My son and his friends had been incredibly close, spending entire days together.
When they all made the basketball team and my son didn’t, they stopped talking to him.
We are both navigating his grief from losing them as friends.
My son formed his circle of best friends at the start of middle school, in sixth grade. They met at orientation, alphabetically in a group, and never split, including during the pandemic, which hit when they were in eighth grade and all quarantined at home.
I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. Mean girls are all that’s talked about — the subject of movies, memes, books, and articles. But mean boys are real and, as my son and I learned together, his forever friends dropped him in a second, leaving him depressed and heartbroken.
My son was confident and outgoing
He was the leader of the pack from the beginning: confident, outgoing, and funny. He was part of the group chat and had too many individual chats to count. He was the kid who would go into the local drug store with the group after school and put on a girl’s sundress and glitter unicorn sunglasses and roam the aisles confidently, cracking up his friends.
He and his group did everything together: after-school hangouts, weekend sleepovers, and movie nights at one another’s houses. They played basketball together and spent summer vacations with one another. They were tight.
All the parents became tight too. We were on a group text just as they were. We shared photos when they were at our houses, tidbits of information we gleaned, and just generally talked and went out. It was fun having kid friends and adult friends as part of one group.
Everything changed when they entered high school
But then high school hit. His four best buddies made the basketball team after a summer of tryouts together, and he didn’t. They dropped him like a hot rock. It’s as though they’d never existed as a group before — only as they were now: basketball and nonbasketball.
They were part of the Basketball Club, and he was just Ethan, an outsider. Weekend plans stopped abruptly, as he was no longer part of the clique.
This being the first year of high school, of course, there were parties to attend, but he wasn’t invited to them now. Invites to preparties weren’t extended, though he saw everyone talking about them on the group chat, making plans, and posting them on Instagram.
It was crushing to him and crushing to watch.
Similarly, where I’d been invited to hang out with my parent friends before school parties, go to dinner, and just chat via text, the phone went dead after the team list was posted and we all checked with one another to see who’d made it.
Gone were four friends from three years who’d spent most weekends together watching their kids play basketball, shuttling them to and from other houses and the beach, hosting playdates and sleepovers.
I tried to prepare my son for high school, how there’d be a resorting of friends, but he didn’t believe it, saying they’d be friends for life. He still doesn’t want to believe it because they talk to him in school. He still thinks they’re friends because they’re friendly. But I haven’t seen these boys in a year, and he’s been home every weekend.
I didn’t think this would happen to my son. I’d never heard of the mean-boy phenomenon. I wish I’d been armed with this information in order to prepare him, being able to comfort him in a real way with real stories and experiences, that I’d had a reason to give him, any reason, instead of his just blowing me off when I knew he was hurt.
He’s since formed his own new group of friends. He’s still on the group chat with the others, making excuses for why he’s not included, but I know why. Boys can be mean too.
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