My best lessons in friendship came during my loneliest season of friendship.
I’d just gotten married and moved to a place where I only had a handful of connections. As a newlywed in a new city, I started at square one. I got invited to parties, yet I didn’t have deep connections. Every girl I knew already had a best friend, and since many of them grew up together, I felt like an outsider as they shared childhood stories.
After one girl’s night out, I came home and cried to my husband. I told him how I just couldn’t compete with friends who had known each other since birth and taken baths together at two years old. Everyone was kind, but nobody needed me like I needed them.
It took me six months of effort – and accepting every invitation that came my way – to finally get my bearings.
My turning point came when I met Mary Alice, who had just moved back in town. We immediately clicked and became close friends. From that friendship we grew other friendships and expanded our circle. When my husband and I moved away four years later, we were genuinely sad to leave these friends who had become our second family.
Looking back, I realize how my problem was insecurity. I had a void in my heart that longed to be filled with the gift of female connection. Rather than letting it happen naturally, I tried to force it. I was so eager to find my place that I was petrified of making mistakes.
“Other than showing your child love and affection, managing your own stress
is the best thing you can do to be an effective parent.” Sissy Goff
My friend’s 16-year-old daughter called her from school, panicked and stressed.
“Mom, you’ve got to check me out! Everybody is saying how hard this history test is. I know I’ll fail it. Please come get me so I don’t have to take it today!”
Immediately my friend knew that her daughter had spent time in the Mall. The Mall is our high school’s common area where the students congregate. Often, they make each other panic as they discuss the difficulty of their classes.
My friend often warned her daughter to beware of the “Mall Mentality,” and this was exactly why.
“I’m not going to check you out,” her mom calmly replied, “because you’re ready for this test. Get out of the Mall and go to the library to clear your head. You have studied, and you know the material. I promise you’ll do fine.”
Her daughter wasn’t convinced, but she listened to her mom. She made an A on that history test, and 2 years later, this straight-A student was named a National Merit Finalist. She won a full scholarship to the college of her choice. She graduated with top honors.
Clearly, she is an intelligent student who prepared for this test, so why did she suddenly doubt herself? And what does it say for the rest of us when even the brightest people lose sight of their ability to handle challenges?
In some way, we all relate. We all have “Malls” in our life that trigger self-doubt or panic. Even when we’ve done the work, even when we leave home feeling confident, it only takes a voice or two to stir up worry, stress, or anxiety.
“Girls, more than ever, are in need of emotional support from their parents because they are not getting it where they are spending most of their time: online.” Lisbeth Splawn
One challenge of raising teenagers is teaching emotional regulation.
As Dr. Lisa Damour says, teenagers often have the right feeling on the wrong scale. They need help bringing their feelings down to size. As parents, we do this by naming their feelings, talking about them, and using a tone that conveys warmth and confidence in them.
It sounds easy, but in the moment, it can hard, uncomfortable, or irritating to witness a teen’s unpleasant emotions. Personally, I want to rush my daughters through them. I want to give pep talks or life lessons. I’ve told them how they should feel before listening to how they do feel. I’ve expected them to master emotions that still elude me.
I didn’t realize my tendency until my daughter told me one day, “You and Dad are always like, perspective, but I’m allowed to be upset over dumb things for five minutes.” And you know what? She was right. While my instinct is to “fix” emotions that make me uncomfortable (or make me want to cry) my girls benefit more when I let them feel what they feel and give them room to vent. After all, emotions buried alive always resurface.