Seventh grade is the worst.
It was for me, at least, and I feared it would be for my daughter. So many changes. Everything, everyone is changing so fast.
I look back at that period of my life with both shame and chagrin because I was aware of the social ladder and I was desperate to climb it. In seventh grade, I ditched my best friend for a cooler crowd, and I was mean to her in ways that make me cringe to think upon now. But I got my comeuppance in ninth grade when I was abandoned, and I went crawling back to that friend with my tail between my legs, and she accepted me.
I knew this scenario. I had lived it, both sides of it, and it was awful.
I did not want this for my daughter, but I knew it was coming. It seemed inevitable, like an ugly rite of passage that all girls must endure, but I feared it would be worse for her.
She spent three years in the foster system before we adopted her. She already believed that she was worthless and unlovable, and despite our incessant reassurances to the contrary, she could not forget that she had been abandoned and rejected by the people she had cared about most. Her internalized sense of worthlessness has made it nearly impossible for her to be vulnerable enough to allow people to get close to her—adopted parents included.
She has an attachment disorder. She both desperately wants connections and actively sabotages them, so her behavior is often hard to understand. This makes her different.
Kids noticed, and they were mean.
Then in fifth grade, she made a friend—a good friend. And watching them laugh and play was such a blessing. It gave me hope that she could overcome those feelings of worthlessness. For two years, they were inseparable.
But then, seventh grade started, and that girl—that girl who had once been so kind, that girl who had given her a best friends forever necklace, that girl who had made them matching BFF T-shirts and had given her a snow globe with a picture of them together inside of it—just . . . changed.
She stopped answering the phone. She asked for space.
The last text message she sent my daughter said, “Just put the necklace in my locker. I want it back.”
It destroyed my daughter.
And I had to just sit by and watch as she bawled, as she relived the trauma of being abandoned by someone she cared about. “Nobody wants me,” she sobbed. “My dad didn’t want me either!”
I held her as she cried in my arms. I tried to reassure her, telling her that I wanted her, but I know she didn’t entirely believe me.
I didn’t know what to do. I’d had friendships go south, true, but I knew nothing of true abandonment.
I knew I was staring down the barrel of a loaded attachment disorder. This girl was the first peer my daughter had really trusted since her adoption. It was a huge risk. Their friendship was a tremendous emotional investment for her, and while I do believe the other girl had been similarly invested, the stakes were so much higher for my child.
I wanted to fix this.
I wanted to intervene. I wanted to text this girl myself and get an explanation. I wanted to call her mom and explain the challenges of my daughter’s attachment disorder and appeal to her good nature. I wanted to do everything I could to encourage reconciliation.
But I did none of those things because I know how humiliating and damaging parental meddling in such matters can be.
I did what I could, which didn’t feel like much.
I listened. She cried.
I gave her ice cream. She ate the whole pint.
I gave her a box, and she gathered everything that girl had ever given her, every present, every photograph, and put it inside. We put the box on a high shelf in her room. She couldn’t bear to look at it, but she couldn’t bear to part with it, either.
She had done the same with the few trinkets she had from her biological father—a way to hold on while still letting go.
I felt so powerless as I watched her. In a way, I was mourning this relationship, too. It had been evidence of normalcy, an indication that she might overcome the grim prognosis of her attachment disorder and know true belonging.
Still, I shared stories of my own unraveled friendships. I told her that some friendships are only meant for a season. I told her to keep her head up. I reminded her that she had already survived so much hardship.
I reminded her that she was strong.
And, remembering my own seventh-grade friendships, I told her to be kind despite the pain she felt. Teens are fickle. Alliances are always in flux.
This might not be the end for them. Some girls grow to learn from their ways and look back with chagrin on their behavior—I am living proof of this.
And if it is the end for them, well, life will go on regardless. Seventh grade is not forever even though it feels like it sometimes.
Dear girl, this too shall pass.
Thank goodness, change is the only constant here.