School starts in a few weeks, and today I had an emotional tumble when my maternal empathy for Karen went into overdrive. She apparently told her teacher that she was going to be in a first grade class without any of her girlfriends. The teacher asked me whether this was true, and I suddenly lost my balance and thought that somehow the teacher and/or Karen had heard rumors of the class make up in first grade, and that indeed, all of Karen’s girlfriends were in other classes. There will be four first grade classes this year, and the school promises to keep children with at least one of their friends. When I heard she had none of her friends, I automatically assumed it’s because their parents had specifically requested that Karen not be with their daughters.

Turns out Karen made it up, which probably means she really does want to start anew in first grade, but even that knowledge couldn’t bring me out of my funk about her problematic social life.

I had an overwhelming wave of sadness for her, and a sense of complete inability to protect her from the pain of being shunned by all the girls in her class. That was a bit extreme, since only this week she invited one girlfriend over and they had a very nice time playing in Karen’s new room of her own. But still, this girl is much younger than Karen, and not someone who will be starting first grade with her. But her girlfriends who are more age appropriate aren’t available to visit with, and even seem to be avoiding her. I’ve stopped calling her best friend’s mother after she’s turned Karen down several times, sometimes at the last minute. The girls haven’t seen each other in more than 2 weeks, an unheard of span of time. They used to play together after kindergarten a couple of times a week.

It seems unfair. Karen’s behavior has improved so dramatically. She’s often quiet and thoughtful and needs quiet time for herself. Not long ago, maybe two years, she was unable to sit still for a minute and was always loud and active. She was physically aggressive when anyone hurt her feelings. She’s now lost all her friends and can’t seem to get them back. Her kindergarten teacher told me that Karen had changed so much that it would take other parents a while to get used to the new model.

I will try and focus on talking to her about starting out new, and how to respond to anyone who hurts her feelings. I’ve been talking and talking. She’s probably sick of listening to me at this point.