Monday, November 7, 2016

Junior High Girls, You’re Missing Out on a Fantastic Friendship

Listen girls, I understand. I was a junior high girl once too. I know that you’re busy figuring out who you are and who you will become. You want to know which clothes will tell the world the most about your unique personality, which song lyrics ring the most true in your heart, and which other junior high girls are the most like you. You are naturally drawn to other people with similar personalities, similar tastes, similar goals, and similiar convictions. It feels fantastic to be surrounded by people who are like you—the kind that you instantly click with—I understand.

But can I be your older sister here and help you see something you’re missing? You’re missing out on a fantastic friendship with someone you’d least expect: the quiet, somewhat odd girl who sits by herself in the back of the classroom, the back of the lunchroom, or the back row of your church..

Ah, you think you’re on to me now, you think I’m writing this to tell you that she needs you to be her friend, that you need to perform an act of community service and selflessly reach out to her even though it’s painfully hard and you have nothing to gain, but you’re wrong. I’m telling you that you’re missing out on a fantastic friend for YOU.

That girl is my daughter, and I know some things about her that you don’t know. I know that she’s actually only quiet and awkward until she gets to know you, and that the initial few weeks or months that you might have to spend on helping her develop a friendship will be an investment well worth making. I know that she is actually fantastically smart, and you’d never guess it, but she can be quite witty and crack some hilarious jokes when you least expect them. But more important than that: she is kind. She is genuinely, from the heart, kind in a way that is rare among your age group. She is loyal and would never turn her back on you, never trade you for a newer or more popular friend, never speak hurtful words behind your back.

It’s true that there are ways you could help her. You could take her by the hand and patiently lead her into the dizzying world of junior high friendships. You could overlook her sometimes-awkward laugh, or the way she blinks back tears whenever she feels strong emotions, or the small awkward silences that happen when she’s not sure what to say next. You could help her learn what to say next. You could teach her that it’s safe to trust and that you won’t abandon her as a friend when a more popular girl comes along. But I want you to know that she can help you too.

She can almost certainly help you with your math and science homework. She can teach you to draw shockingly beautiful horses, and recommend a long list of good books to read. These things you might have guessed. But did you know that she is the best listener you will ever hope to have in a friend? She will listen and listen with the goal of truly understanding your heart instead of jumping in with her own stories, and she will actually care about who you are, how you are feeling, and what you are going through. She is wise. She thinks deeply behind that quiet face and, if you are patient enough to wait for an answer, she will offer you advice that is mature beyond her years and yours. When you least expect it then, she will crack you up with wit and humor, you never would have guessed that she hid. 

Do you know what an investment is? It’s where you pay an amount first in order to gain access to something that will be worth more in the end. Some friendships are like investments—they don’t come as easily as others, but they offer greater reward down the road. You may have to be willing to do most of the talking at first or think of lots of questions to get her talking. You may have to patiently wait for responses from her as she organizes her thoughts.  Be patient. Keep trying. It’s worth it.

After you have spent a few weeks and months learning to understand each other you will realize that she taught you some of life’s best lessons: that people are not always as they seem, that some of the more rewarding relationships take work, and that a loyal friend is often more valuable than a popular one. You will begin to see the other quiet or awkward or disabled people in your life in a new light too—as unique, valuable, enriching, human beings that are worth the effort to welcome into your life—and that is a lesson you will benefit from for as long as you live. You can never repay her for that.

Trust me on this one. It took some work for me to get to know her too, but you will never regret that you did.

With love to you,

That Quiet Girl’s Mom

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