The Runaway Head Game

I swear my daughter learns more about life on the playground than she does in the classroom. I learn what she learns when she takes the time to teach me--usually from the backseat of the car. She's my walking self-improvement CD.

This week's lesson: how to handle friends who walk away for no reason at all.

Adella has a friend who doesn't handle groups well. When there are three or four girls hanging together at recess, this friend will run off and pout.

Adella has in the past followed behind to find out what the matter might be. For her trouble, she gets a long face and a shrug. Off goes the girl to some other outpost of the playground.

This went on for a short while before my daughter realized that was the game: to see if she cared enough about this friend to leave the group and do exactly what she did.

"Maybe she just needs that reassurance that you're her friend," I offered.

"Well, I am her friend. And it hurts my feelings when she turns her back on me and runs away."

"You don't need to run after anybody," I said. "Just let her back in when she comes back and don't say anything about how she ran away. Let it go."

Adella had already decided not to run in circles anymore. "That's what I already do, mom." That a girl. Just let mommy catch up.

I wish I had mastered this lesson when I was nine: being a friend doesn't mean begging for friendship.
There's many an adult out there who will play this little girl's game to the death. No matter what you do, you do wrong. They are like lazy fishermen who drop the bait of friendship in the water and then snooze under their hats for as long as they like. When they've had enough, they pull the line and walk away, sure you will be just as hungry--if not hungrier--the next time they bait the hook. They play with the basic human need to feed on the kindness of friendship.

When you move on and find some stable source of nourishment, they wonder what might be wrong with you that you are not there to starve in their presence. Never does it occur to them that you do not feel blessed by their their offering of the opportunity to starve.

My daughter has a natural ability, it seems, to take things as they are and let them be. She won't allow herself to be made miserable, and she doesn't make anybody miserable. It's all so simple: see it for what it is, let it be, be a child of peace.

Where'd I get her?


  1. Anonymous11:32 PM

    It's a gift, to be sure, to be that way-a child of peace. Kids and adults can play the same game. It hurts all the time, much more when you're older, though, I think.

  2. Anonymous6:03 AM

    It's a painful experience, and we know it is, because Adella tells you about it. It's great that she does, and that you listen and respond as you do. My experience is that Adella will be that rarity: an open, sharing teenager and a delight to be around.

  3. Such a mature and cool kid, your daughter! Just want to add, that I am not convinced the friends who do this (run away in order for you to follow) are acting out of any malicious desire to play with your head. They have inner issues, which prompt them to act this way over and over. Once you've identified what is happening, as your daughter did, its then up to you to decide how to react. It is sometimes a true kindness to point out this behavioral pattern: even if it means the end of the friendship, it might be the beginning of some self-awareness for the troubled friend. :-)

  4. Nancy,
    Thanks for this comment. I see what you're saying. This little girl is also a very good friend. I was relieved my daughter found a way to make peace with this behavior by first seeing it for what it is and second, not taking it as a reflection on herself. I will keep your words in mind when this comes up again! Your very kind to stop by and offer such valuable insight.

  5. seems like your gal has her head screwed firmly on to her

    probably gets it from her mom ;)

    has a few similar grains to a lesson i learnt as well some 8 or 9 years back

  6. lovely post, oh the wonders of childlike wisdom...wish more adults had it! And you describe the baiting and starving dynamic perfectly! If only we could all value ourselves enough to not allow others to play such games at our expense!


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