Daughter three is going back to school. After a couple of months of internet school she has decided that she needs to get some friends, some face to face friends rather than whatsapp friends. It’s been an interesting experiment and she has been impressively dedicated. She has understood a lot of stuff she didn’t at her previous school because of interruptions in class and anxiety about bullying. She has, for instance, started being interested in Geography which she was falling behind in before. It’s amazing what a good learning environment, even if it is at home, can do for confidence.
She did some exams last week and her results have been good, in some cases very good and that has also given her a boost. But one of the problems at her last school was a lack of supportive friends. With good friends, she feels she could have brushed off the bullies more effectively. Loneliness is a terrible thing at any age, but particularly when you are young and finding your way. It was awful to hear her tell me at primary school, where she was also bullied, that she would spend break times sitting on a bench on her own because no-one would play with her.
Yet daughter three has the potential to be a tremendous friend herself, looking out for people and thinking about what would make them happy. She made her dad a beautiful Christmas advent calendar game which meant he had to find a hidden present for every day leading up to Christmas. She nominated a person she thought was being bullied for star of the week to make her feel happier. Daughter three has always been drawn to friend-related films and events. When she started primary school she went through a phase of being obsessed with sleepovers because her oldest sister did them. She created a blog of sleepover tips, collected books from the library on sleepovers and valiantly attempted to do a Youtube video on sleepovers with her baby brother bouncing in the background.
She loves the idea of friendship, but she has never had the kind of best friend she craves. The bullying she had in primary school made her over-anxious to make friends at secondary school. She maybe didn’t make the best choices. Bullying leaves a long legacy. She has also had to contend with being the third sister. While she and daughter two would have adventures and fun when they were younger, daughter two has now decamped to daughter one, who she thinks is the epitome of cool. That leaves daughter three a bit left out, though she and only son get on very well. Daughter two was doing a t-shirt design the other day so daughter three joined in. I found the t-shirt. It said “I have no friends. Ha ha.”
We’ve found a school which is not too far away which we are seeing round next week. We drove over the other day. “It looks a bit like a prison,” said daughter three. “But a nice prison.” Being daughter three, she has researched it thoroughly and has found out that it does a really good fashion course from year 9 so she is quite excited. Plus she gets to go on a bus. Daughter three loves the idea of independent travel. Being in a new environment doesn’t phase her. She’d rather that than go to a nearer school where people from her old primary school are. She thinks they are unlikely to have changed.
Friendship is a difficult thing. How do you find lasting friendship? I’m not the best role model since most of my friends live miles away and I rarely see them. At her last school, to rub it in, daughter three’s so-called friends made her make an Instagram page so they could show her how unpopular she was. Daughter three is off social media for now. We switched schools at primary school and it made a big difference to her confidence, though it took a while for her to regain her confidence. Let’s see if it works this time round.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.