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Haters Gonna Hate?

October 19, 2010

My daughter is nice. Much nicer, in fact, than her mother. Yeah, she talks too much, she’s messy, she forgets to do things, she is disobedient when I tell her to do something she does not want to do, and she will pitch a fit like no one I have ever seen except YOUR daughter, and you know who you are.  But she is nice, and she is kind, and she is fair, and she is honest, and she is truthful, and the other morning, she pitched a giant fit because the only clean uniform she had was shorts, and she did not want to wear shorts to school.

What in the world? She’s not prone to pitching fits about uniforms. She’s great about following rules. We’ve had zero uniform issues in three years.

It turns out that one of the little girls in her class, New Girl, called her a tomboy for wearing shorts.

It’s not the first run in we’ve had with this little girl. The first inkling I got of something funky in the second grade was several weeks ago, when she got into the car and crumpled into tears, “Best Friend is not my friend any more. She said so. She SAID so!”

“That’s ridiculous.  You have been best friends with Best Friend since kindergarten.  She loves you.  Her mom is awesome,” I thought.

“Tell me what happened,” I said.

“New Girl told Best Friend she wouldn’t be her friend if she was MY friend so Best Friend said she’s not my friend any more! She SAID so!” More tears.

I was driving.

“Sweetie, I can’t hug you because I’ll crash the car, but wait five minutes until we get home and I will hug you as much as I can. This is your first encounter with Friend Trouble. It probably won’t be your last, but it does get easier as you get older.”

“Like how you are not friends any more with ********,” she said, referring to my ex-best friend who dramatically uninvited me to her wedding a couple of years ago because she didn’t want to have a friend who was as fragile as I was immediately following cancer treatment. “Your issues and my anxiety make for an uneasy friendship,” she wrote in the email in which she ditched me.

“Exactly. It hurt my feelings and I was very mad, but then I stopped thinking about it, except when something reminds me. I’ve learned how to handle things like this, and tonight Daddy and I will work together to give you some tools to manage this situation.”

In our wisdom, we suggested to our daughter that she continue her friendship with Best Friend as if nothing had happened, and we taught her exactly how to ignore New Girl. On the one hand, we were right about Best Friend. The friendship resumed, unbroken, as if nothing had happened. On the other hand, our brilliant daughter is spectacularly good at proving her point, and the line in the sand, already drawn, was trenched and mined by my daughter’s silent treatment of New Girl on the day following the Best Friend episode.

Over the next few days stories of juvenile antics trickled in, and my concern grew. The tomboy episode. Sides being chosen on the playground. New Girl telling my daughter “You’re just a mean little girl.”

I wrote an email to the teacher, a wiser woman than I will ever be, asking her please to look into the conflict and resolve it. My daughter tells me that this is exactly what happened, that the original episode was triggered when she was rough-housing  and knocked into New Girl in line, and New Girl thought she did it on purpose. Everyone apologized, and they’re all friends now. Really friends. New Girl helped my daughter with her backpack today, really friends. I’ve met New Girl. She is cute, funny, smart as a whip, articulate — in short, a perfectly appropriate friend for my daughter. I could not be more pleased with the way things have worked out.

In theory, I should invite New Girl over for a playdate or even just a “let’s have ice cream after school.” But I just can’t bring myself to set that up.

Here’s why.

“You’re just a mean little girl.” I know momspeak when I hear it, and if that is New Girl’s Mom’s best effort at resolving conflict, I don’t see a mom-to-mom friendship blossoming. I know it’s hard to be new. Goodness knows, as much as I’ve moved in my peripatetic adulthood, I know what it like to be the new kid in town. Perhaps — definitely — I’m being judgmental but if there is one thing cancer has taught me, it is to be a wise steward of my own time and energy, and my existing friends already deserve more of my time and energy than I give them.

This evening, a friend sent me a link to an essay by Martha Brockenbrough who wrote about her own second grade daughter’s experience with a playground bully. It’s a great essay: precise, insightful, poignant. I urge you to read it. I posted it on my facebook page and immediately it generated a great deal of interest, all positive, from my friends who agree with her premise: that if parents want bullying to stop on the playground then we need to set the example for our children of how to overcome our dislike for someone.

What I wonder, though, is this. What does the mom of the bully in Brockenbrough’s story think of the article? Brokenbrough writes about how she attempted to heal the wounds inflicted on the playground by inviting the bully over for a playdate, and the mom of the bully refused. “It’s complicated,” she said. And now her role as a complicit enabler of her daughter’s cruelty has gone viral.

“No, you are not a mean little girl,” I assured my tearful daughter. “You are a kind and wonderful little girl whose mother taught you how to deal with a bully.” If I mean what I say, then I need to send an email to New Girl’s mom suggesting an after-school playdate.

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One Comment
  1. daniel permenter permalink

    :claps Bravo Ev. And you say you are a bad mother. Oh and I know who I AM.

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