School ended. And so did my daughter’s social life.
Craccccck. You know what that’s the sound of? My heart breaking. Yup, like I’m pretty sure even the neighbors heard it. Wanna know why? Because I was being a diligent parent and checking through Zoey’s text messages. After remote learning started last week, I told her why don’t you reach out to some of your friends and see if they want to Facetime? So she did. And did. And did. And did. And this was the response she got.
CRICKETS: Chirp chirp.
So of course my mind started spinning. Why don’t they respond to her? Why doesn’t anyone want to hang out with her? Is she an outcast? I mean my mind was spinning so hard, I couldn’t fall asleep that night. I finally fell asleep at like a hundred o’clock, and woke up about an hour later stressing about it again.
The problem is Zoey is a social butterfly. AT SCHOOL. She buzzes from one group to the next chatting with everyone. Girls, boys, bullies, bullied, teachers, theater friends, pretty much anyone she bumps into. But when she gets home, she’s the same kid. The kid who hangs out with whoever she’s around. She hangs out with me in the kitchen, she hangs out with her brother in the playroom, she had an extensive conversation with her dentist last week about fantasy literature while I sat in the waiting room thinking, “I wonder if I can set up a playdate with her dentist.”
But she doesn’t reach out to kids on her phone too much. We bought it for her so she could chat with her friends, but what does she use it for? Watching cartoons and making Tik Tok videos. Insert a thousand eyeroll emojis here.
So anyways, I didn’t know why her friends were being unresponsive and I was stressing about it. Is it possible they’re not really her friends??? She’s an imaginative kid. Is it possible she doesn’t notice they’re annoyed by her unique personality? That they roll their eyes when she comes to school wearing something crazy? That they only sit with her at lunch because they have assigned seats right now?
I stressed out about it for days. My mind was spinning with anxiety. And then something happened. Parent-teacher conferences. Duh-duh-duhhhh.
It was all on Zoom because of the pandemic so it was gonna be a whirlwind of 8-minute zoom calls, so I made sure to set up the first call with her homeroom teacher. I prayed he could give me some insight. And this is what he said.
BADASS TEACHER: (paraphrased because I didn’t record it) I have to tell you, Zoey is a really wonderful kid. She’s doing awesome in her classes and she’s doing great socially. She’s so creative. The other day she wanted to draw pictures of everyone in the class, so I told her she had ask them first, so she walked around to each person and asked. Some of them said yes, and if they said no, she said that’s fine and moved on. She’s really something special.
And then I met with all her other teachers and I kept hearing the same thing. She’s doing great. She seems happy. I like her colorful outfits. She’s got an A. She’s always so nice. Tell her to keep it up.
And when I hung up the last Zoom call, I think I exhaled for like ten minutes straight. Zoey’s fine. No, wait, she’s not fine. She’s great. It was like a giant weight was lifted from my shoulders.
That’s when I realized there could be a million reasons her friends didn’t respond to her texts. Maybe they weren’t sitting on their phones at that moment. Maybe they’re not really texters or facetimers. Maybe they’re too busy doing other things like eating dinner and playing and hanging out with their families. Or maybe they’re just not big Zoey fans because not everyone is. And that’s okay. The whole world doesn’t have to like her, just a few good friends.
Anyways, guess what happened the next night? I’m walking past her room and I hear voices inside. Girls chatting and giggling. It was pretty late for a call, and I almost opened the door to say time to get off. But I stopped myself. Just yesterday I was upset she wasn’t talking to people, and now I’m gonna kick her off? So I said screw it and let her keep talking.
And I realized something. Zoey doesn’t have a problem. I do. My stupid paranoid brain. I’m sure it won’t be the last time my crazy brain has me up at night worrying about made-up problems, but next time I’m going to TRY to remember to calm down. Is Zoey acting like she has a problem? Like did she actually say she has one? Or am I just reading into every little thing and worrying about problems that aren’t really there? Oh crap, I sound like a crazy person. But something tells me I’m not crazy at all. That this is actually very normal.
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I was much like Zoey as a young lady…lots of friends at school but not too much outside of school. She’ll be okay, she’s doing great and she’s with the people right now who are important to her. She will find her way in the world just fine. And good that her friends aren’t on text – it’s a terrible way for everyone to interact, but more so kids. I alternate between wanting to off my family members after being together nonstop for 268 days and reminding myself how lucky we are to have this time with our kids.
You have no idea how much I needed this. I have been going through the same thing with our 12 year son…Thank you for easing my anxiety! ♥️
I have two daughters. I know the feeling. She is 8th grade, I was worried that she didn’t get into the right team she wouldn’t get into her choice college. This was for hockey not even academics. Ugh.
My 3rd grade is hanging out with 4 from a different school. I started worrying about why she didn’t handouts with kids at her school. The next day, she was.
Thank you for posting this.
My almost 7 y.o. is doing online school this year (my partner is a front line worker on a covid unit) and he feels so forgotten by the friends who went to in person school. He is like Zoey in that he talks to everyone when he is at school. Thank you for posting this and to @KellyB for reminding me he is going to get through this and be ok.
It’s like you crawled inside my brain! Thank you for continuing to share your worries (which are often experienced by so many of us!).
Hang in there. Parenting teens is the hardest thing in the world and now doing it during a pandemic and distance learning is even harder. As a parent of a 16 and 19 yo I completely understand. It is hard, If you have given them a solid foundation trusting your kids to make the right decisions and being there to listen to them is the best advice I can give.
You’re right on target, as usual! This insight is a gift to all the anxious parents out there!
Way back in the time machine when my kids were young I worried about the same thing, friends! We didn’t even have texting or a pandemic to deal with! I had to teach myself not to worry, they didn’t seem to be worrying but I worried enough for all of us. You’re such a great mom and Zoey is even greater! She’ll be fine and you’ll still be worrying when they’re all grown up with kids of their own but that’s what moms do-I wouldn’t change it for anything!
It gets worse when they are 13 and starting the separation process, they don’t talk to you, they stay in their rooms and never smile. Always seem grouchy, but this will pass too. Just be there when she needs you, she will let you know
I now have 16 & 14 year olds and when they first got phones I spent HOURS scrolling looking for someone to be mean (them or someone else!) or something bad to happen and hidden meaning in any text. I was terrified of the thing. Instead of it helping I got angry about the way they communicated because I don’t get it I’m not a 12 year old with a phone. I thought they should all respond and be engaging like I would be as an adult and many times fought with my oldest about it. I now wish I had just trusted them, or maybe myself, little bit more they are good kids.
Don’t forget to really check though – because there are many kids who are not doing ok. You were right to worry, and I’m so happy your worries we’re out to rest.
I’m married to a child psychiatrist though – and I can tell you that some kids are having a much harder time ??
Oh wow, I’m following you all the way from Finland and I have the EXACT same issue with my daughter and her new school (she started 7th grade in-person this fall in a new school). When she was younger she was always out with her friends or someone was over or she was over at a friend’s house (I should tell you that here our kids still live like you did in the 80s – half the time I wouldn’t know where my 10yo son is but he has Find My Friend on his phone) but now, only one old friend started at this new school with her and slowly she has lost touch with her old friends, except for one or two. She is always home and always in her room (covid situation has not been too bad here so seeing friends and hanging out has been possible) and on weekends she goes for walks with ME. She does have her taekwondo hobby three nights a week but that ended a couple of weeks ago due to new covid restrictions. So I have been worried sick (and I’m also on her case all the time about calling or texting friends to ask them out or over)! But she tells me she’s happy and enjoys being alone after a long school day or with her brother and enjoys reading or watching her shows and tiktok. Wth? At her age I was ALWAYS with friends. Always. We hung out or at someone’s house. I was either never home, or never home without a friend.
So I’ve been asking my friends and guess what – they’re all like this. They communicate through snapchat and whatsapp and whatever, and yes, sometimes they do have video calls (and the same happened at my house – I walked by my daughter’s room and heard her talking with her friends late at night). So…. it’s thing now?
Also, one of my friends was asking on facebook what time do other 15 year olds (her daughter is 15) have to come home, and mostly all said – my kid doesn’t go out so I don’t have to set a curfew. Shocking. So I don’t know – is it covid times or modern times or what, but seems it’s universal. And hey – mine went out for a walk with a friend today so yay!
This could be me about my son. He is very similar, talks to everyone, does theater, just floats through life. I’ve had the same panic moments. I just keep saying, I will be fine…. But yeah, I’ve been there
The title alone of you post got me because my son who is in school but with a mask on behind a plexiglass barrier told me the other day one of his friends was ignoring him. I immediately went into the defense of “well you don’t need him as a friend” or “were you supposed to be talking at that moment and the kid didn’t want to get in trouble?” or “maybe he didn’t hear you?” and then it hit me. I ask where the other kid sat. He explain 4 rows over and THREE rows back!! Yup, there is no way in hell the kid heard him! They have masks on, other kids making noise, plexiglass, AND probably and maybe headphones on as well. So I totally get it…..we are more paranoid than ever that kids aren’t getting the best social life experiences right now…and it sucks. But we can only hope and pray they are as flexible and resilient as they can be!