Raising a stand-up girl

bad girl“She called me hideous.”

“What? What happened?”
“When she wouldn’t let me play darts, she said I was hideous and so did her friends.”

“Well, you’re not hideous and I’m gonna talk to the teachers about that.”

It happened to my daughter at her brother’s preschool. When my daughter’s school has a snow day, she can go to his preschool, to the school-age class. Winter scares the crap out of the school districts in Maryland,so she attends fairly often. It’s important to my husband and me that she can go to his school because she gets stir crazy on snow days and crazy begets crazy. So I didn’t want this one incident to preclude her from attending his school.

As I thought about the incident with the mean girl, I had flashbacks to my childhood, when the kids were mean to me. I was a chubby kid, and a girl in the neighborhood bullied me, so the kids were mean pretty often. I never talked back to them. I just took their insults, walked away and cried. And, minus the crying, that’s what my daughter did with this girl. I remembered just how much those words hurt and how bad they made me feel about myself.  And I came to a conclusion. My daughter must learn to fight back, and I was gonna give her the means and the opportunity to do so.

I know that the adults are supposed to handle bullying these days but passively accepting the abuse attacks the victim’s self-esteem. I remember. And this wouldn’t be the only mean kid my daughter would face in her life. I knew that if she stood up for herself, she’d feel more powerful in these situations. And besides, it wasn’t exactly bullying. Bullying is systematic victimization. This was just one incident. Plus they’re six years old. This wouldn’t turn into an all-encompassing cyber-campaign against my daughter.

We had two snow days this week. The first one closed my son’s school as well as my daughter’s so the kids stayed home all day. And fought. And melted down. And drove us nuts. So when my son’s school opened the next day and my daughter’s didn’t, I told her she was going to his school. She didn’t object, either, which surprised me. But she’s a brave kid – braver than I’ll ever be (See “Getting Back on the Horse”)

At breakfast before school, we talked about the mean girl. I told my daughter, “If she says anything to you, stand up for yourself. You’re so good at talking back to us. That’s the time that you SHOULD do it. I’m sure you can talk back to her.”

When we got to school, I told the teacher about the mean girl. “She does that with everybody,” the teacher said. “No matter how many times you talk to her, she still does it.”

“So it’s not just you,” I told my daughter as we hung her coat. “She’s mean to everybody.” I really didn’t expect my daughter to be comforted by that, but she was.

As it turned out, the mean girl wasn’t at school that day, so my daughter never got the opportunity to stand up to her. But when she does, I hope she doesn’t back down.