Lessons I Learned in Middle School

Big change is afoot. My oldest, Luci, is about to start middle school (we do that in sixth grade in Charlotte) and my youngest, Opal, starts Kindergarten. We've spent a great deal of time over the last few weeks discussing a myriad of details relating to wardrobe, school supplies, pick-ups and drop-offs and after school activities. When we finished all that we focused some real time on the subject of interacting with friends. 

My beautiful girls.

My beautiful girls.

While it helps that my background is in PR and I can position almost anything in a positive way, at the end of the day I'm a woman facing real challenges raising a family. And I want to share the truth with my daughters. So, over Sunday dinner with their Dad, we talked to Luci about friends. Because, as I see it, that will be one of the biggest challenges facing my sweet, reserved and very bright girl.

Mean Girls, 2004

Mean Girls, 2004

Over the years, I've determined that people fall into three "friend" categories: those who pretend to be your friend to get stuff from you or to get you to do things you don't want to (or shouldn't) do, people who are your friend now but won't be your friend next week because you have a difference of opinion/you grow apart and those who are true friends. These are the special people who stand beside you at your lowest and choose to include you in times of celebration. 

Here's the thing. I have so much relevant (mean girl) material that could be used as a basis for this conversation. Stuff that's happened in the last week and a mountain of stuff I was exposed to in sixth grade. The good news? If I ever get brave enough to do stand-up comedy or write a book - I have plenty of crap to share.

Whether you're in sixth grade or an adult with real-world responsibilities, success comes when you surround yourself with people who are genuine, kind and inclusive. This breeds confidence. If you see someone at lunch who's sitting alone, go to them. If you see a co-worker struggling with an issue, offer to lend a hand. If you aren't included in a birthday celebration with someone - move forward and take stock in those who appreciate you and go spend time with them. To me, being inclusive means you put the feelings/needs of others and the task at hand above all else. It means you don't allow petty nonsense to get in the way of any meaningful interaction with another human being. I work on this every day. Sometimes I succeed and other times I fail miserably at it. The good news is, your true friends know when your heart's in the right place. And when it feels like theirs isn't, they don't shy away from saying they're sorry.

As Luci starts middle school and I face grown-up life decisions, these are all good reminders. I want my daughter to be successful in life and I want to set a good example. So for all the wonderful women surrounding me who are trying to be the best they can be - I raise my glass to you. Move forward and be inclusive - I promise you'll love the results.