Friends Are Like Flowers

Helping a child develop social skills

Sonia Billadeau April 08, 2014
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bouquetI found a note in my daughter’s jeans the other day while I was doing laundry. It was from a girl at school and basically called Kaylyn out for being a fake friend, accused her of not really caring and only talking to the note’s author because she didn’t have anyone else to talk to. Put together with Kaylyn ditching her ride at the dance to go hang with the “cool” girls, the light came on for me.

Apparently, like all of us, Kaylyn prefers fun, interesting, happy, dare I say cool people. Unlike most of us, however, she hasn’t yet realized that sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you get stuck at the boring people table. Suddenly it all made sense, the nine years of girl after girl after girl dumping her. All this time, I’ve wondered and wondered exactly what off-putting social behavior was provoking all these dumps, and Kaylyn has been no help because her standard answer has always been, “I have no clue. I don’t know what I did.”

Now the picture was all too clear. I’m not saying the light went on for Kaylyn as quickly as it did for me, but after an in-depth conversation (which included reading the note together several times), Kaylyn realized that she has been using girls until better girls came along. Say, for example, that at lunch today, Kaylyn sat with Mabel. But tomorrow, if Gertrude is available — and she’s so much more fun — Kaylyn will totally ignore Mabel and hang with Gertrude. Then the next day if Gertrude isn’t available, Kaylyn will try to go back to Mabel, but suddenly Mabel isn’t speaking to her anymore, and Kaylyn has no idea why!

And if Gertrude IS available, Kaylyn will drain her dry, trying to walk with her between every class period, eat lunch with her, walk home with her, and try to hang out after school. Obviously plenty of BFFs do exactly that, but unless you’ve been given your very own BFF key, it’s just obnoxious to push yourself so hard on only one girl.

It was a revolutionary idea to Kaylyn that she invite Gertrude to sit with her AND Mabel. It also seemed to help Kaylyn picture the idea of a bouquet of flowers. One flower is the girl she walks to school with, one flower is the one she eats lunch with, one is the girl she sits next to in English. So instead of squeezing one flower to death, she can enjoy each flower lightly and each flower can enjoy her back. And as the counselor said, once you crush (i.e., ignore) a flower for a cooler flower, you can’t get that flower back.

So far so good. I think Kaylyn may actually be able to learn this social skill. She’s come home excitedly from school the last two days telling me “the bouquet thing” is going well. Now if I could just get her to respect some boundaries.

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Sonia Billadeau


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