Mean Girls: Kids Say the Darndest (and Meanest) Things

What scares you the most about your little ones growing up? How are you making it through the teenage years?

I overhear a lot of amazing stuff at the park. It’s like a child psych and sociology class rolled into one. There are the amazingly delightful things — like a ten-year-old boy who says he can’t wait to have a baby and name it Al Pacino — and the amazingly frightening things, like a conversation the other day that sounded straight out of Mean Girls. As I pushed Coraline on the swing I listened to these pre-teen girls sitting next to me talk about teachers they hate, their weight, and shoes — disturbing for many reasons, but benign. But when a pretty redhead walked by, heading toward the pavilion at the center of the park where a number of other kids had begun to gather, the conversation got ugly. One of the girls — who herself was dressed in daisy dukes and a black tube top — said “She looks naked with her clothes on,” despite the fact that the redhead was wearing baggy jeans and an oversized T-shirt. Another girl added: “I think she’s dating so-and-so. She’s probably having sex with him.” And on it went. Jealousy really is a three-headed monster!

I had almost forgotten just how cruel girls can be. I’m surprised any of us make it out of junior high alive. Standing there in the park I felt a moment of panic: Will my daughter be the girl in the pavilion, or one on the swings? Sure, kids will be kids, but it mortifies me to think my daughter would ever say things like that about someone else, or that someone would talk about her that way. It’s a jungle out there, and I’m not sure I know how to best prepare her to navigate it.

Later that day, I chatted with my neighbor, who is a massage therapist. She mentioned a new client — a young man in his early 20s — who had broken his back (twice) snowboarding. As the mother of two boys, she experienced a similar panic to mine in the park: How do I let them be themselves, do what they love, and keep them safe? I shared with her what I’d overheard at the park, and all we could do was shake our heads and laugh at the task before us. “Teenagers,” she said. “Oy.” Right on, sister. Right on.

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Tell me readers, what kinds of things have you heard on the playground? What scares you the most about your little ones growing up? (Or, if they’re already grown: How are you making it through the teenage years?)

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Invest in some cloth napkins and cheap washcloths and see how easy it is to not use paper towels and napkins. You can get 10-packs of washcloths for a couple bucks at discount stores like Home Goods, or cut up an old towel or T-shirt. Not only will you save some money, but you’ll significantly decrease your household waste.

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