Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mean Little Girls

I knew it would happen. I knew six years old was a possibility. But knowing it doesn't take the sting out of it. It wasn't my child - this time around. But it could have been and might be at some point. It's really all of ours when it happens, and it really doesn't matter if it's mine, or yours. I'm talking about bullying, in this case, specifically mean girl bullying.

A classmate of my daughter's was teased about her body, and the gossip spread rapidly amongst the first grade girls. When my daughter related it to me, she had heard it and asked me what it meant, and why the other little girl said it. It was a moment that hung in the air between us, and I knew what I said next would have an impact. My husband stood nearby and the hanging moment slowly floated down over us.

I looked at my daughter and told her this:

"People come in all shapes and sizes. If this little girl was mean to your friend, there are some things you need to know.

First, you can say anything to Mama and Daddy. We are so so glad you are sharing this with us. If you hear something said about someone else, you must not repeat it to anyone else though. If you do, you are being just as mean as the person who started it.

Second, you should feel sad for the little girl who is saying mean things. She may not understand why anyone is the way they are. She is only looking at your friend on the outside, and she will never get to know her heart, and what a beautiful person she is. She is losing that opportunity.

Third, it is always ok to stick up for your friends. When you make something important to a bully, they will keep doing it. If you see mean things happening, you can tell a grown up. But you can also go to your friend, take her hand, act as though the mean behavior is not important and lead her away to do something else."

I held my breath, hoping that wasn't too much for her to take in. She stared back at us, then looked to my husband for confirmation. He nodded at her. She went back to eating her dinner, seemingly satisfied.

I know this will occur again, but I hope it doesn't.

There are a wide variety of books available to support teaching children about anti-bullying. This one has a list of questions girls may ask about friendships, and suggested talking points.

An article I recently read touted the benefits and detriments of various school sizes and diversity in populations. I see the perspectives from both sides, and sit on the fence as to what is best. We each have to decide for our own children, and it is never easy when anyone is singled out.

To that end, I borrow trouble more regarding my son than my daughter and whether or not he will experience bullying. He is less physically able than his peers with his CP, and even now as young as he is, he is starting to play in isolation on the playground. Despite encouragement to do more, he cannot run, jump and play sports the same as other six year-olds, so he hangs back and plays with girls who are less energetic, or stays with his aide. I can see the effect this is having as he is a super social child. It pains me, but I know he has to find his way. He has the distinct benefit of being a triplet, which disallows him self-pity. He wants to do what they do. I am also of the opinion determination that the relationships he develops today with female classmates will eventually be rewarded by in-demand relationships with male classmates later on. It will be the smart boys who realize Cole knows all the girls. Those girls will close ranks when anyone bullies him. The main thing I try to instill in our kids is to try to be kind.

For now, I try to allow the conversations to be organic at our house. I don't want to present issues to my children and have them worry in advance. I'm unable to escape it, so that's my department.

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