoughts. I can’t wait for the bell to ring and end our frigid, outdoor education for the day.
A little girl approaches, her eyes suggest she is in emotional distress of some sort or another of a concerning nature to a seven year old child. She tells me that one of her friends is not including her, and has further tried to turn her other little female classmates against her in a revolt of sorts. She tugs around a blue sled as she talks, her eyes dart back and forth to the group of girls now gathered to pay tribute to this calamity. I listen to the story, and it becomes a web of twisted strands. “She said…”, and some “then I said…” followed by more, “No, I didn’t…” ’s. I am lost by the end of it all, and I tell them to try and work it out while I go attend to a little guy playing hockey who just got a hockey puck shot in the face.
By the time I get over to the boys playing road hockey in front of the school, everything is fine with them. The little guy who was crying seconds before, has jumped full-force back into the game, and does not have time to stop for a minute to let me check things out. So, I head back over again to the playground where the girls are still sorting through muddy waters for a lost friendship. We walk and talk, and I lead them over to a sheltered area where they can sit in a circle and get to the bottom of the trouble. I suggest that each girl tell how she is feeling. The first suggests that she feels like a little dark cloud, another says she feels like no one notices her and she feels invisible, another says more or less the same. We go around the circle and share.
We finally get to the instigator of all the trouble, and I ask her to share her feelings. She says she feels hurt and upset about not being included as well. So I ask all the girls, “Are you interested in including S. in your group?” Yes, they all chorus. I look at the little lady under fire and ask her if she wants to rejoin the group and be friends again. “No, “ she says sullenly.
I am confused.
This process has taken far too much time, and we seem to be getting “no where fast”. I tell the girls that I need to move along to keep an eye on the rest of the playground, but I encourage them to continue working at things until they find a solution for this disagreement that has come between them.
Girls fight differently than boys. We all know this of course, but I was surprised at how deeply these little girls carried their pain, and what great lengths they took to inflict hurt on others. And how complicated everyone’s story got in the process. The more I listened, the more I felt helpless to provide a solution. I have dealt with similar experiences before with other groups of girls, and each time I have felt at a loss to help sort through the issues and bring clarity. It is a tangled web we females weave.
I have come to the conclusion that although little girls are developmentally more mature in the ways they interact in relationships than are little boys, they are not able to handle the outcomes of those relationships with as much sophistication. Because the issues are more complex in female friendships, they require more complex understanding. That understanding is not within the maturity of a little girl until she is far older and wiser, with more life experience and common sense. In other words, until she is at an age where she is able to analyze and rationalize reason and motives. Thus, little girls are left with complicated friendships that they are unable to understand and cope with. Little boys, on the other hand, are developmentally less mature in their interactions, but their understandings of each other and the ways they interact are far more in tune with their developmental growth. Thus, they are able to adequately deal with problems without the hassles that their female counterparts endure.
Bottom line: when little girls fight, there is no easy solution for the problem. Whereas, when the boys had a problem, they were able to work through the trouble without the aid of an adult.
Talk about a complex, outdoor education on the intricacies of female relationships.