Our Daughters: Texting While Hanging Out with Friends

BFF 2.0: She’s Texting While We’re Hanging Out

Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

Teen Boys and Their Friends … Sometimes Not So Easy

Okay, Okay… Ease Was the Wrong Word!

Two weeks ago I wrote about the ease of boys friendships, but many parents privately called me out on it.  They disagreed that it wasn’t as cut and dry as I claimed it to be.  This of course caused me to think deeper about the topic, and I have come to several conclusions:

Boys are more inclusive but they can become exclusive, just not in a girly type way.   Their friendship groups tend to form around the activities or sports they play.  Much of their lives revolve around these activities or sports and it seems to be more pronounced the older that they get.  For instance, my son Gannan had a very tight peer group in elementary school.  These guys hung out during lunch and played every game imaginable everyday during recess.  They saw each other at the limited sports opportunities that were available for their age group (soccer in the fall, Little League in the spring.)  They attended each other’s birthday parties and spent weekend nights playing man hunt in the dark.   But as they got older and the opportunities vaster, Gannan’s friends have split off into sub groups.  Some play football in the fall, hockey in the winter, lacrosse in the spring.  None, not even the boy who picked him up at the starting line years back, runs track.  The names of the boys Gannan talks about now, sits with in lunch now, texts on his phone, I hardly recognize.  His peer group has changed because his hobbies and interests moved down a path that those elementary buddies didn’t take.

Then there is my other son, Aidan.  His experiences with friends have been altogether different.  Last week when I said that girls can be downright mean, I was purposely ignoring (perhaps because it is so painful) the horrific bullying that Aidan went through during his elementary years.  Perhaps this needs a whole column in itself, but it is worth mentioning here that boys absolutely can be mean as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Teen Boys and Their Friends

Boys and Their Friends: A Drama Free Zone

When I was a “tween” and adolescent girl, it was difficult to maneuver and understand the nature of my friendships with other girls. The cattiness and moodiness, the cliques and the clashes, the fakeness of friends who pretend camaraderie just to gossip behind your back made being friends with girls a maze of confusion. Most times it felt like a lead jacket of the mind constricting movement of thought. Don’t get me wrong, I too definitely partook in that kind of behavior. It was what you did when you were in a group of girls, a sort of pack mentality–Plain and simple, girls back then could be mean! Unless I am grossly mistaken, I think that kind of churlishness continues today. I see it quite often in my classroom and out on the playground. The unkindness of adolescent girls may even happen at a greater rate nowadays due to the greater ease of communication thanks to technological advancements. Heck, those pesky adolescent behaviors persist even with some GROWN women. Gossiping about how absolutely horrible someone’s children are to one set of friends, but taking a trip to the apple orchard with that very same family as if spending time with them was nothing but pure joy. Friendships between teen girls–between women–are difficult at best.

Not so with boys, in my opinion. Boys just seem to not possess the drama gene that girls tend to have. They can fight, but minutes later head to the ice cream stand together. They don’t gossip… because if they have something to say it is done to the friend’s face in a way that is laughed off instantly. They don’t tend to be cliquey…Hey the more the merrier…playing touch football or a pick-up game of soccer takes a lot of people! Friendships between adolescent boys– between men–seems so much less complicated and so much more inviting. As evidence of what I am espousing, please read the following story of an extraordinary event that I was privileged to witness. With all the other complications that come with raising adolescent boys, thank heaven for the ease of their friendships.

Shaking his legs and arms in a runner’s fashion, Sean loosened up at the starting line getting ready for his school district’s annual mile race. His hands were sweating and his heart was pounding in his ears. Had this been a year ago, he would never have felt nerves like this. A year ago he was the best runner in school. This race would have been easily won…one year ago. But that was before Gannan arrived, a new kid in school. For the first time ever, someone’s hand slapped the school wall before Sean’s during their daily recess races. From that point on, Sean and Gannan were fast friends. Running was in their blood. They zoomed like lightning around the playground, around the block, around the town.

Now, at the race, Sean was sure that his 3 year winning streak was going to be broken by his best friend, Gannan. Sean glanced over at him. He took some comfort in the fact that he looked as nervous as Sean felt. His head was down and his eyebrows furrowed.

“Runners in line!” shouted the official. The mass of students pushed and shoved jockeying for a good starting position. Gannan elbowed Sean and gave him a look that said, “Let’s do this!”

“Runner’s get set!” Sean’s heart beat almost drowned out the man’s voice, and then, “Bang!” The gun shot signaled the runners’ stampede, a burst of energy. Bodies shoved, legs tangled and in the chaos, Gannan tripped and fell. Sean ran a few paces before he realized what had happened.

When it did register, he looked back to see his friend struggling to get up among the trampling feet of other runners. For a split second, Sean realized that this was the break he was looking for. If he kept running, he’d win for sure. A cold rush seeped into his heart. It didn’t feel right to win like that. A few more paces and Sean knew what he had to do. He turned on his heels and headed back against the stream of runners, a flying fish swimming against a fast current. It took just a few seconds to get to Gannan. Sean reached down and grabbed his friend’s forearm and picked him up. Their eyes met for a brief moment and then they were off, friend next to friend, running the trail together.

Approximately five minutes later, as expected, Sean and Gannan were the first runners to approach the finish line. Side by side they ran–the perfect twosome. Both exhausted from the fierce competition, they ran in tandem. Gravel crunching under the weight of their dashes; left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. Their breath mixed with the sound–crunch, whoosh, crunch whoosh. Most of the crowd was unaware of the circumstances before them, but still they sensed that something extraordinary was happening. Perhaps it was the mixture of pride and awe and tension and worry on the faces of each boy’s mother that gave it away. Maybe it was the pure elation of the coach’s cheers, “Yeah!! That’s the way to do it boys! Team mates! Team mates!!”

Ten yards from the finish line a subtle change came over the pair. Gannan inched his way ahead of his friend just slightly–a hair here, a thread there…slowly solidifying his win. But just before the finish line Gannan hesitated and looked behind him. He was no longer sure if he wanted the win, not sure if he deserved it. After all, where would he be without Sean? How different would this race be had his friend not helped him escape the trample of the crowded starting line? As if sensing his doubt, Sean, shouted, “Run Gannan run!” Gannan’s hesitation melted away and reaching down deep found an extra spurt of energy. From his second place position, Sean’s heart burst with pride as he watched his best friend Gannan crossing the finish line in first place, knowing that he wouldn’t have it any other way.


Logan Fisher

Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed.

  • Become a Hilltown Families Contributing Writer/Artist
  • Friendships May Help Mothers Tend to Their Children

    Thank you to Dina Raymond of Goshen, MA for sharing this study.

    UCLA Study on Friendship Among Women
    by Gale Berkowitz

    Bouquet of Black-eyed Susan

    "A friend is one who walks in when others walk out." - Walter Winchell (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are. By the way, they may do even more.

    Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis. A landmark UCLA study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. It’s a stunning find that has turned five decades of stress research—most of it on men—upside down.

    Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible, explains Laura Cousin Klein, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study’s authors.

    It’s an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers. Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just fight or flight!

    In fact, says Dr. Klein, it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect.

    This calming response does not occur in men, says Dr. Klein, because testosterone—which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress—seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it!

    The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in a classic “aha” moment shared by two women scientists who were talking one day in a lab at UCLA. There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded, says Dr. Klein.

    When the men were stressed they holed up somewhere on their own. I commented one day to fellow researcher Shelley Taylor that nearly 90% of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were onto something.

    The women cleared their schedules and started meeting with one scientist after another from various research specialties. Very quickly, Drs. Klein and Taylor discovered that by not including women in stress research, scientists had made a huge mistake: The fact that women respond to stress differently than men has significant implications for our health.

    It may take some time for new studies to reveal all the ways that oxytocin encourages us to care for children and hang out with other women, but the “tend and befriend” notion developed by Drs. Klein and Taylor may explain why women consistently outlive men. Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol. There’s no doubt, says Dr. Klein, that friends are helping us live longer.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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