This year has been a rough one for my daughter. She’s in 5th grade, at a new school, in a new house, with a new step-parent. She found a friend right away; a girl who lives just across the pond from us. So, what’s the problem? That girl already had a best friend. Someone who she had been friends with since Kindergarten. The “other BFF” (let’s call her Maddy) did not like my daughter coming in and taking up time with her best friend. At some point, early in the year, both my daughter and Maddy had a crush on the same boy (yep, it starts early). This only added fuel to the fire!
Maddy started picking on my daughter. She put the mutual friend, let’s call her Sam, in the middle saying things like, “If you’re going to be friends with her, you can’t be friends with me.” As time went on, it turned into taunting. My daughter would cry at night telling me it didn’t matter what she did, Maddy would always find something to pick on her about. The teasing turned into nasty notes.
It broke my heart, my girl, who sometimes drove me crazy with her mood swings, was hurting. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew she was crying when I tucked her in at night. Finally, she told me just how bad it had gotten with the notes, etc. I didn’t know what to say to stop her from hurting. I told her that if she knew the notes were going to be nasty, maybe she shouldn’t open them. I suggested she put notes on the teacher’s desk and tell her that they had showed up on her desk, and she didn’t know what it said. Let the teacher deal with it. She didn’t want to do that. She was afraid getting Maddy in trouble would make things worse.
A couple days later, I got a phone call from the school principal. I wasn’t totally surprised, but the surprise was a pleasant one. Apparently, a note had been passed during a test, and it was intercepted. The principal got involved because it was affecting “learning time.” She told me her job was to make sure everyone feels safe and has fun at school, and that everyone can learn. She pointed out that she realized my daughter was not having fun and probably wasn’t feeling safe with this stuff going on. The likelihood was also that learning and concentration was also being affected. While the behaviors are not considered bullying behaviors yet, if they continue, they will be. There is a fine line between “Girl Drama” and bullying. Any behavior that intentionally hurts another person or affects learning will be considered bullying.
The principal had pulled all 3 girls into the office separately and then together. She realized the girls all wanted the same thing. All of them said that if they could wave a magic wand, they would all be friends. The reality, is that I don’t think that is possible. I think Maddy hurt my daughter’s feelings so much, and broke her trust so many times, I think she will have a hard time ever completely getting over it. The principal did assure me that now that they are aware of the problem, she and the girls’ teachers will be on top of it.
Luckily, I haven’t heard any more about it. I don’t know that things are 100% better, but at least Maddy is no longer targeting my daughter. My 5th grader says things are better, and she’s not crying herself to sleep any more. She’s also not putting herself down as much. I’m glad it didn’t seem to have a long term affect. I just hope it doesn’t all start up again.
I do worry a little bit about my daughter starting middle school next year. I know this isn’t the last time she will have to deal with bullying. I just hope that she doesn’t become a target again. I also hope she has learned enough how it feels that she will not become one of the “mean girls”.
As a parent, it’s really hard to know your children are hurting. Even worse when you don’t know why or what to do to help. I didn’t know how to get her to open up about what was going on, or what to say to help her feel better. I know when my mom used to tell me “They’re just mean because they’re jealous” I didn’t buy it either. While there may be some truth in that phrase, it doesn’t help a young girl who is going through it.
Since the Preschool program I work in is under the same umbrella as Parent Education, I talked with my supervisor about the issue of bullying. I told her how helpless I felt. She gave me some books to read on the subject. Currently, I am reading “The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander” by Barbara Colorosso. I will post a review of the book when I am done.
In the meantime, I just do the best I can to encourage my children to talk to me. I want them to let me know what’s going on in their lives when I’m not around, even if I don’t have all the answers. Even if I don’t always know what to say or do to make things better, I want to be there. Being there, for my kids, with a listening ear is the best that I can do.