My Daughter Was Thoughtless Yesterday, And My Heart Aches For It

Last night was a hard night. I got a call from a family friend, who put me on the phone with her daughter, and then I got my heart broken.

My beautiful, usually kind, mostly thoughtful girl did something awful yesterday. 

She gossiped.

That in and of itself isn't the end of the world. Girls will be girls and twelve year old girls will gossip. Hell, I've been known to indulge a bit myself, despite my best intentions. 

The teenage daughter I mentioned above - the one that belongs to our family friend - is going through a really hard time right now for reasons I can't divulge entirely.

This kid is almost like family to me. She's lovely and kind and has a heart of gold. My kids love her, too. She spends time with my children on occasion, and Anna (being the astute child that she is) knew that something was wrong after a few things went awry in her presence.

Rather than have Anna jump to a bunch of erroneous conclusions, I had a talk with her about the situation, offering a few details to clear up some misconceptions that she had, but stressing very firmly that I didn't know all the details, and we were not going to pry to get them. This is a very personal matter, and should remain that way. I asked Anna to keep this within our walls, out of respect for our friend's daughter and her need for privacy at this time.

And she didn't.

She told her friends at the bus stop yesterday, who told a few friends themselves. One of those friends has an older brother who is in the same grade as our friend's daughter, in this small town of ours. And now, at a time when this girl needs all the support she can get, she feels publicly humiliated instead. My daughter's thoughtless actions have emotionally eviscerated her.

Wait, it gets worse.

Anna was at her father's house last night when I got this call, so I immediately hung up and called to speak to her. Half an hour later, after a lot of tears (on my part) and back-and-forth between us, I ended the call because she just. didn't. get. it.

I didn't hear remorse. I didn't hear responsibility. I heard "Mom, I only told two friends, it's not my fault if they spread it around."

Yes, it is your fault, I told her. They couldn't have spread it if you hadn't given them the knowledge. And do you understand the gravity of what you've done here? The hurt you've caused this girl who never did a thing to you to deserve it? This girl who needs to know, now more than ever, that people care about her?

This isn't you, I said to her. I raised you to be kind. And this was mean. This was just mean. And hurtful. You are better than this.

And all I got was a twelve year old girl, full of attitude, telling me she got it, OK? I got it, Mom. I'll call her tomorrow and say I'm sorry.

After her call with me, I hung up and dialed her father, going over it all again. Then he sat her down and had a similar talk, with similar results. And a similar sense of frustration.

And today, I sit at work and my heart is heavy, for this beautiful young girl that was hurt by my daughter's thoughtlessness, and for my daughter, who needs to learn empathy. I find it odd that I'm writing that, when her brother is autistic and would never knowingly hurt someone this way. And if he had unwittingly done so, his remorse would have rendered him unable to function once he'd learned of the offense.

His sister is becoming a young woman now, and she needs to understand that words are powerful things, that can wound or heal. I can only hope that her sincere apology to this beautiful girl will help the girl find some peace. And I hope, as well, that hearing the pain in her voice as she speaks with her will teach her far more than my lecture did. 

I hope it hurts her to hear. I can't say I've ever wanted my daughter to hurt before, but I want it now. Because it's what she needs.

I want the pain of today's conversation to leave a permanent scar, that will hopefully seal her lips on future occasions.