When I was at school I had four female friends in my class, one of which I had grown up and gone through infant and primary school with and then two others who we met at secondary school. We were all close friends and did a lot together during the days. It was kind of an unspoken agreement that outside of school I would hang around with the friend who lived local to me and the other two girls were ok with that as we were a group. Growing up this girls mum was pretty strict, and we found that we weren’t allowed to leave the nearby park where her mum could keep an eye on her out the window and call her in for dinner. I am not saying this is a bad thing, as a parent myself now I can understand the need to be able to get your children in when dinner is ready and wanting to know where they are. As an adult now, knowing what I know about what was going on in the village we were growing up in, I would do the same. But back then, as pre teens, it was a drag.
My upbringing was the opposite, my mum had passed away when I was 9 yrs old, my dad was working, my brother had his friends round after school and his annoying kid sister just got in the way, so I was out and about. I didn’t have strict curfew, I didn’t have a parent calling me in for dinner and when my friend was called in by her mum I was out on my own.
Then I met someone else, there was a girl a few years older than us, she would walk past the park on her way home from the village and would stop and chat with me. One day she invited me to go with her to her house for food. I remember the drama that having a new friend bought to our circle. It upset the status quo. I remember time going on and telling my friend one day that I was going home, taking the short cut through the alley way and walking round the other road to meet my new friend further up the road as a way of trying to save myself the grief that inevitably came from the girls at school when they heard I had been hanging out with someone new. The funny thing is that the bulk of the trouble came from one of the girls who didn’t even live nearby. She wasn’t affected at all by who I hung out with out outside of school at all, yet really gave me a pretty awful time for daring to hang around with someone who didn’t have her approval.
Over quite a short period of time (actually pretty suddenly) my place in the foursome disappeared. I started hanging around with the older, new friend, inside of school as well as outside. I put my head down in lessons and then break times we cracked the age segregated mould and I would sneak out of the school gates with her and the older years. I fitted in so much better with the older year groups, away from the drama that surrounded girls my own age. I got into fights with girls my own age, I took a few punches and wasn’t afraid to swing a few back. I was happy to do my own thing in my own time and girls at school didn’t seem to like that. Perhaps because of my upbringing, I had seen things and been through things that not many people my age at the time could relate to. I couldn’t understand the teenage fall outs and arguments with mums, I couldn’t tolerate hearing girls my age slag their mums off and wish them ill, or dead in some cases. I wasn’t afraid to tell these girls that they didn’t know how lucky they were, that they should appreciate their mums. Being told by one girl that I was lucky was one of the final blows. Perhaps I shouldn’t have spoken out, perhaps I should not have discounted their feelings of angst and anger. So I was the victim of assaults, from boys as well as girls, I bore the brunt of the bullying and frankly I hated school. The drama, the childishness, the forced uniform, the teachers and their pets, the unfair spread of discipline that resulted in a friend of mine getting a detention and me being let off the same thing because the teacher thought my home life was shit. The downward spiral that resulted in me walking out and refusing to return. That saw the involvement of education welfare and social services (now all under the same “childrens services” umbrella)
Oddly enough, the “new” friend who I had met in the park that day, the meeting which sparked the teen drama and the ensuing downward spiral, remained a very good friend. One who ultimately put me up when things got so bad at home that I left altogether. I still saw her very regularly well into my 20s and am still in contact with via social media. I suspect she even reads this blog following my adventures and would be sat reading this saying “gawd dayam” to herself. I dont see her much anymore, we lead separate lives each taking different paths, but there will never be a day when she cant call me up and shout if she needs me.
The thing is, as an adult I understand that the teenage behaviour is not only common, but actually fairly normal. I have spoken to enough other people over the years and have seen my own daughter go through the same thing to know how regularly it occurs. Teenage girls want their “best friend” to be their best friend only, they want that element of control and to know that their best friend wont be friends with someone who they don’t like, they want control and absolute loyalty. I was lucky as a teenager. I was able to meet enough like minded people, many of whom had equally shitty experiences at home or with other people. These people are my tribe, they have been for a long time now, many of my circle of friends knew me when I was younger than my daughter is now. We have grown together, we have raised our families together, we celebrate together and we support each other through everything. And we do this without the day to day drama. We all have our own lives, our own other friends, our own things going on, but we get together and there is nothing but love, respect and honesty. We’ve all lost other people along the way, but never ceased to have each others backs.
I saw a similar pattern of behaviour when my daughter was in her early teens. Friends would want her to have sleep overs etc and if she had something else going on or wasn’t allowed then a night of prank calls and bitchiness would follow. I remember her being with us one night for a friends birthday on their canal boat and it was prank call after prank call. Secondary school didn’t see an improvement. It was all seemingly politics of who could be friends with who and this didn’t sit any better with my daughter than it had sat with me. She would be friends with who she wanted and no one could tell her not to talk to someone, and like me, she suffered the consequences from peers.
All through life we seem to meet these people who want to control us and dull our sparkle. From fake friends to abusive partners, some we see coming pretty quickly whilst others creep in then blindside us. I’ve learnt that friends don’t try to control you or make decisions for you. They are there to advise, to cheer you on and then to pick you up when you fall. I lived with an emotionally abusive partner. I had friends who saw what he was doing, who knew how unfaithful he was, who didn’t like him and didn’t trust him. A few I lost along the road, he made it very hard to maintain friendships that he didn’t approve of. But others held on, held me and lifted me back up as many times as it took until I gained the strength to let him leave rather than beg him to stay.
One of my closest friends, who is more like family than anything else to me, had a friend who I couldn’t stand. I had had a run in with her and she had said some pretty horrendous stuff and I took a big dislike to her. My friend eventually chose to forgive her and make up. Where was the jealousy? Where was the fall out? It wasn’t there, because I respected her right to make her decisions and choose her own friends. And you know what? In time I was able to get talking to this girl again and grow past the dislike and now, years later, we get on quite well. In the same way that there are girls I was in school with, we are now adults and parents and have been able to talk via social media and actually get on quite well. There are others who do not seem to have grown up or changed. Women who still bitch and fight and argue, who fall out with people for no reason or get involved in the disputes of others, getting into fights at the local nightclubs and girls who disliked each other at school STILL kicking off at each other out in public! Why do some of us outgrow this behaviour and some just really don’t seem to?
I have spent several months listening to someone talk about someone else. Complaining about certain behaviours and approaches to things. I have sat and listened, I have at times agreed. Perhaps it is foolish to not immediately consider that perhaps it was going the other way round as well. That’s a trust thing, being there for a friend and trusting that they wouldn’t betray you. Sometimes we put our trust in the wrong people, and that’s fine too. We learn to own that hurt and then brush it off, because it is life. We can’t go through life not letting people in, not giving people a chance, because how lonely would that be? Everyone we meet carries a lesson but we have to be open to learn it.
I was exceptionally proud of my daughter when an ex boyfriend of hers was trying to tell her not to be friends with someone and she responded by saying “you don’t have to like me, I don’t have to like you but it would make things nicer for “x” if we can be civil because he is allowed to choose his own friends and I respect that” Well done that girl!
I think that is definitely a bonus of home education. If you don’t get on with someone you aren’t forced to spend time with them, and you are free to make friends based on shared interests rather than age. Forced association isn’t passed off as friendship and socialisation and they have to learn how to meet people and spark up conversation and open up those lines of communication without a teacher sitting them next to someone at random. Which, lets face it, is far more like real life.
To me, friendship is about understanding someones past, believing in their future and accepting them every day for who they are. We aren’t perfect, sometimes we are pretty crap. Life isn’t easy, we have blips and low points, we have unexpected emergencies and then huge (and not so huge) achievements that we want to celebrate. The overall experience is being part of all of it.