Let Go & Move On
A friend recently texted me about moving on from a friendship and how we should be teaching our children to forgive but not necessarily forget. I think back to several toxic relationships that I had that ended in disaster. More often than not, there was very little forgiveness and only time allowed me to truly forget. I use to think that this was just “girl behavior”. How many times have I heard or said “girls can be cruel” or “mean girls” but through my children I realize it might have just been “me” behavior and it doesn’t necessarily mean they will have the same experience. Yes, there will probably be several not so nice people in my daughters’ lives but perhaps it’s about learning how to recognize and end toxic relationships before they create too much collateral damage. So, how do we teach our children to listen to their “inner voice” and accept that a friendship (or relationship) is not healthy, and that it is time to move on and let go?
Our local Public School Board has a set of district norms students that are a sort of “moral compass” for all the schools. I love these norms so much, I have them posted in our house. These little nuggets to live by are: Be Here, Be Honest, Be Safe, Care for Self & Others and Let Go & Move On. In our house, the most commonly reiterated of these norms is Let Go & Move On. Oh, how I love these four little words!
“Let Go & Move On” is on a constant loop in our house. With three little ladies striving for independence yet being trapped with each other every waking hour, there is bound to be drama. We have a lot of tattling, name-calling and everything in-between that usually results in a disagreement of some kind. Like most parents, we strive to keep an unbiased view and address each situation appropriately. However, after hearing them out as much as we can and letting them verbalize their hurt feelings to each other, our ultimate goal is to try to get them to let go of that specific fight and move on to peace, love and quiet (preferably in that order).
When I was growing up, I was constantly told to “make up” after a fight with a friend. “Say you’re sorry and then you two will make up.” What does that even mean? As a grown woman, this concept of absolute forgiveness seems unreasonable. It downplays the fact that children have feelings, that these feelings are relevant and they should be validated. It is reminiscent of “children should be seen and not heard.” Because of this, I want my children to learn that “I’m sorry,” and “Let’s make up,” aren’t always both necessary. You can have a fight with someone and not need to “make up.” You can apologize if you said something or did something to hurt someone, but that does not mean you need to be friends. Sometimes it is important to know that you can let go and move on from a friendship; some people just don’t need to be friends.
A couple of years ago, my middle child, became conflicted over a friendship. My middle “Middie”, is a young lady who is learning to balance her staunch sense of right and wrong with empathy that knows no bounds. Middie had started hanging out with a girl that was not all that nice. I could tell Middie felt special with all the attention she was receiving from this friend, but she could also not help but recognize how dismissive and negative the girl was to other children. She often saw other girls run off in tears after interacting with this girl, and it didn’t make my daughter feel good. Always weighing the ethics of a situation, Middie came to me looking for advice. She was unsure about wanting to remain friends with this girl and was afraid to ever be on the “wrong side” of her. So, she and I talked about creating some distance and what that would mean if she did. Middie, (correctly) assumed, that her friend would lash out against her and she wanted to be as prepared as she could for the fallout. We went back and forth about what she would feel the most comfortable with. Middie realized on her own, that she didn’t want a heated exchange. She didn’t need to tell her friend that she thought she was mean. Instead, she felt that letting go and moving on would be the best for her.
I have to admit, I was shocked that Middie stuck to her word and did not engage with this young lady. There were some bad moments and the idea that perhaps, Middie wasn’t sticking up for herself enough did cross my mind but that is not my kid. She is fiercely protective of what she feels is right, and inevitably letting go and moving on served her perfectly. I was in awe of the way Middie handled the situation with grace and maturity. She is my most perfect reminder that the “mean girl” doesn’t really have to be a thing. That the desire for my children to listen to their inner voice, to feel self-assured to walk away from a negative relationship comfortably and to not retaliate with hate speech is possible.
As all three of my girls get older, the nuances of friendship become more complicated. There are more tears, more “it’s not fair,” and bigger obstacles and intricacies. I would like to think that the repetition in our house of “Let Go & Move On” is a constant reminder to all of my girls that friendship isn’t one-sided. In the end, it really comes down to whether a relationship gives you good feelings; if it doesn’t, it is time to let go and move on.