“So girls why are you here today?”
Of course, I knew why they were here. Two cheerleaders fighting over the high school quarterback. That's never happened before. As a high school counselor I haven't heard it all but I have heard a lot.
“Danielle stole my boyfriend.” Stephanie was sure that punching Danielle would persuade her to give Ian back. So that’s what she did. I was certain that if anyone needed punching it was probably Ian. But only a thought on my part. (The drama with Ian comes later in the story, so let’s get back on track.)
“I didn't have to steal him he was already mine.” Unless we’re talking about kidnapping someone I’m at a loss for how you can actually steal a person.
Being a high school counselor is challenging. At 70 I’ve had a lot of experiences, maybe five times what two 16 year-old high school cheerleaders have had. But so what? This is not about me, even if I think I know where this is going. High school counselors don't have the liberty to recommend “what someone should do” or worse, “what they would do.” My goal was to help the girls discover what they should do.
“We met at a party after the game with Lanier.” Danielle was trying to establish a timeline.
“I fell in love with Ian at the Willingham game a week earlier.” Stephanie countered.
“Stephanie, why did you punch Danielle? Aren't you friends?” Time to squash this notion that who met Ian first has anything to do with this.
“She wouldn’t listen to me. I fell for Ian a week earlier. She acted like ‘So what, I don’t care.’ And yes, we were friends.”
“People breakup all the time even if they knew each other before a new person shows up.” Danielle did my job for me- proving that who met who first is not the issue here. But Danielle getting with Ian just a week later had me thinking. Once I figured it out I would have to get the girls to see it too. Then my job would be done.
“Girls, at what age do you think someone should stop trying to settle an argument with their fists?”
Simultaneously they both agreed that after high school you shouldn’t resort to physical assault to try and win an argument. We were making progress- they both agreed on something.
“Does getting physical with someone change their mind?”
“I don’t know,” Stephanie replied.
“No it doesn’t. Made me furious and more determined to stay with Ian,” Danielle came back.
“We’ve got 30 minutes to resolve this before your next period. So let’s recap where we’re at.”
“Does it matter who met Ian first?”
Like a chorus, the girls agreed on this point. “No.”
“Does getting physical with someone get them to do what you want them to do?”
Again in tandem, “No.”
A counselor’s job is not to impart knowledge nor share their experiences. No one cares.
Instead, a counselor mediates a conflict by leading both parties to look at an issue from the viewpoint of the other. Remember, both people usually think they’re right with the same conviction.
“So, who gets Ian?”
“You girls been on a seesaw?”
“What makes it work?”
“Each person pushes off and they go up and down.” Danielle was beginning to discover where I was going with my line of questioning.
“Is there anyone else who could back you guys up on your claim for Ian?”
“My best girlfriend. She has seen how much I’m in love.” Stephanie knew she was right.
“The whole football team saw how Ian went after me.” Danielle knew she was right.
“What happens if you go to the park and sit on the seesaw but you don’t have anyone else on the other end?”
“It doesn't work. It takes two.” Now Stephanie was figuring this out.
“Anyone else who could help us out here, could tell us who is more right?”
If there's any code of conduct to which a mediator must adhere, it's to not interject themselves into the conflict at hand. Smart clients will try and force you to tell them what to do. But you must resist. A mediator takes no sides. Passes no judgment. Doesn’t get involved. Instead. they simply give their clients the tools and insight to solve their conflicts themselves.
“Is Ian a popular guy?
“OMG! Yes,yes, yes.” They both agreed. Another stepping stone- when I could get the girls to agree.
“The Willingham and Lanier football games, did he win those games for the team.”
“Yes he did.”
“Those games were how many weeks apart?”
“They were a week apart,” Stephanie remembered.
“Anything odd about that?”
Silence. Then Stephanie said to Danielle, “Hey Danni, sorry I punched you. Really sorry.”
“Remember the seesaw story?”
“Yeah it takes two to make it work.”
“So again is there anyone else we can think of who if they were here might help us clear all this up?”
They both said Ian at the same time.
“Stephanie, he was dating both of us at the same time.” Boom, Danielle got it.
“You’re right. Those two games were only one week apart.”
“You’re both right.”
“How?” the girls asked.
“Have you ever told Ian you loved him? Did he say it back?” Seesaw…
In all of my years of counseling I had seen several people who were in love with someone who might not have even known they existed. They were not reciprocating that love. The person who is in love with someone who isn’t in love with them is sitting on the seesaw all alone. But again as a counselor I can’t share that information. That’s not in my job description.
“Five minutes before your next class. Are we okay? No more fighting with the wrong person. Friendships are too difficult to develop. Never risk losing that.”
“Better.” Stephanie agreed.
make better choices,” Danielle added.
“Yes and next time girls, choose two guys to date, one for each of you.”
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Bravo! Great read! Great story!
Thank you so much. These weekly prompts certainly keep me writing which I guess is more important than trying to figure out the formula to win a contest.
this is how i wished my high school counselors thought about their jobs!! a cute, classic story. i would have loved to know more about the girls, and about ian! you write lovely dialogue, some description would make it even more lush! great work :)