We had our first swim meet with the new team this weekend, and on Saturday afternoon when everyone was done swimming, all the kids and parents went to Dave and Busters to each lunch and the kids all played games for about an hour.
It has been interesting to watch Number 3 and Number 4 adjust to the new team and their new teammates.
Because there is such a difference between the way the boys and the girls interact with a new team member.
I noticed this as a coach, but now that I’m a mom and watching through a different lens, I really notice the difference.
Number 3 and 4 are very close in age. They are fifteen months apart. So age isn’t really a factor in my very unscientific observations.
There are a bunch of really talented twelve-year-old boys on the new team, but Number 3 is the best of them. This is just a fact based on times.
So he is a new kid who came in from another team who beats everyone in just about every event across the board. At the meet this weekend he swam seven events. He won six of them and he came in second in the seventh event.
Number 4 is a year younger, and she is also very talented and one of the best girls on the team, but not dominant across the board the way Number 3 is.
And to see the difference between the way the boys and the girls react to new kids on the team is not surprising.
But it is a little troubling.
The boys have embraced Number 3. They don’t feel threatened by him. They welcome the competition. They all race each other in the pool and when one of them wins, they all congratulate and high five each other and then they go back to being twelve-year-old boys having fun and joking around.
The girls are so much more cliquey.
They aren’t especially welcoming, they don’t initiate conversations, and they appear to feel threatened by new girls who are talented.
This isn’t specific to our new team. I saw the same thing happen on our previous team, and it happened to me when I was a swimmer more than once.
And it still happens now that I’m a mom.
While we were at Dave and Busters on Saturday, I watched all the boys embracing Number 3 and including him, and then I watched the girls.
Number 4 was completely excluded.
She has made one friend on the team, but t his friend wasn’t feeling well on Saturday so she didn’t come to eat with everyone.
And I watched Number 4 sit at the table of kids with no one to talk to. She tried. I watched her. But it was made kind of clear that nobody wanted to include her.
I felt bad for her.
The funny thing is, the same thing was happening at the table of adults where I was sitting.
I was sitting in the middle of a very long table flanked by men and women on both sides of me who had people sitting across from them. And there was nobody sitting across from me.
After a few unsuccessful attempts to participate in a conversation, I just gave up.
I looked over and saw Number 4 in the same boat still, and I asked her if she wanted to go check out Forever 21 for a few minutes until our food came.
She bolted out of her seat.
We came back about ten minutes later and our food was just arriving.
And while we were eating, I was able to strike up a conversation with a woman sitting next to me.
She was super nice and I found out she was a kindergarten teacher so we had that in common.
And I went from missing my friends on my old team and questioning our decision to switch to feeling like I had finally been welcomed and accepted. Not necessarily by everyone, but by more than one person, and that was enough for me.
After we were all done eating, I had told Number 4 I’d go shopping with her — she brought her own babysitting money — while Number 3 played games with his friends.
We walked around and she tried on clothes and we talked. She told me she didn’t think the girls on the team liked her.
I explained to her that for whatever reason, it takes girls longer to warm up. That girls feel threatened by new girls.
Especially new girls who are pretty and smart and talented and outgoing and who don’t have an ounce of fat on their bodies.
And then I told her that I knew how she felt. That I sat at the table for a long time being completely ignored before anyone decided to talk to me.
And she said to me, “MOM! I SAW THAT! AND I WAS LIKE, MOM IS JUST LIKE ME! NOBODY WILL TALK TO HER EITHER!!!”
I was glad she saw that. I was glad she saw that it wasn’t just her.
I told her just like the moms had come around and talked to me, so would the girls on the team.
But I felt bad for her.
And I wonder, why is this? Why are girls this way and boys aren’t?
Is it genetic? Is it some biological thing?
Or do we foster this atmosphere for our girls when they are young?
I have to believe that we contribute to this as mothers.
With all the mom shaming and the whispering and the quickly looking the other way or avoiding eye contact altogether. When we do things like make a bitchy comment to our friend wearing yoga pants and a hoodie when we see a put together mom walk onto the scene.
Why do we do this?
When a smokin’ hot or super fit or super rich or really ballsy mom comes into the classroom or onto the field or into the gym, are we nice to her right away? Do we talk to her? Do we embrace her?
Or do we shun her and make her work really hard for our approval?
Just because a woman is pretty or put together or not living paycheck to paycheck, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be included and welcomed.
I was reminded of that yesterday as I watched Number 4 sit all alone.
So moms, I am calling on you to encourage your daughters to be kind. To be accepting. To welcome the new girls.
And to explain to your daughters that hanging out with people who are as smart and as kind and as intelligent and as talented as they are doesn’t make them less talented or special.
In fact, it helps them to become even more talented.
And if we are going to teach this very important lesson to our kids, then we as moms all need to make sure we do the same thing, too.