Bending Till You Break

Story can frustrate me like no one else, but even in the deepest pits of exasperation, I can’t deny that she has the kindest heart and is a true and good friend. As it should, most times this works in her favor. But there are other times it works against her, and kindness gets mixed up with submission.

Story has been friends with a boy since kindergarten. She and he have had lots of great times together; they both have wild imaginations, and their play is often out of this world. This friend likes to get his way, and when Story doesn’t do what he wants, he throws a fit. She gives in so that he doesn’t get in trouble or end their friendship. It has become such a normal occurrence that Story just shrugs it off and chalks it up to his “anger issues.”

At one point, he threatened to kill her simply because she didn’t sit where he wanted her to sit during lunch. This became a big to-do. Yes, they are in third grade. And yes, he most likely did not mean it. But this is my child, and her life was threatened. Story begged his case and said that he doesn’t have anyone else. She was very upset about the idea of losing his friendship, so against my better judgment, I allowed her to stay friends with him at school, knowing the teachers were aware of the situation and keeping an eye on them. However, they are no longer allowed to play together outside of school.

The condition of their friendship is that Story must keep me updated about their interactions. I’ve learned that Story usually finds a way to make her play fit into his. However, lately his play has become violent (shoot-’em-up type of stuff), and Story isn’t so keen on that. So she keeps their play together but separate: His soldiers have a base in the town, while her wolf pack with pups live in the woods outside it.

In telling me what happens at school–and with a few well-placed questions–Story is beginning to see that the friendship is maybe more one-sided than it should be and is pushing back a little. And this past week revealed her breaking point.

Their play consisted of his building a nuclear power plant next to her animal sanctuary. All was fine until he wanted to build some tech something-or-other in her sanctuary and she said no because she wanted to keep the habitats as close to natural as possible. Well, he got upset and said he wished his power plant would blow up and kill all her animals–her too. Story can take a lot in the name of friendship, but if you dare to threaten her imaginary animals, it’s gloves off! She decided to stop playing with him because he isn’t really a friend after all–a friend wouldn’t make you do things you don’t want to do and certainly wouldn’t want to kill the things you love. She was upset but firm in her decision.

I’m not saying one shouldn’t sometimes bend to the the wants of others to make them happy. Lord knows, Ali and I have to compromise all the time. But when that bending becomes a natural reaction, it’s a problem. I adore Story for her dedication to her friends, but I am so proud of her for standing up for herself and what she believes is right, even if it is an imaginary animal sanctuary.