Thursday, December 06, 2012


Regular readers may recall that just over twelve months ago we were assigned temporary guardianship over twelve year old Nafeesa. Her mother had suffered a stroke and was hospitalised, and, as her father had died of cancer six years earlier, Nafeesa asked if she could stay with us.

You can read about it / refresh your memories by clicking here.

It was a rather tough time for everyone, to put things optimistically.  Yasmin has not returned to work, but is now able, many months of intensive therapy that continues on a less rigorous level today, to live at home unassisted. Her right hand has not regained full strength, so computer work is tiring and problematic.  She is able to converse for around ten or so minutes before her words start slurring and her face slackens: then it's time to lie down and recuperate.

Despite having family scattered in all corners of the globe and an only child, Yasmin had a lot of very close friends who stayed with her, offered support and did everything they could to help her with cleaning, groceries, taking her to rehabilitation sessions and her daughter Nafeesa to school.

Throughout that time, my daughter Sapphire was Nafeesa's constant companion in the flesh and online.  Hours and hours of Minecraft and Skype happened after school and in the evenings; both girls nourished by fun, private conversations and shared creativity.  Despite not being in the same class (or year level) at school, they met up for lunch when they could; got to know each others' classmates and hung out together nearly every weekend.  Everyone knew that they were besties.

Despite this, Nafeesa was still unable to stay overnight at our - or anyone else's - house.  The only time she had ever successfully managed to stay away from home was when her mother was hospitalised for eight weeks, with most of them spent at our place.  Sapphire's hurt was palpable when, during a sleepover she'd arranged for Nafeesa and her three other girlfriends a few months later, Nafeesa begged to be driven home at 2am.  "But she'd stayed with us before," Saph wailed in puzzlement.

"I know love, but that was an exceptional situation and she hasn't really figured out how to deal with homesickness."  Sapphire nodded, trying to understand.  Nafeesa had confessed to me that she was now terrified of leaving her mother home alone at nights in case something awful happened again (the stroke occurred after midnight). "I'm all she's got," she whispered to me in the car.

Summer holidays for the two girls involved phone calls and arrangements for picnics in the local park, movies, shopping trips and meeting mutual friends at the Ferney swimming centre.  They looked a comical pair: one pale and blonde; the other skinny with frizzy black hair: Dakota Fanning and Olive Oyl and laughter always surrounding them.

The new school year started in September. Sapphire was naturally apprehensive but also looking forward to it. After all, she was no longer the 'new kid' in a place that hosted UN offspring from all over the world and she had friends she trusted.

At the end of day one, she came home, closed the door and burst into tears. "Nafeesa walked straight by me and when I thought she hadn't seen me and I said 'Hi' she deliberately ignored me," she sobbed.

Over a diet coke, we sat on the balcony with Milly enjoying the late afternoon sun and tried to figure out what Saph might have done to annoy Nafeesa. After all, no child is perfect and there's two sides to every situation......

The snubbing continued for four weeks.  Sapphire emailed her, sent her texts and left messages on her phone but all were ignored.  One night, she decided to call her home number (a rarity for kids these days as it's so public: hell, a parent might answer).  "How about I sit in and listen," I suggested, "just to see if there's something you're not picking up on." To my surprise, she readily agreed.

Sapphire's phone call was impressive in its politeness, concern and open need to restore a valued friendship. Nafeesa sounded disinterested and hung up.  "Nafeesa made me happy. I hated being here at first, but she made the year so great for me. Why is she doing this?  Why do my friends only last a year?"  The shadow of J's bullying tactics in 2010 were not a faint memory for either of us.

The dreaded sentence: "What's wrong with me?"

With the brain and body of a sixteen year old but the blind trust of a child, my heart ached for her.  Was I guilty of bias in my reliance on quick pop psychology; in reasoning that Nafeesa might be jealous of Sapphire?  Was she pushing Saph out because envy for her life was an additional stressor in her own life?

Sapphire drafted a carefully worded email.  She asked me to check it before she sent it, and, again I was impressed with the admission that Nafeesa's friendship was incredibly important and she wanted to talk things through with her so that they could patch things up again.

Through more tears, diet coke and cuddles, I reassured Saph that she had truly tried her best but, sometimes, girls 'dropped' each other for a variety of reasons; not all of them mature, sensible or fair. "Be proud of how you tried to fix things and remember that you have other friends who really do love being with you."

A week later, the tears started again the moment she'd closed our front door behind her. "Now she's making a huge fake show of waltzing up to my classroom friends at lunchtimes, hugging them all and asking them questions when before she hardly knew them. I've just got over the fact that she doesn't like me any more and to give up, but why does she still want to keep hurting me?"

Hugs and empty platitudes were all I could offer and it wasn't enough.  So, I did what parents always want to do, but know they shouldn't do.  I contacted Nafeesa's mother.  She was distracted and tired, and asked me to put it in an email.  Fair enough.

'This is a tough email to write, but LC and I are now becoming rather concerned about Nafeesa’s treatment of Sapphire.

From what we understand, Nafeesa has decided to ‘drop’ Sapphire since the new school year started (September).  Despite some emails and phone calls (some I sat in on to ensure that Sapphire was being reasonable and personable), Nafeesa has not given Sapphire a reason why she is no longer her friend, or any apology for snubbing her repeatedly at school.

Naturally, there are always two sides to every story – teenage girls especially – but Sapphire is utterly miserable, very hurt and puzzled.  After several weeks of trying, she decided to give up, realising that some friendships end.  She is still very sad, but now rather stoic. It seems disappointing that, although their friendship has ended, that Nafeesa doesn’t even want to greet her when they pass by each other at school.

However, it seems as though instead of just ‘dropping’ Sapphire, Nafeesa is now being more active in trying to exclude her.  Nafeesa has got to know a few girls through Sapphire – namely A, J and K– and is, on most evenings, overusing Facebook with links and conversations with these girls. Sapphire is torn between wanting her friends to stick with her and between not being called a bully or unfairly demanding for asking them to avoid Nafeesa.

Nafeesa appears to have plenty of friends in her own class and Sapphire, right now, really needs the ones she has in her class.  Is it possible to have a chat with Nafeesa to find out what Sapphire did to make this all occur and, to get her to tone down the active seeking out of Sapphire’s friends?  I ask this because Sapphire is going through a tough time personally right now with lingering issues of fitting in and self esteem and we just want her to be happy and settled.

Feel free to ring me any time to discuss this – I’m around all next week for coffee/chocolate if you’re free.'

No reply or phone call was received, and a week later Sapphire asked if she could try calling Nafeesa one final time.  Yasmin answered the phone and was lucid enough to make it very clear to my child that "Nafeesa has fights with her friends all the time and if I wasted my time sorting them all out, I'd never get anything else done."  I heard Sapphire trying to say, "But Yasmin, surely you know that she falls out with C, never me..."
"Sapphire, I really don't care. Nafeesa says that she doesn't know what you're talking about, and I believe my daughter."  Click.

I steeled myself for the tears.  Surprisingly, none came.  "Mum, I tried, I really did. And Nafeesa once told me that she never tells her Mum anything so that's it."  She folded herself into my arms with a sigh. "I miss her so much though."

Yeah, me too.  Another surprise. "But I do feel sorry for her, Mum. She hasn't got a father and her mother is still really sick. It must be really hard."

Too right.  Poor Nafeesa; poor Yasmin and poor Sapphire; all forming a curious blend of fierce pride and regret in the pit of my stomach.


FruitCake said...

Oh gosh… so many platitudes spring to mind. Platitudes out of the way, may I say what a wonderful, brave daughter you have? As a young’un I was far too gutless to try and make friends, and would never have dreamt of asking why I was ‘dropped’ [had I had any close friends who might have dropped me]. The possibility of rejection was unbearable. [Still is]. Of course, I also never had any real friends because I was obnoxious. [Still am, sometimes]. Obviously Sapphire is not obnoxious enough.

On the other hand, I’ve never understood the girly bitchy thing. No matter how obnoxious I was, it was never bitchy. Is it hormonal? Can’t be. Nobody is perfect, but some are less perfect than others cos they are born that way.

She just hasn’t met the right friend yet. Unfortunately, you know that but Sapphire still has to work it out for herself, and you will both hurt until she does. On the plus side, when she does meet the right friend, they’ll both be blessed. You will all be blessed. Counting Milly and LC, that will make it a win/win/win/win/win situation.

Anji said...

You must be really proud of Sapphire, bless her. Even after all that, she gives Nafeesa the benefit of the doubt.

It hurts so much sometimes to watch our children grow up.

Hugs to you both

Hannah said...

I've only really had one friendship break in my life, but the pain of it still sits deep within me, for I still do not understand why this friend (and we were both in our twenties by this point), suddenly seemed unable to stand me and spent every conversation sliding in backhanded comments. I feel Sapphire's pain, and am in awe of her kindness towards Nafeesa who, clearly, is in a very unhappy place and is striking out wherever she can. All strength to Sapphire. We with overdeveloped senses of empathy find hurt lurking in many places in this world, but it also leads to incredibly strong friendships and experiences when the person and time is right. xoxo

Andrew said...

Did this happen to most of us when we were teens? I think so. But the difference is that we saw friends at school and at pre arranged times after school and the weekend. Now, children can be in touch with each other from the moment they wake to when they go to sleep. If one opts out, it can leave a very large hole in the other's life. I think Sapphire has done more than perhaps she should have to rescue things but full marks to her for her sincerity and trying. She is fortunate to have loving parents who can mop up the tears. It must be very very difficult to see your own children have their feelings hurt and you being powerless to make things right.

Katrina said...

Unfortunately this sounds like very typical behaviour that goes on and on in both upper primary and high schools, and also in adult's sad and upsetting when it's happening to you or your child...I give your daughter huge bonus points for not simply giving up on her friend...for wanting to make sure that it wasn't something that could be simply many people walk away without least she knows she did all she could and a whole lot more to try and rekindle this friendship....I do hope her friends recognise the fake frienship and deliberate stirring that is happening with them by this girl....sadly this often does not happen, but I do hope they realise what is going on...your daughter is someone who is obviously a very strong friend...I wish her luck

Pandora Behr said...

Why is being a girl so hard? Why do girls have to be so awful to each other. My heart aches for Saph, as I know how awful this alienation can be (Happened to me on occasion - dissed in a similar manner by my best friend in my twenties - the hurt never really passes) I'm glad she has other friends making life good (and going by what I see on facebook, she is blessed)

You have a wonderful,bright, caring daughter. Friends who treat her with the love and respect she deserves will come. It does get better. We know that.

(p.s. The Perks of Being a Wallflower looks at some of this stuff)

Hugs xx

The Elephant's Child said...

Oh Kath. Tears here. Tears of hurt for Saph and you, remembered hurt of my own. Tears of admiration for the steps you took, both of you, to try and either make it work or to understand. This is a truly moving post on so many levels.

Kath Lockett said...

Platitudes are so tough, Fruitcake, yet also annoying true. Thankfully, Sapph has found a bunch of friends that she really enjoys hanging out with and also learned to have a wider circle of mates with different interests etc.

Anji, I am proud of her; very proud. That said, she aint perfect and hormones are playing a huge part in life at the moment but she is still a lovely young lady.

Thanks Hannah. Sapphire's sense of empathy is still in development but the signs are very, very good.

Andrew, you could be right. She absolutely tried her best though and can feel assured of that.

Katrina, it's with great relief that S's friends realise the games played by N. Sapphire can't force them not to chat with her on facebook etc as most kids these days have many varied forms of connection with each other, but she's learning that face-to-face means more than a 'like' status.

Pandora, girls can be mean, can't they? Boys give each other a punch and get over it, but teenage girls can exclude, whisper, backstab and ignore, which takes longer and lingers even longer.

Thank you E-Child. Remembered hurts are probably a good share of my own heartache - stuff that she has to go through on her own that I can't take away or remove for her.

River said...

my heart grew very heavy reading this and I wish I had words that would help. All I can say is that you and Sapphire appear to be much more mature in outlook than Nafeesa or her mum.
And here is a quote from a greeting card I bought just because I liked it.

"We all let people into our lives, but you will find that really good Friends let you into your Own".

I hope that helps. Even if only a little.

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks River, that's a very appropriate line. Perhaps some friendships are to be enjoyed in the moment and appreciated with the benefit of hindsight later on....?

Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

Oh dear. This kind of stuff sounds very familiar, from personal experience as well as observing others.

Poor Sapphire. I think she just needs to know that this kind of thing can be forgotten in the mists of time eventually; I certainly recall similar events and care not one jot now.



Kath Lockett said...

PlasMan, you are right. I know it, you know it and, one day, Sapphire will know it too.

Radge said...

She's very strong, clearly, behind the fact of being a child. I have two sisters who both went through similar trials but they came out of them with stronger friendships as a result.

diane b said...

After reading your old post this one was exceptionally sad. To think what you both did for the family and this is how you are treated. I feel for Sapph and you. There is nothing worse than seeing your child hurt but know there is little you can do about it. (Even when they are 38 and you skype across the ocean and see that they are upset and struggling). Sapph sounds mature for her years and hopefully she will soon get over this. Bringing up teenagers is a challenge. be brave both of you.

Kath Lockett said...

Your observation is correct, Radge. I think too, that if Sapphire was given the same time again, she'd do the same thing. And that's good.

Thanks, Dianeb. I was just saying to LC a few moments ago how lovely it was to see her happiness in what gifts she'd chosen for her friends. She then spent most of last night wrapping them up, making cards etc.

Sabine said...

This is so sad and all the heartache and feelings of rejection from my own teenage and mothering days have come rushing back. You know this: your daughter will understand, eventually. Life goes on and "all will be well" - this has been the sentence we would say back and forth when our daughter went through variations of what happened to to your child.

One things also comes to mind: I gather your daughter is in an international school? The so-called third culture kid setting? We were in similar circumstances for most of our daughter's schooling and it has been our experience that friendships and loss of them and break-ups and hurting are so much more intense in this environment. Only after we moved to a more permanent place and our daughter attended a local school (and asking full of surprise whether she would have these friends here with her for "a really long time?") did we realise how stressful it must have been at times. Having said that, international schools have so much to offer and in hindsight - my child is now an adult travelling the world with ease and friends everwhere - offer a most valuable experience with wonderful life-time consequences.

Kath Lockett said...

Hi Sabine and thanks for commenting. Yes, Sapphire attends an international school here. However, Nafeesa was born here and is likely to do all of her schooling here, so the 'cut off early' concept isn't applicable.

We're hoping, at the end of it, that Sapphire comes out of school with friends originating from many parts of the world, lots of options to consider and a boat load of self esteem. Aim high!

franzy said...

I think I'm going to throw up.
My stomach feels sad and awful.

I know it heals and Sapphire's already the winner with her strength and emotional intelligence. But ouch.


Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Franzy. Ouch indeed.

Helen Balcony said...

"Pandora, girls can be mean, can't they? Boys give each other a punch and get over it, but teenage girls can exclude, whisper, backstab and ignore, which takes longer and lingers even longer."

This is an old saw, isn't it? Are you sure this isn't just a bit of old-school internalised misogyny? Is there really psychological or sociological evidence that boys do not say hurtful things, or exclude, or that after donging someone they are the best of friends? Are there any peer-reviewed studies you can point to?

I must say whenever anyone comes out with this old favourite I remember how two boys at high school used to verbally skewer me and eyeroll massively.

There is currently swathes of evidence coming out about hateful, and yes, exclusionary language in the atheist and gamer communities. So they learned this "skill" only after school? Hmmmm!