Dear Carolyn: This week our daughter informed us that she and her bestie, since kindergarten, are taking a break. This girl has been very close to our family, and we had gotten to know hers as well. I had noticed them growing apart earlier, but due to some middle school drama, I guess they have decided they need some space.

I feel like the parent who misses their kid's romantic partner after they split. (But I have not told her that.) I do want to talk to her to make sure there's no "mean girls" stuff going on, but do I just need to accept this as part of the growing pains of having an almost-teenager?

— Navigating Middle School

Navigating Middle School: Yep.

But I’d go one further, and say it’s part of the pains of sharing a life with other people, who all have the right to choose their own companions. You said it yourself — a no-longer-almost-teenager may someday break up with a romantic partner you have come to see as part of your family. All you can do is respect boundaries and take the loss.

Nothing says, by the way, that you can’t remain friends with her parents — if I’m reading correctly what you mean by “gotten to know” her family. It might seem a little awkward, but you can get through it if there’s buy-in. It would be good for the girls to see, too, that you can respect their decision fully and still not carry their grudges into the adult friendships.

As for the “make sure there’s no ‘mean girls’ stuff going on,” two thoughts: 1. Ask, don’t tell. “I imagine this is hard for you two. Is everyone being civil?”

2. Please, please let’s retire “mean girls.” I won’t pretend to know what data shows at the macro level, but on the micro-, person-to-person level, any given boy can fire off social aggression as nasty as any I’ve ever heard from a girl — and I think all kids benefit from our treating them, male or female, even in our casual language choices, as individuals vs. members of a demographic group.

This is not to single you out, “Navigating,” just borrowing you to make a larger point that’s been bugging me a lot lately.

In fact: If I have any more WOMEN tell me how lucky am to have all boys because girls are awful/difficult/etc., then I am going to make a very large freaking scene.

Re: Mean girls: As someone who was told any expression of anger or frustration or negativity wasn't being a Nice Girl — or, as Grandma put it, wasn't "being pretty" — I say don't be so afraid of the Mean Girl label on your kid that she's expected to be a sweet little doormat.

— Not Afraid

Re: Man Girls: The WOMEN saying you're better off with boys must have been nasty, vicious "mean girls" when they were kids. They're out there. And now they're fully grown misogynists.

Because they saw themselves and it was ugly. Or maybe they were the victims of that ilk. I can relate to that.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: See what you did there?

They could also be normal women who unwittingly internalized the misogyny around them. I can relate to that.

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