Young girl sitting on the bench, holding her head


Rejection Is Something All Teens Will Face

Mar 30, 2020

You know someone is your best friend when she lets you choose which character to play in Charlie’s Angels. Like she even had to ask. I picked Farah Fawcett every time, though I looked a lot more like Kate Jackson’s Sabrina! We’d spend hours role playing the popular women from the 1970s TV show. We’d solve mysteries, give people attitude and talk endlessly about our hair. Kelly and I were inseparable. Our favourite time together through elementary school was lunch hour. On special days, we’d sneak to Kelly’s house when she knew her parents wouldn’t be home. We’d crank the music in the basement and perform dance numbers for her cat.

This dad gains a new parenting perspective from a Syrian family who arrived in Canada as refugees. Read that story here.

Halfway through Grade 7, my sisters and I moved to Montreal to live with my grandparents while my mom underwent medical treatments. Kelly wrote to me almost every day. I can still hear my grandfather’s voice, “You have another letter!” I’d rip open the envelope eager to get all the news from back home. Her warm friendship made me feel stronger as I spent my days trying not to think about my mom and make connections in a new province. She signed every letter, "best friends forever."

"When my children had their squabbles in the schoolyard at recess, I would talk to them often about the complexities of friendships."

As luck would have it, I was back at my old school for Grade 8 and life was shiny again. Kelly had made a new friend while I was gone, but the three of us soon fell into step and the group dynamic was working well. It might have been the distraction of boys and basketball tryouts that made me miss the early warning signs. I’d see Kelly and her new friend walking down the hall together, whispering in the intimate way people do when they’re besties. I asked Kelly if everything was OK between us and tried to arrange more time to be alone. She was cheerful and friendly, but there was a growing awkwardness my preteen brain couldn’t quite understand.

This bumped along for months until we hit a momentous event: The first day of high school. After the nerve-wracking stress of the early weeks wore off, Kelly asked to have a talk with me. Her not-so-new friend had given her an ultimatum. She was told she had to pick between us, and it wasn’t going to me. From that day forward, we were not to talk or say hello in the halls. The friendship was over.  

I can still feel the pain of this early life rejection. The lasting impact translated into my parenting. When my children had their squabbles in the schoolyard at recess, I would talk to them often about the complexities of friendships. Sharing my Kelly story became part of the family narrative.

"When his friend broke their Snapchat streak, my son knew the relationship was coming to an end."

It was high school when all three of my kids faced a Kelly-like story. My son and his close friend from elementary school started making different choices. As seven-year-olds, they played side by side for hours talking about Lego. They shared a love of building things but mostly, they were truly at ease in each other’s company. Fast forward to the teen years and smoking weed wasn’t my son’s thing. Their entire group dynamic started to shift based on who was smoking and who wasn’t. Slowly, a decade-long friendship started to fade away.

As for my oldest son, he was deeply wounded when a beloved friend stopped connecting once they moved away to different universities. When his friend broke their Snapchat streak, my son knew the relationship was coming to an end.

This mom has a fountain of friends at her fingertips to celebrate her wins and losses. She also wants the same for her son. Read that story here.

It was my daughter who went through a dramatic breakup after a relationship turned toxic. We’ve spent hours talking about the fallout and the impact it’s had on her worldview. She’s healing and looking at friendships through a different lens. She turned to me recently and said, “I’ve been thinking about Kelly a lot lately. I’m so glad you shared that story. It’s really helped.”

Part two to the Kelly story features a teenaged Karen walking the halls alone for a few weeks, trying to figure out what to do with the pain. When the morning announcements featured details of junior basketball tryouts, I figured I better start moving on. I not only made the team; I found my peeps that would serve me well throughout high school. Funny how life works — our pain opens doors we’d might never have seen. It can also help our children find their own path to healing.

Article Author Karen Horsman
Karen Horsman

Karen is the former national parenting columnist for CBC. She is the mother of three and working in the field of corporate communications.

Sharing stories and learning from others is at the centre of Karen's world. When she isn't writing or connecting with fellow adventurers, you can find her walking a local forest with her amazing puppy.

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