When You Can’t Kiss it Better


As Flea gets older, the lessons I want to teach her change.

Long gone are the days of carrying her over puddles so her feet don’t get soggy, or letting her stand on my knee so she can reach the counter top in the kitchen.

Parenting a ten-year-old is more like being a mixture of a social organiser, taxi driver and personal shopper. But I confess, I miss the days when her problems could be solved with a kiss and a quick, “Hey look at that squirrel!” 

This year, Flea has struggled with certain relationships. She has a combination of very lovely personality traits that mean she’s easily wrong-footed by the unexpected; perplexed when people don’t behave in the way she is used to. It’s left her feeling anxious and confused.

Honestly? It breaks my heart to see her hurt by something I can’t fix; struggling to cope with something – perhaps because I failed to give her the emotional tools she needs to process these new challenges?

In rational moments I suspect it’s just growing up, maybe. Sooner or later, we all realise that people are flawed and thoughtless, and often self-absorbed – but we love them anyway because hell, nobody’s perfect and most of us are pretty good eggs, underneath it all.

But still, I’m trying to help Flea to navigate her way through these new waters.

In particular, we’ve talked a lot about how people don’t behave perfectly and while we forgive them and love them regardless, it’s okay to mind. It’s okay to mind when someone is mean, or distant, or forgetful, or careless. That even if you don’t want to say it out loud, it’s good to have a little voice in your head that says, “Hey! That wasn’t okay, and I didn’t deserve that.”

Of course, what’s interesting is that for all the times I tell Flea about the importance of boundaries and expecting people to respect you, what I DO is probably a thousand times more compelling than what I SAY.

Like many women, I suspect, my instinct is often to smooth over disagreements. To take the high road when someone treats me unfairly, or takes advantage, or is a total dick in some way or other. I’ve a habit of preserving relationships long after they’ve stopped bringing me much in the way of comfort or happiness.

This isn’t (just) because I’m a super-nice person, obviously.


It’s also because it’s generally just easier to keep schtum and let unpleasantness pass. Far better to say nothing than to jump in and say the wrong thing – which I have a spectacular talent for, by the way. I have a hatred of confrontation, and I’m blessed with a ridiculously bad memory that means I’ve usually forgotten what I’m pissed off about long before I see the offending person again.

But Flea sees all of that. And I suspect I need to be a better role model for her.

I need to be better at removing toxic people from my life, and ensuring that our home and family remains a safe space where people are nice to each other, and support one another. And maybe I can’t solve all Flea’s problems, but hopefully I can start to show her that they are problems that CAN be fixed and she can do that for herself.

I’d love to hear your tips on this – have you ever experienced something similar with your children? 


16 thoughts on “When You Can’t Kiss it Better”

  1. Hi Sally,

    My daughter is 10.5 so around the same age and I must admit, we go through the same. Girls esp and their friendship groups can be very tricky waters to navigate. Spiteful, hurtful and downright rude in fact.

    Only last night did I talk through feelings with her about how she was told she was getting an invite to a party sleepover with a group of her besties, only to find out she’s the only one now not invited. She’s hurt and quite honestly, I understand that. I do talk through how my friends aren’t perfect either, but then who is and just encourage her to talk it through with me. How I still struggle now to get it right with friends and how, you know what? that’s ok and we can deal with it but yes it does hurt and its ok to feel sad. Did help that I told her she couldn’t have gone anyway as we’d got tickets to see Star Wars that night anyway and how that was going to be so much better 🙂

    It’s not easy this parenting malarkey. I feel your pain.

    1. Oh, the invite thing makes me RAGE! Flea’s school is so small, and yet the cliques are awful. Flea’s four best friends often get invited to sleepovers that Flea isn’t invited to, because she’s not one of the “girlie” girls. Luckily, her four best friends are all just fantastic kids and Flea’s grown in confidence SO much since being a part of that friendship group, I’m sure it will give her a good grounding for high school. Fingers crossed, anyway.

      1. Ah we have exactly this too! They’re all going to some girl’s party but she doesn’t understand why she didn’t get an invite too. It’s hard. It’s a mix though. We’ve had some real nastiness, and she’s learned to be resilient most of the time, and rely on those who do love her. And she has gradually moved away from one or two people she used to think were friends. So all’s good. But sometimes the reason she isn’t invited is because she’s never made an effort with those particular girls, for whatever reason. I’ve told her that if she really does want to be part of that, then she might need to make an effort to enjoy what they enjoy, even if it’s not her favourite thing. She’s pondered that, and chosen some things to take part in that she wouldn’t have bothered with previously, and understood that on those she really doesn’t want to get involved in, she’ll have to accept being on the sidelines sometimes.

  2. Liz Weston aka @TheLizWeston

    I could have written this myself. Not as well. But on this topic. It’s hard. I am trying to teach E, who is nine in February, that there are some people we just don’t get along with. That no matter what happens, we won’t be friends with everyone we meet. Our Headteacher was saying that it’s ok to not be friends with everyone – doesn’t mean we have to be ‘not friends’ or enemies, it’s just that we don’t get along some of the people we meet.

    I think it’s even harder when it’s adults being unkind or carless or distant. Children expect so much from us grown ups and it’s hard to be everything that they think we should be. I don’t know. I’ll come back with more thoughts on this later.

    The one thing I want to add is something around the thoughts on how people can say and do what they want to – we can’t change that. But we can change and decide on how we are going to react to a situation – how we are going to let it affect us and what we will do about things.

    As you say, modelling this as a grown up, for our children is really hard. And it’s something I’m still struggling with. Lots of things to think about here. You’re not on your own, if that helps?

    1. Yes, that’s a hard lesson to learn. School-wise, Flea likes everyone in her class and we laugh because there are one or two kids I don’t like and she’s the one who’s telling me off and saying they’re her friends and nice! When it’s adults, you’re right, it’s ridiculously hard because kids are like puppies (bear with me) in that they’re so used to people being nice and taking care and being considerate, and when they fall short of that it’s just… confusing!

  3. My kids are still pretty young but I know what you mean about the role model thing. I am quiet and introverted (and British haha!) and would rather keep quiet in an unpleasant situation and be cross about it later but have recently realised that it’s not just about me anymore. Keeping quiet means I’m implicitly saying to my kids, ‘I am ok about what was just said/done’ – and sometimes that’s a really bad message.

  4. Hey, I have a 10.5yr old daughter and she’s sailing in similar waters to Flea. My girls issues mostly come from being really confused about school – mainly the people in her class & year. She’s finding it hard to fit in and she’s struggling with the nasty and horrid attitudes that other girls possess. We all remember those sorts of girls right? Well, my daughters surrounded in them.

    She’s a tomboy and finds herself getting grief for being into the things that she is into. Almost like she is being stoned {methophorically} for liking different things to them. But then she finds that if she tries to hang out with the boys…the girls will attack her for that also. So now she tells me she sits alone, with nobody to play with. Can you imagine the heartbreak that brings to hear those words?

    Anyway I’m waffling. Growing up for them sucks and we can only direct them to an extent before they need to learn to sail themselves. So let’s hope our girls develop sails that can penetrate the mean & nasties of the world for them to have a safe crossing huh!

    1. Thanks Debs, it’s tough. I remember a time when Flea was a bit smaller and going through something similar and used to come home and tell me how lucky it was that she loved playing “one player games” but luckily she found her tribe and now has some amazing friends. Hopefully this phase will pass too. But it’s hard to watch!

  5. I’ve always found that girls seem to struggle with their relationships more once they hit Year 4. Year 4 has become known to me as “The year of the bitch” – it all just seems to go wrong for them. The need to “fit in” is a strong one unfortunately but I hope Debs that E manages to find her own way and has confidence in herself.
    I totally agree Sally that actions speak louder than words and whilst you can tell Flea things till you’re blue in the face, unless she sees you demonstrating them and acting on your own advice, she won’t take it to heart in the same way. Tricky tricky times. Can I keep my girls 4 and 2 forever?

    1. God, yes! Year 4, which is J2 where we are, was the age that one group of kids in the class became “The Girls” (that was the name of their clique) and there was a lot of ignoring and sniggering because Flea wasn’t like them. I was so, so happy that the classes got split the following year, and Flea ended up being in a different class to those slightly older more sassy kids and remained with her 2 best friends, and another friend joined the school – and “the awesome foursome” was born, which was FAR more fun that those “cool” kids 🙂

  6. Ahh I understand this one so well. A boy at my sons (aged 6) school ate the chicken from his lunch. If you have seen a school lunch you will know on chicken day that is all the lunch is made up of one piece of overcooked tasteless chicken and two roast potatoes so hard they go spinning around the dinner hall like little bullets you have to dodge on lunch duty. But my son didn’t say anything when he was at school. When he confessed to us at home my husbands reaction was – serves you right for not saying anything next time stab him with your fork but the look in my boys eye as his dad was saying this told me there was more to the story. “Why didn’t you tell a teacher?” I asked and the response I got back broke my heart and made me brim with pride at the same time. “Phil (name changed) doesn’t have any friends and if I’m not nice to him he’ll never know what its like to have a friend, if I just make him see I’m a nice boy he won’t do it again”. Ahh the poor naive bugger thought he could change the boy.
    ‘Phil’ is still, a year later, a menace. His new one is persuading my son to let him play footie with the other boys then booting the ball over the fence, thankfully my son is a wising up to this one and has insisted he be ref this week but Phil was still on his birthday party list, albeit last, because “I don’t think he’s been invited to anyone else’s party mum” and he still got one of the cool boys Christmas cards. Maybe my son is right and one day Phil will realise the error of his ways, and if not well maybe my son is still right and he deserves to keep giving second chances no matter how many times my son has his little heart crushed by his unkindness because he has us to fall back on and a group of friends who he plays with and Phil, I fear, has neither.
    You have to keep guard (even at an ever increasing distance) even if it is just to marvel at their natural wisdom. Sounds like you’re doing a cracking job Sally and Flea sounds like just the sort of friend I’d like my son to have.

  7. Gosh friendships eh! I am a rubbish role model as I forgive and forget long after i should have moved on but tell my kids to have clear and firm boundaries and really push healthy friendships. i tell them not to eat too may biscuits too… sigh

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