It was many years ago now, and the first group that our daughter had joined. She was small and sweet; neither shy nor boisterous. Extroverted in a quiet way, but at that tender age where friends are just beginning to become more important. She was eight.
This group was, in theory, a Christian spin off of Girl Scouts. Girls were grouped according to age, and with the help of the mothers, worked toward earning badges. Our girl was eager to participate and make new friends.
So she and I buckled up and drove the thirty minutes together, playing word games in the car, or just having some mother and daughter conversations that I still treasure in my heart. That part was sweet.
The group itself was disastrous.
Looking back, I cannot believe that we stuck it out for a year and a half. But we did. The head leaders bickered with each other, and barked frustrated orders to the girls. Earning badges was stressful, and the rhythm of learning was rushed and harsh. I did not listen to my gut, which suggested weekly that it was time to withdraw. And quick.
In hindsight, I did not want to teach my girl to quit. My husband and I strive to fulfill commitments, and teach our children that there will be strenuous seasons in life that we need to just plow through. We simply cannot quit everything we don’t care for.
That was my first mistake.
After year one was over, we enjoyed a relaxing summer and decided to try again in the fall. There were new leaders, after all, and maybe a different atmosphere?
Mistake number two.
I was paired up with another Mom to teach our daughters’ age group. She was a kind and passive woman. Her daughter, however, was the meanest child I have yet to meet. She controlled the group, and her mother permitted it. She spewed hurtful words to some of the girls, and whispered about others in jest. As the weeks went by, I saw my daughter grow more quiet when Tuesdays rolled around. One day she climbed into the car and wept.
“I hate coming here. Jenna is so mean and her mother doesn’t stop her. It makes my stomach hurt.”
I hugged her tight and told her we were done.
And we were.
Seven plus years have passed by, and what I know now is that God gave us that opportunity to teach our children that there are times that it is right and good to leave a damaging situation. Jenna’s mother was not going to control her daughter. The leaders were having their own arguments and refused to hear any outside counsel.
For my part, I should have been more forthright with my specific concerns, but it was easier to see the situation for what it was and quietly disappear.
Since this time, there have been a few other damaging relationships that we have had to leave, and some we have endured. This go-around I have confronted the issues head on, rather than being a disappearing wallflower. For the record, that has not gone so well either. Even gentle confrontation is confrontation, and folks simply do not want to be called out. But this, too, is a life lesson played out for my daughter. We love others with truth, and dealing directly is ultimately best. Our family has learned to be quick to apologize when we hurt someone, and then practice forgiveness together.