It started in third grade.

Her two “BFFs” from the neighborhood (sisters) demanded that she give back the necklace proclaiming their friendship because they didn’t all end up in the same class together.

She was devastated, so hurt that the friendship she thought was special didn’t have the same value to the other girls.

Her tear-streaked blue eyes begged me to tell her that this stopped after awhile and women were kind to each other, believed the best, always had each others backs rather than our claws into them. I had to give her the awful truth. It didn’t get better. Maturity helps some, but the issues are still there. Mean girls don’t disappear once you’re past middle school and high school. They just become other moms, coworkers, bosses, neighbors, fellow volunteers, and even go to your church.

Welcome to the Mean Girls series!

Over the next couple weeks, I’m excited to talk about this topic. All of us can think of at least 5 experiences we’ve had with them.

Maybe even a few where we’ve been the mean ones.

I will share a few experiences my girl and I have had with mean girls in this first post. Part 2 will have practical tips on how to navigate this plus some questions to ask so we can avoid becoming Mean Girls ourselves.

What matters isn’t that girls are mean, that moms judge and compare, that they whisper and stare at PTO meetings or their rude comments at work, but how we respond.

I wanted to march down to those girls’ house and have a few words with them, but I talked with my girl. She told me how she felt and what she wanted to say to the girls. We prayed about it and I let it be. I encouraged her to be bold and when the time was right to speak truth yet be kind with her words.

Turns out, doing nothing can be the hardest thing to do.

Her confidence grew. She encountered other girls in 4th and 5th grades that were especially spiteful. As I volunteered for various class activities, I watched and listened. Those girls looked for ways to put others down or slight them if they got something correct. It was like a class of future Fortune 500 execs clawing their way to the top by any means necessary. Honestly? I was glad I wasn’t in that class. It would jar my own self-confidence to deal with that everyday.

I did my best to encourage my girl to ask questions in class. To her mind, that would be showing weakness and they would pounce. I couldn’t argue with her logic – especially after observing the girls for myself.

Some of the them were gymnasts and artists. They were very good and my girl somehow concluded they “owned” those talents; that no one else except them could do them. “They’d have to be better than God”, I told her. He’s the one who created us with those abilities. We are, after all, made in His image – even those mean girls.

She’s now 8th grade and well into her second year of the new school. That first year was tough. Figuring out who’s a real friend can only happen over time… and like I said, it was a tough year. She learned a lot.

There were moments, again, when I didn’t make the calls I wanted and kept the words I wanted to say to myself rather than that one friend who doesn’t deserve the title. But I did love my girl. We had lots of chats (some of them may have included froyo) together about friends and how God always listens to His kids. How I prayed over her and for her!

I remember desperately crying to my mom and praying about this very thing at her age. The girls at my school were so fickle. I didn’t play their friendship games and it hurt so much when they flip-flopped their allegiance depending on who wore what that week.

I remember one situation very well. A new girl showed up in 5th grade. She had been in a fire when she was a baby and had scarring over a large portion of her body. While this would’ve been enough to send me running for homeschool, she also had to walk with braces because one leg was shorter than the other. When I met her, I knew she would need someone to be her friend – a real friend. So I did everything I could to welcome her and be a good friend. We hung out and talked and did lots of stuff together. She was a lot of fun!

Then the other girls got to her.

One day, I showed up to school excited to talk to her and her alliance had shifted – permanently. Her cold glare, arms crossed, standing with the Other Girls, doing that whisper/laugh thing… that was the most hurtful day of school I can remember.

This is what’s going through my mind and heart as I watch my girl.

I want her to skip through life and not be hurt or feel the way I did: betrayed and not good enough. I don’t want her to begin to coat her heart with cynicism to protect it. I want her to give the gift of her friendship freely because she is loved by her Abba and His just overflows to others. I want her to let the Other Girls comments and looks roll off her soul without leaving marks.

But this is her story and God is the author – not me. He will use every moment for His good. This isn’t Christian tripe but reality.

The best part? He’s still writing her story – and mine.

Stay tuned for “Mean Girls – Part 2”.