Sunday, February 16, 2014

Barn Drama

                                                by Laura Crum

            Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I keep my horses at home and am spared any boarding stable drama (thankfully). But I heard this story and for a number of reasons it really spoke to me. So I thought I’d put it out there and get your input.
            I have a friend—I’ll call her Lisa. Lisa’s daughter, Zoe, keeps her horse at a local boarding stable. The horse has been there for four years, during which time Zoe made friends with three other similar aged girls who also kept their horses there, including the barn owner’s daughter. These four girls took a lesson together from the BO once a week and met several other days a week to ride and hang out.
            As these things go, Lisa became friends with the other girls’ moms over the years and had the girls over to her house many times. She held one mom’s hand when they lost their horse to colic, and helped with horse shopping for the replacement. She had the BO’s daughter over to her own house for many days in a row when the BO’s mom was dying of cancer and the BO needed to spend time sans child, hanging out with her dying mom. She let one of the other little girls ride Zoe’s horse for six months while that girl’s horse was healing up from a soft tissue injury. In short, they were all good friends and helped each other out. Or so Lisa thought.
            Lisa noticed this last summer, as the girls were all about to enter junior high, that the other girls were becoming interested in clothes and boys and make-up and hairstyles and what was cool versus what was not cool. Zoe, on the other hand, remained in a more child-like space, even though she was thirteen. She still liked the same things she always had-- horses and books and playing piano and the simple online games she was allowed to play. She hadn’t a clue about “cool.” And Lisa could see that the other girls were starting to avoid Zoe.
            More and more often she would arrive at the barn to pick Zoe up, only to find Zoe off in her horse’s stall and the other girls chatting together by the hitching rail. When Lisa watched the group lesson, Zoe sat by herself on one side of the ring, while the other girls clumped together on their horses, talking and giggling. Zoe had always been closest to the BO’s daughter of all the girls, but now J, the daughter, seemed the most stand-offish of all.
            Zoe seemed sad, but accepting. When Lisa asked her about it, Zoe just said, “I don’t think they want to be my friends any more.” But Zoe still looked forward to going to the barn and the group lesson and was quick to tell Lisa when any small friendly thing happened.
            Still, Lisa worried, especially when she saw that the girls often ignored Zoe when she spoke to them. Lisa didn’t feel comfortable exerting any pressure on the kids, so she emailed the BO, asking if she could encourage the girls to be a little more inclusive of Zoe, at least during the lesson, and mentioning that Zoe felt a bit sad over the way the others were treating her.
            The BO made a non-committal response, and Lisa noticed that the shunning behavior continued, especially when the girls thought no adult was looking. And then Lisa’s mother was stricken with cancer and overnight the stress load on Lisa’s family doubled.
            Once again, Lisa emailed the BO, telling her what was happening, sure that the BO would understand, having been through this ordeal herself, and asking the BO to encourage the girls to be inclusive of Zoe, who really needed the support of her friends. To her absolute amazement, the BO emailed back saying that Zoe didn’t really fit into the group dynamic any more and she thought that maybe it would be better if Zoe didn’t participate in the group lesson.
            Lisa could not believe what she was hearing. Still, in an effort not to burn any bridges, she emailed back, telling the BO that Zoe really valued the group lesson and still considered the other barn girls her friends and that this social outlet was really valuable to her daughter. Once again she asked the BO to please consider encouraging the girls to be inclusive and kind to Zoe at this difficult point in her life—and added that surely the many hours these girls had all spent playing happily together made it appropriate for the other girls to be at least pleasant to Zoe now, even if they didn’t want to be close friends with her any more.
            To Lisa’s absolute amazement, the BO responded by saying that maybe Lisa had better look for a new barn where she might find new friends who would appreciate her daughter, and that she, the BO, could no longer include Zoe in the group lesson, as she was “ruining the group learning dynamic” for the other girls.
            And that was that. Lisa approached the other moms, protesting this treatment by the BO, and one mom (the one whose child had borrowed their horse for six months) said, “It’s not my problem and I don’t want to get involved.” The other mom just said, “It’s her barn—I guess she can do what she wants.” Neither mom seemed to care at all about the pain this shunning was causing both Zoe and Lisa.
            When Lisa told me this story, she made sure to say that she didn’t blame the kids. Junior high kids are an intolerant lot and are prone to acting like this. She understood that Zoe, their former friend, seemed impossibly uncool to them now and they found her embarrassing. But that the parents would throw in with this excluding behavior was mind boggling to Lisa.
            As she put it, “If it were another girl being excluded, I would have told my daughter to straighten up and fly right and be at least reasonably friendly and polite to a girl who had been our friend for years. I never would have tolerated seeing one of the girls excluded like this. I would have spoken up to the BO in no uncertain terms.
            “What gets me,” Lisa went on, “is that these moms are always posting on facebook about compassion and kindness and quoting the Dalai Llama and such, and yet it never seems to have occurred to even one of them that they are being tremendously unkind to a child and a family who were never anything but kind, supportive and hospitable to them. For years. Every single one of these moms has told me at one time or another how much they valued my friendship and support and how much they appreciated Zoe for her sweet, honest nature. And yet they are fine with excluding us in this hurtful way at a time in our lives when we REALLY needed the support of our friends. I truly don’t understand this. How can they post this shit about compassion on facebook? How can they even look at themselves in the mirror? I sure couldn’t if I had behaved the way they’ve behaved.”
            So Lisa is looking for another barn. Zoe is no longer going to the group lesson and avoids the barn, feeling that she isn’t wanted. Both mother and daughter are very sad—after four years of regarding these folks as their good friends, it has all blown up in their faces over some junior high stupidity. And at a time when they are already stressed over Lisa’s mom’s cancer diagnosis.
            When Lisa asks me how they could behave this way toward her and Zoe, I have no answer. I don’t understand how people can behave like this. I don’t get it at all. I would no more turn away from a friend in need of help and give her/him a cold shoulder than I would jump off a cliff and try to fly. So I’m putting the question out to all of you. How can these people look at themselves in the mirror after treating a friend (and a child) this way, let alone trot around acting like they are such “good” people and putting up quotes about kindness and love on facebook? 
            Can anyone explain this shit?


Stilllearning said...

Even using my best imagination I cannot come up with any excuse or explanation for this behavior. I know that times have changed and that basic social etiquette is no longer a "given", but this is beyond that.

I sort of hope that these people read your blog and post a response or explanation....tho I can't guess what might make this ok (to me).

I hope this young lady lands in a lovely new barn and finds some real friends.


Laura Crum said...

Stilllearning--Nice to hear from you. I hope all is going well for you and yours.

This story really upset me. I know the people involved. I cannot fathom how they could have acted this way. As I said in the post, I just don't get it.

gillian said...

I have a guess. Maybe when you post on facebook about compassion and goodness it fills the need for actual compassion and goodness without all the associated hard work. You would have a hard time with such behavior because it would create cognitive dissonance: you feel like a compassionate person so it would be incongruent to do insensitive things. They've surrounded themselves with people who support their notion of themselves unconditionally. Liza and Zoe are challenging that feeling so they get the boot.

Laura Crum said...

gillian--Thank you. That is very insightful. I think you are exactly right. But I'm still appalled at the behavior.

Anonymous said...

I certainly can't explain it, but I like what Gillian said.

I know children develop at different rates, and your friend's daughter may never share the other interests of her former friends. It should still be okay. The parents should lead their daughters to be more understanding, not vice versa.

I do know that one or more of them will be subjected to the same treatment some day, and they will be shocked by it.

Mare said...

I, too, was that nerdy little girl that cared far more for horses than name-brand clothing (oh, wait, that's still me;) It stinks because girls get so cliche in middle school and suddenly the people who your thought were friends simply aren't.

But the thing that baffles me is the attitude of the BO and other moms. If I had acted like that my mom would have told me to get my act together and be nice, not ignore the problem like it doesn't matter. Really sad. The adults in this situation should be ashamed!

Laura Crum said...

redhorse--That was my thought, too. Why in the world don't these parents teach their children to be more accepting of others rather than encouraging the unkind, excluding behavior.

I agree, Mare (+Missy). The adults should be ashamed.

Ms Martyr said...

Gillian beat me to my initial thought about the Facebook postings, which was, "Talk is cheap."
I'm going to play devil's advocate here just trying to guess the other mothers' reactions. Perhaps they think that their daughters are old enough to work out their own social dynamics. It's sad that one girl is excluded (I was always that girl) They also may realize the futility of ordering their kids to "play nice" at that age.
I'm not saying this is right and I know everyone wants to protect their children from perceived persecution but this is one of life's lessons that she'd probably encounter at school or dance class or some other venue sooner or later.
I'm also not sure that the mother's intervention helped the situation. It seemed like the daughter was somewhat okay with the status quo but now she's been banished from the barn.

Laura Crum said...

Ms Martyr--I appreciate your points. I believe that Lisa IS using this as a way to teach Zoe about life and dealing with rejection--and it is something that almost all of us have to learn to deal with eventually. I still feel that those adults behaved abysmally in treating Lisa and her daughter as they did, after years of getting nothing but very supportive friendship from Lisa. Whatever happened to treating others as you would like to be treated? I'm quite sure that those moms would have been equally hurt and upset had it been their own daughter who was excluded from the class. And I can think of no reason why anyone in a "teaching" position would not encourage the kids/students to include and be kind to a kid who is "different," rather than throwing in with the excluding behavior.

Laura Crum said...

Also, I should add that I condensed this little drama in the interests of a reasonably succinct blog post. The way I originally heard it, the BO was making noises about Zoe not fitting in with the "group learning dynamic" and hinting that she shouldn't be included in the group lesson any more long before Lisa ever said anything. Lisa stayed out of it until it became obvious that there was going to be a problem.

Jan said...

Kids can be so cruel and thoughtless, and with these mothers for role models it's no wonder this bunch is the way they are.

I agree with gillian's thoughts on the FB component. I've noticed that people think if they say it, or write it enough, it makes it true.

It is very hard to take when people do not return the friendship and support that you freely give them. Then to have them turn on your child is totally unforgiveable. Frickin bitches!

It's not only barns, it's gymnastics, dance, soccer, and every sport or activity. What should be a fun, all inclusive atmosphere, too often is a cliquey, drama filled breeding ground for mean girls (and boys).

Our society, from politicians to celebrities to soccer moms, seems to be full of hypocrites who pay lip service to being a good moral person, but their actions are just the opposite.

I hope Lisa and Zoe are able to find a better situation with like-minded people. There are still good hearted, trustworthy people out there if you can weed through the asshats to find them.

Dom said...

This 100% breaks my heart on so many levels. It physically hurts. I was always the girl who wasn't cool enough to fit in with anyone. At school, I got teased relentlessly for liking horses, among other things. And at the barn? I wasn't rich enough to have friends, and it didn't help that I didn't show. I was a total outcast and it left me very jaded. Kids are so cruel. This is part of why I couldn't be a parent. I would be the first person to very publicly out these women for their hypocrisy on the very next compassion-spewing joke of a FB status. It makes my blood boil. I hope Zoe finds solace in her horse and comes out on the other side of teen-hood unscathed. Poor girl. I wish I could take her under my wing :(

Michelle said...

That age is so hard for young girls. Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise...she will leave that barn and find a new, and more wonderful place to grow and flourish. Gillian has wise words. It's so easy to climb up on the pedestal and proclaim you stand for good and the right...and quite another to get off that same pedestal to help another.

Martha Seaman McKee said...

I really liked Michelle's answer. We will always meet up with sociopathic people - or just cowardly people - in our lives and it is up to us to learn how to respond to them.

(In my heart I'd like to burn down everyone's house - but how does that really help me?)

Mom needs to show her daughter that better folks are out there and that together they can find them. And there ARE good people out there.

Not sure there is an explanation for evil behavior. We've been trying to figure that one out since the beginning of time.

I'd encourage her to be grateful that her daughter wants to stay true to herself and shake the dust of that barn off her feet!


Lori L said...

Ugh. I hate everything about that situation. I guess all Lisa can do is be on point with all the moms by saying "I forgive you for being a part of shunning a preteen girl. I forgive you for being a part of a bullying situation." And just walk away. Let them stew on that.

Zoe and Lisa have all my sympathy.

Laura Crum said...

Jan--Thanks for an insightful comment, as always. I agree with you 100%,including an especially about the fact that there ARE good-hearted, trustworthy people out there, but it can be hard to find them.

Dom--Both Lisa and I have had a hard time with the hypocrisy factor. And yeah, it makes my blood boil, too.

Michelle--I do think this will prove to be a blessing in disguise. But it is still hard to go through.

Martha--Zoe does seem to be surviving this relatively well. Her mom has raised her to be independent and to think for herself, and she recognizes that these folks have proved not to be friends and is ready to move on. Good point.

Lori L--I really like your response. I do believe that is the perfect thought to hold. "I forgive you for being part of the shunning of a child."

Laura Crum said...

In reference to Ms Martyr's point that Lisa made things worse by reaching out to the BO and the other moms, Lisa agrees that this probably is the truth. In her defense, she believed these moms were her friends and trusted that they cared about her and her daughter, just as she cared about them and their children. She didn't think of herself as needing to be careful and guard her words for fear of an adversarial situation.

This brings up a point that really bothers me. Should those of us who are open, honest and direct by nature learn to be careful and guarded for fear of negative responses and rejection? Or should we continue to be open and honest and hope that this will draw the sort of people that we can truly trust and connect to, even as we realize that it will bring us plenty of rejection by those who are uncomfortable with honesty? In my own life my honesty has certainly brought me my fair share of rejection, but it has also brought me some wonderful friendships that I really value because we CAN be honest with each other.

horsegenes said...

Unfortunately we live in a disposable society. I think that with todays technology everything has become very superficial - you can not truly get to know someone via a text message or email. And it is work to spend time with people and cultivate friendships. Kids aren't investing the time in becoming friends. And parents encourage that by giving them cell phones, computers etc. And it isn't just kids. Facebook is fun. I play on it all the time. Do I consider all the people that have "Friended" me friends...nope. Nor do I accept who they are by the posts they make...good or bad. To do that would make me pretty gullible and I would deserve what I got.

I do believe that people come and go in your life and it is something you must learn to deal with. My mom used to say... There is no excuse for being rude. None. That is the lesson the mommas should have been teaching. It is o.k. to out grow someone but it is never o.k. to shun, bully, belittle or be rude. Sounds like the BO is a bully on a power trip and is someone who sucks the life out of you and then throws you away. They are toxic and your friends will have a better life if they move on.

Laura Crum said...

horsegenes--I agree with you. I think my friends WILL have a better life without these people. And you pegged that BO perfectly. She is definitely a bully on a power trip. But an extroverted, sociable, outwardly friendly bully, who has taken many people in... as long as you don't cross her, she seems like such a nice gal. I have to admit, I had a hard time believing the way she treated Lisa. I guess that BO took me in, too, to some degree, anyway.

Sometimes the only answer seems to be not trusting anyone but those few intimates that you've known forever and who have proven themselves good friends in tough times. Other people you just keep at arm's length.

horsegenes said...

Laura - I read a book called about "How to Handle Difficult People". Something that I have never forgotten was that the hardest people to deal with are "nice" ones. They use "nice" to manipulate. You get sucked into nice and you become the ass in everyone else's eyes when you call out the NICE person. I bet if your friend looks back the "friendship" was always very one sided. The woman was nice to her but never really did anything for her. She was never at fault for anything that happened and people seem to rally around and fix things for her. They prey on compassionate good people because they know they can manipulate them. Your friends usefulness had run its course and the BO no longer needed her.

Laura Crum said...

horsegenes--I think you are exactly right. Lisa told me that there had been a couple of previous odd things with the BO, where all of a sudden a plan that Lisa was counting on changed abruptly because the BO no longer saw it as in her own best interest--and it made Lisa feel kind of odd about the friendship. The BO would do subtle things sometimes that made Lisa feel put down. But again, BO was always so friendly and outwardly "nice" that she just let the odd things go. BO did a lot of crying on Lisa's shoulder about her own troubles, that is for sure. She was constantly at odds with someone, and it was never her fault. And you are SO right that now Lisa is considered the asshole by the whole boarding stable, since she conflicted with the BO. This boggles my mind, because the actual story is so clearly condemning of the BO and the other moms, but the very "nice," plausible BO has managed to convince the entire barn that Zoe was "difficult" and Lisa was just so defensive about it, and guess what--the whole barn is now quite happy to have gotten rid of them.

You have absolutely hit the nail on the head. Zoe and Lisa were no longer useful to the BO now that her own daughter, J, no longer wanted Zoe around. And that was that.

I can accept that this is true, I can agree that some people are like this, I can agree that its good to move on from these people, but I still can't quite fathom it.

Camryn said...

Some people "talk the talk" others "walk the walk". Sadly most do a bit of both. Sounds like the Barn people are those who only "talk the talk". "Mom" can turn it into a learning experiance for her young daughter, sounds like she already is. Perhaps once they've moved happily on write, thanking the adults involved for the learning experiance they've provided?
I was thinking of your post this afternoon as I filled my truck at the gas station. A young teenage girl approached a man, then came to me. She was wanting gas money as she and her Mother were out and needed to get home. I was unsure but, thought "walk the walk" and gave her $10.00, they did indeed fill the tank. The Mom never exited the vehicle neither did the two young men in the back seat, making the young girl pay and pump! Hopefully the young girl learned something good about people helping on cold winter days. Thanks for posting so I was thinking about it :)

Laura Crum said...

Thank you Camryn. Your comment and kind act just made my day. If anything I ever say inspires someone to do something that is actively helpful and kind to someone else, then I have done a good thing. I agree about walking the walk. It's things like handing someone in need of help that ten dollar bill that really count, not making noises about compassion and kindness on facebook. As you (and others) have pointed out, what you do matters far more than what you say. And walking away from someone in need of help can be just as unkind as any hurtful words.

RiderWriter said...

Aw, this situation makes me wanna cry, too. I am 50 freaking years old and STILL get my feelings hurt by not being included, so my heart just breaks for this little girl.

Sadly, nothing about this situation surprises me. ESPECIALLY given we are talking about a horse barn, where there often seems to be a large proportion of beyotchy women and girls. :(

But I can offer no explanation as to how these mothers - I'm leaving the kids out of this, as people have already said middle-schoolers are impossible - could be such two-faced, rude, disgusting examples of human beings. It truly boggles the mind.

I appreciate the insight from some commentors here re: not "walking the talk" in regards to the FB posting. Very interesting theory, and one I plan to test with some folks I know.

I long ago mostly gave up trying to figure out why people do some things, though. It's been a hard, hard lesson.

I remember when I was about 15 and a dear, dear friend of my mother's had her husband up and walk out on her for his secretary, leaving her with two little kids. She was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died less than a year later. Nobody ever thought the cancer was caused by anything other than stress and a broken heart. Husband merrily married secretary and had two more kids. Incidentally, he refused to pay for his wife's headstone (and this guy was a millionaire, no joke) so my mom and her friends got it.

That whole incident really caused the scales to fall from my eyes. Wow, adults sure could be nasty.

Fast forward to my first job, where I ran into people who had nothing better to do than tattle and try to get others in trouble. Really?? Have you ever left K'garten? People constantly did things to others that would never even OCCUR to me!

I was a Girl Scout leader for my daughter from K'garten on up. Everything was great... until 7th grade. Then the poop hit the fan. The troop split into two groups, the "cool" girls and the "not cool" girls. Guess which group my daughter was in? And guess which group was led by my co-leader's daughter? I tried and tried to bring those kids back together, even making them draw randomly for room assignments on a sleepover. I received a call from an outraged mother, informing me that HER daughter wasn't going on the outing unless she would be sleeping with HER friends (the "cool" ones, natch). Gee, I wonder where these girls get the idea it's okay to exclude/shun others...

What really upset me during this time was the fact that my co-leader did NOTHING, absolutely nothing to help with the situation. She ignored her daughter and her cronies ignoring/making fun of my daughter and her pals. No, we weren't close friends as your friend Lisa believed herself to be with those moms, but it still drove me nuts. Would it truly kill the little brats to be pleasant to the other girls for an hour outside of school? They had all gotten along beautifully until the dreaded teen years encroached.

Ah, well, looking back I know it was a fruitless endeavor. I changed "friend groups" myself about that age (voluntarily). Girls mature at very different biological ages so I think it's bound to happen. Personally, I am glad that I didn't go the "black eyeliner and boys" route... there's plenty of time for that later! And boys who actually like/love horse-obsessed women. ;)

Nonetheless, the timing of these events at Zoe's barn is particularly harsh. The only thing left for Lisa and Zoe to do is hold their heads high and move elsewhere, where they will hopefully be helped and appreciated. They sound like lovely people and there ARE other nice folks out there, even in the horse world, and I will be hoping very much they find some of them.

Please send all of our best wishes and sympathy their way.

Laura Crum said...

RiderWriter--Your daughter's Girl Scout troop drama is uncannily like this little barn drama. All kids were good friends until 7th grade and then all of a sudden the cool ones want to exclude the not-cool ones, and the moms throw in with the excluding/shunning behavior. I do realize this is a common story, but my question remains the same. How can these moms look at themselves in the mirror? I don't get it.

Thank you so much for the comment. And I do believe Lisa and Zoe will be fine--they are strong people. But it was a hard thing for them to go through, and just because a person is strong is no excuse for kicking them when they are down. Lisa is reading these comments, so she will get your good wishes.

Val said...

I am really sorry to hear about your friends' situation. Adults behaving badly is often a shock. One would think that maturity and experience would carve out good people and good actions, but sadly this is not always the case.

I could write a long story here, about my friend who suffering a similar experience at a farm where I used to work. After years of dedicated volunteering, new management had pegged her as a problem (they were cleaning house) and somehow turned other teens against her. Some were her friends and had been for years. This happened a few months after I quit working there (I had suffered my own injustices and finally left after I was told that I would be fired if I continued to advocate for the lesson horses) and the place had changed from a wonderful therapeutic barn to an unrecognizable, hurtful place (most of the original staff had left). If I had still been working there, my friend would never have been treated that way. As an instructor, I would have set the other girls straight or kicked them out. The volunteers looked up to me and I believe that they would have behaved differently under my influence. In that whole situation, the most upsetting thing was a fellow instructor who did nothing to support our friend. He was still working there and claimed that he didn't notice a problem. I think that was very confusing for my friend who had volunteered with this other adult for years. He seemed to lack the nerve to speak up even though the ship was clearly going down and there was not much left to lose. Even good people can be cowardly.

Sometimes leaving is the healthiest solution in an ugly situation. Lisa and her daughter will have much more fun at a new barn and those mean people can continue their unhappy, false lives with each other.

dunslidin said...

Well sadly this never changes matter how old we are. I had a great show friend, when her husband had a horrible health situation come up I hauled her and lodged her for free so we could keep showing together. Once he went back to work, she dropped me like a hot potato (and of course my husband told me this could happen and that she was a user). She dropped all of us that had done for her and moved to another trainer and other friends that rode better, had better horses etc. My one friend thinks we started doing better than her and I did buy a great young horse and that started the split but really I think she thought that she could do better and her new friends would make her look better. I will say that I have moved up in my showing and now I can do more than I would have when she went with me because of her finances, so in a way she was holding me back so as sad as it has been I just needed to see that the good friends that stay with you (and I do have some from when I was young and I definitely am not young now) and the ones that move on are to be looked on fondly and that you just have to see what will be ahead of you. Maybe some people never grow out of the 7th grade situation.

Laura Crum said...

Val and dunslidin--Wow--it is amazing to me that so many have had such similar experiences. As others have said, I can forgive the 7th graders--it seems to be part of that stage of life-not a nice part, but inevitable. But adults? Adults should know better than to act like this.

Val--Lisa said that the single most hurtful part was that the one other mom that she had done so much for in the past responded to her by saying, "Its not my problem and I don't want to get involved." So much like the instructor who failed to support your friend. It was so confusing to Lisa--it almost seemed unbelievable.

dunslidin--I do think that things like this usually work out such that you eventually see that it was all for the best. But it is no fun to be betrayed by "friends." Glad to hear that you have reached the point where you can see that it WAS for the best.

Anonymous said...

This is very sad and I agree with those who say many people talk the talk but can't walk the walk. This doesn't only happen with children though. I was "dropped" from everyone at the barn where I board when people discovered I am related to the B.O. I can only think that the other boarders were afraid that I would repeat their complaints--those that were legitimate and those not so legit.

Laura Crum said...

1st Horse--Yes, the worst part of Lisa's experience was the way the other adults behaved. So unkind. So uncalled for. Sorry to hear that you had a similar experience--it seems that a lot of people have.

rockysgirl said...

I am also heartbroken by the cruel disdain, though I supposed not surprised. The older I get, the more I learn to guard my nurturing/caring energy. Send it in loads to the ones who will receive it and reflect it onwards, guard very carefully against those who are energy "black holes". The black holes with the friendliness cover are really dangerous, bland pleasantness is my best defense against them. When they really get me down, I make sure to single out someone I respect or care for with something extra nice - highlight something I respect or admire about them, ideally in front of others.

Can we flip this a bit and send good messages to your friend and her daughter? I'd love for Zoe and Lisa to know that we're thinking of them and want them to find a kind place to land very soon. I am picturing a barn w/a "big sister" for Zoe, a coffee pal for Lisa, and a warm safe place for their horse to play and work.

And if that doesn't work, we'll all picture pinned ears and double-barrel-kicks towards nasty people like the BO and thoughtless moms. Boss mare power! ;)

Laura Crum said...

rockysgirl--Thank you for a very sweet comment. Lisa and Zoe are working at moving on. Unfortunately it isn't easy to find a new barn that works (location, price, quality of care...etc) and it really is hard to let go of four years of what you thought was real friendship. So, it's a process. I know Lisa appreciates the kind thoughts. One thing we've both learned from this--or rather two things. To be more cautious who we trust and to really value those who are true friends. I really like your idea about sending positive messages to those we love as an antidote to the painful bitterness caused by the "black hole" people's falseness.

Grace C said...

This anecdote hits home for me in so many ways. I was that girl that my so-called friends suddenly ditched in the dirt back in junior high. My mother got involved with the drama and it got ugly with the other moms pretty quick too. Being the odd girl out was hard but I eventually found a new group of friends and I turned out okay (I’d like to think!) though I guess that haunting feeling of betrayal never quite goes away.

Laura Crum said...

Grace Chang--Thanks for your comment. I am amazed by how many people have gone through something like this. In some ways it makes me feel bad about the human race, but it also makes me realize that many come out stronger after dealing with something of this sort. I know what you mean about the "lingering feeling of betrayal." As Lisa and I pointed out to each other, it makes you very wary about trusting people. And maybe that's a good thing--however negative it may sound on the surface.

Laura Crum said...

Oops--you said "haunting feeling of betrayal," not "lingering," and I like your choice of words better.

Alison said...

Boy, this situation really hit a nerve in most of us. I wonder if guys go through the same thing?

My feeling is that too many adults do not grow out of 7th grade in their emotions/social behavior. Those of us who do, have to seek out people who have truly matured--and they are hard to find, but one day Zoe will be one of them, and her 'friends' will still be stuck in middle school.

Laura Crum said...

Very good point, Alison. And it's my impression that boys do go through this, but it doesn't seem to hit quite as hard. I am going to try to avoid all those who are stuck in 7th grade mentality from here on out.

AareneX said...

I've been pondering this post for a few days, and feel the need to return to it.

Several commenters here have said (variations on) "kids are mean/terrible/nasty/selfish" and "people are mean/terrible/nasty/selfish."

I really strongly disagree with that.

I find that people, *especially* kids and teens, are extremely caring and compassionate creatures. The trick is to engage the compassion, and it's not always an easy trick.

As a librarian working with youth, I engage deeply with people, engaging them in conversations that last an hour or more--not just about books, but also about their own cares and concerns, and the cares and concerns of people around them. People are KIND, and they will HELP, if only we use our own skills to ask them for kindness and help.

Growing up in a "girls need to be tough and brave and do everything by themselves" culture as I did, asking friends and strangers for kindness and help does not come easily.

And yet, every time I do ask for help, people come out of the woodwork with assistance--not just fancy words from the Dalai Lama, either. They show up at my house to stack firewood, they take me to lunch to cheer me up, they call me on the phone and say, "hey, you can't walk real well right now, would you like a jog cart you can use with your horse?" And not just friends. Total strangers.

So here's the challenge: to look for ways to engage people so that they can be kind and helpful. I am rarely disappointed these days when I ask for help from friends and strangers.

If the kids at that barn aren't responding, perhaps they haven't been asked to help. If you tell people what you want to happen, often it won't happen. If you ask people to help fix a situation, sometimes they will offer help that never occurred to you. That's kind of cool, in my experience.

Because people are NICE if you give them an opportunity to be nice.

Laura Crum said...

Aarene--I'm glad you feel that way. In this case, however, Lisa asked for help from people she considered her friends and they totally turned away. You may not like to hear this, but it's true. I have been through something similar in a different context recently, and I can attest to the fact that this happens. Lisa did nothing to deserve this. Sometimes people are just nasty.

I have friends that stand by me and help me out, yes. So does Lisa. But there are times when people (who post about love and kindness on facebook) say "I hope you can find some new friends that appreciate you and your daughter." Just when you are most in need some support. This is what happened in the situation that I wrote about.

Also, if you have never witnessed "shunning" behavior among 7th graders, you just haven't been watching closely enough. Yes, they can be kind, too, at times. The shunning behavior is common, though--as the people who commented on this post can attest.

I appreciate your positive attitude and your own kindness and I always try to treat others as I would like to be treated. But I am no Pollyanna. Nor do I deny what I observe. And this post is 100% accurate concerning the unkind way that some people that I know have behaved. The best I can say is that there ARE kind, decent people out there and we do run into them and take joy from them--just as we run into those who are unkind and hypocritical. The trick is to tell the difference--which isn't always as easy as it might seem.

AareneX said...

Oh, I agree that it ain't all sunshine and butterflies, especially in 7th grade. I spend a ton of time with middle school students each week. They DO behave badly, all the time.

But (and I truly believe this), they CAN behave kindly.

Adults too. They can. And they do.

What will NEVER help is having everybody shrug their shoulders and excuse the behavior with statements like "people are mean."

Being kind is sometimes more effort than being mean (or doing nothing). And REQUIRING kindness (especially from a group) can be a lot of work.

But if we all did, what might we accomplish?

Eternally optimistic, that's me. But I have never, ever been disappointed by the kindness of strangers. Or friends.

If people are mean, perhaps they aren't friends. Nothing wrong with leaving those far behind.

Laura Crum said...

Thank you for that comment, Aarene. I think your last sentence sums it up. Nothing wrong with leaving people who have proved that they aren't friends far behind.

However, I do want to add something. The concept that people are nice and if you ask them for help in the "right" way they will be kind and offer help, leaves me with the subtext (probably not your intent) that if we ask for help from friends and they turn away and are unkind...well, we did something wrong. We didn't ask in the right way, or perhaps we aren't as likable or deserving of kindness as that person who asked and got the help. And I really want to say (for Lisa's sake and the sake of all who posted here about the ways in which others were unkind to them) that this isn't true. Sometimes you ask for help and you reach out in trust to people you think are your friends and they treat you poorly. This is what happened to Lisa. She DID reach out and ask for help, trusting that her friends would want to help her.

As for why that situation played out as it did, here is my explanation. People often do things out of self-interest. Frequently they defend this behavior as "self-care," which is a very trendy concept. In this case, Lisa's "friends" probably told themselves that Lisa would be better off finding new friends for Zoe--friends that actually liked her. And it was better for all of them not to have to force their kids to be nice to a kid that their daughters did not want to be friends with any more. So, in their minds, they weren't being unkind at all. Just, you know, taking care of themselves appropriately. Better for everyone in the long run. This is how the justifying part of it goes...and then you post something about kindness on facebook.

I think a tremendous amount of unkind behavior-- from dumping the family dog at the pound, to sending an old horse to the sale to be bought by the killers, to excluding a child (all of which I have witnessed)-- is justified by the concept of "self-care." And I don't find this an acceptable excuse for causing suffering to another.

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