For one night, they showed us just how good girls could be.
My middle daughter had every girl in her class over to our house last weekend for a belated birthday party. The idea of 11 of these 9- and 10-year-old girls running around our house seemed a little overwhelming at first. Frankly, it sounded farfetched when she wanted to invite them all so no one felt left out, but we allowed it assuming someone would say no. We were wrong.
We made those plans even more overwhelming by agreeing to drive the girls to a trampoline park and dinner in Toledo before an overnighter at our house. In my mind, it might be the night that marks the end of their innocence.
We have a freshman in high school now, so I know what’s going to happen in the coming years. Innocent fun and playing will turn into back-stabbing and name-calling. Longtime friends will split. People will decide they just don’t like someone for no apparent reason. We’ve watched “Mean Girls” several times and live it nearly daily, so we get it.
I worried it had started already. I don’t remember exactly when that transition started with my oldest daughter, but it seemed as if it might’ve been fourth grade. Something starts to happen in their minds where it’s no longer important to be nice to everyone. Your need to be liked exceeds your need to be likeable.
I braced myself for 20 hours of preteen girls doing their best to act like mean girls.
Instead, they reminded me that maybe this is the best age for them. They’re thoughtful and intelligent at the same time. They’re fun. They’re compassionate.
The girls really seemed to like every person in the group. They all interacted with each other. Sure, they had people they knew better or preferred, but it didn’t stop them from grabbing someone different to head off to the ball pit at the trampoline park.
It didn’t stop them from interacting kindly with one another when we sat down to eat at a restaurant. The waiter at the burger and shake place confided in us this might’ve been the best large group he’d ever served, as they were all well-spoken but respectful. They didn’t scream and yell like groups of kids sometimes do.
We ran into traffic on the way home along Interstate 75, as a multivehicle accident literally stopped traffic for two and a half hours. Instead of getting irritable, they found a way to make it fun, dancing like chickens in the space between cars or playing that classroom favorite, “Heads Up, Seven Up,” where they tried to figure out who’s missing.
They knew, every time, whether it was the meekest or wildest child. They knew and cared about each other.
I still worry for what I fear these children will become as they grow up and try to follow the models of divisiveness and selfishness the adults in the world model. But at least for this one night, I realized we’ve raised some pretty good kids, and we’re not alone. The world may be all right after all.