Monday, August 25, 2008

An Example is Louder than Words

It's easier to know things than it is to do them.

A few days ago, Lyndsay and I were walking around the track, doing our laps, accumulating our steps. One of her friends happened to be there, unexpectedly, sitting on the bleachers with a few other friends. We stopped and said hi, but there was something uncomfortable in the air, and I knew what it was. This friend of Lyndsay's, whom she adores, is sometimes a one-sided friend. Lyndsay often does all of the work in the friendship, calling her, reaching out to her, texting her, writing to her. They missed each other so much while Lyns was away at her dad's, and they had a blast together at Girls' Camp, but since then there has been a drought. Lyndsay wrote her a really sweet letter, has called her multiple times, and has had no response from her for the last two weeks. It has racked her with that familiar female insecurity. "What have I done?" "Why is she mad at me?"

We'd talked about this at home, how it was nothing she'd done, and her friend isn't mad at all. Just preoccupied with other friends and other things (boys, most likely), and she's the type of friend that is used to doing a lot of the taking and not so much of the giving. It's a natural, and common problem, really. What concerns me is that I don't want Lyndsay to grow up thinking that in all of her relationships she should have to do all the giving, or the helping, or the rescuing, or. . .the being walked on. She's so kind and she's so sweet. And she deserves a friend that goes out of her way for her, like she does for everyone else. She deserves, as does everyone else, to have her needs met.

So, when we saw her friend at the track, Lyndsay felt a bit miffed. Her friend acted as if nothing was wrong, nothing out of the ordinary had happened, and she was thrilled to see Lyns. And though she blithely skipped on over and walked with Lyndsay for a lap, all she did was talk about her life and her problems, and Lyndsay said nothing about how she'd been feeling bothered. So, when her friend went back off to the bleachers, Lyndsay was still just as bugged as before.

I told her she needed to act with more integrity for herself. Speak up for herself! Teach other people how to treat her. This friend apparently doesn't expend much energy in her friendships because she's learned that she can act that way and still have people clamoring to be around her and get a piece of her time. It makes me concerned for my daughter. She has been sitting around and stewing because she wasn't telling her friend that simply ignoring her was not going to be okay, and she was compromising what she needed in the friendship relationship. If she could kindly explain to her friend that she was feeling like a 'back burner' friend, or a 'friend of convenience', I'll bet her friend would be surprised to know that she was causing those feelings, and would behave differently. She's a great girl.

I know this was good advice to give her. I felt good about the life lesson I was teaching my daughter. But meanwhile, I was staying awake at night stewing about my own lack of courage to stand up to someone that I felt was taking advantage of me.

I tried to make my position clear, but then this person attempted (and succeeded) to get to me through emotions, and I caved. I never, ever want to hurt someone's feelings. So, I drew a new boundary and laid that one out. It was accepted, and then later bulldozed, and I was caught so off guard that I didn't know what to do except cower. I felt uneasy inside. There is nothing particularly dangerous about this person, but I just felt disrespected, like the boundary that I had set for myself was second to this person's desires. I agonized over it for several days, and even when talking with this person, I put on a happy, cooperative face, trying to suppress the feelings I was struggling with. But it was eating me alive. Today, feeling like a hypocrite, I contacted them and told them the way that I was feeling and that the boundary I had initially laid forth was still in place. It was scary, and I am more than a bit afraid that I have offended this friend, but I have an enormous weight lifted from my shoulders because I acted in accordance with my conscience and my integrity.

I guess the way that other people react is not my problem. I only have to worry about my end, difficult as it is to separate the two. But I have spent far too much of my life in pleasing mode, and I want to have more personal integrity so that I don't find myself resenting the circumstances that I got myself into out of weakness and lack of courage.

It really stinks that our children follow our weakest traits, no matter how hard we try to hide them. Maybe I have taught her to allow herself to be treated that way. Maybe I will have to show her, rather than tell her, the way to do it differently. Today started out weak, but ended on an exhilarating high note because I allowed myself to matter.


Angela said...

I can't believe I am the first one to comment tonight! This never happens!

ok so to my comment...I soooo know where you are coming from. It is timely you posted this today because I am having similar feelings about a friend right now. To be fair, it may be the emotional week I have had, but I have always been the person who does most of the work in friendships, with not much in return. Luckily I married someone who is a pleaser of sorts.. at least with me-which definitely makes it easier. The thing with me is that I know I am this way and I have accepted it. And for the most part I enjoy being a good friend, but every once and awhile..I have a weak moment. Great post!

Abby said...

I'm the same way, sadly. So is Orion. In the past, we've both been walked all over because we're just too nice and find it hard to tell people 'no'. I have no problem helping people out..but when they come to expect it of me because it's something I've always's an issue. We've both decided to stand up for ourselves more and not let those things happen again. New start. So far, it's going really well. Man, it feels good to not get walked all over!

Momo Fali said...

I have someone in my life like that. But, I keep my mouth shut because she's close to someone I love dearly and I don't want to ruin that relationship. It's so complicated! Darn life!

Wonder Woman said...

I've been good friends with a particular girl since we were in 2nd grade. Best friends for years and years. My mom didn't like the way our friendship worked - I was lyndsay and she was the other girl, basically.

This girl and I had a huge falling out in high school, but are now good friends again. I'm glad that marriage and motherhood and maturity have strengthened and evened out our friendship.

Good for you, for standing up for yourself. I'm the same way - it's easier to be walked on than risking offending someone else. Not necessarily the healthiest philosophy.


Misty said...

Good for you, and good advice for your daughter. Friendship is so hard... It really is because with, deep friendships, we are so vulnerable and so trusting...

Our entire life in Michigan (6 years) was wrought with Women friendship hell. I'm still so aching from things that occurred and feel so jaded. your post totally made me think... you are such a great mom!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Brilliant post, Jenna. This is such a tricky lesson to teach our children. Much of my life was coloured by my desire to repress my own happiness in favour of pleasing other people. It's possible to be nice without being walked over, it really is.

Anonymous said...

It is so hard to see a bad trait/weakness repeated in your kids. I can relate. Boy, can I relate.