Monday, March 20, 2006

The Agony of the Playground

This has been a rough morning, and it's only 9:39 am.

Caroline was weepy and depressed this morning, suffering from huge anxiety over the complicated 4th-grade girl hierarchy on the playground. The big issues of who is friends with who, who said what painful thing to whom, and how to play with the nice girls and avoid the mean girls have consumed a lot of time and energy around here. And it's hard to know what to say.

I remember those difficult feelings from elementary school all too well. And Caroline is sensitive (or thin skinned) and has a hard time figuring out how to handle it all. When I propose things to say or ways of handling certain mean girls, she replies, wide-eyed, "But that wouldn't be NICE!" So we talk about the importance of sticking up for yourself and your friends, about how you can choose to give mean kids power by letting them bother you, and how you can get some of that power back by acting as if they don't bother you...

Oh, my. I totally understood her wanting to huddle in bed hugging her stuffed panda all day.

Some days I feel like that myself, in fact.

For today, we coped by having a long talk, having breakfast at our own pace, then arriving at school a bit late. And we have arranged a playdate after school today with her friend Selena, which makes her happy and gives her something to look forward to.

Me? I just wanted to keep her home, to sit with her and hug her and not send her off to face all that complicated social stuff at school. But the hard job of a mommy is to help your child learn to face the difficult things in life, isn't it?

By the way, for those of you moms who've raised girls through this sort of thing, I'd appreciate any suggestions you have to offer!

Can I go curl up with MY panda now?


  1. Anonymous10:35 AM

    Julie, I have four girls 7,13,16,& 20 and I must say the social life of girls is one of the most difficult challenges. It's hard to hear how mean some girls can be and know the pain it causes. I have found that you need to acknowledge that the stuff others say really does hurt.
    Now this is really important:
    What other people(girls) say, says more about the kind of person they are and absolutely nothing about who you are. Make sure they understand that when girls are mean, they are showing you who they are and I gave my girls permission to label it that way.
    Like replying:
    "Wow! Thats mean" or
    "I never knew you could be so mean"
    "You don't have to be mean"
    Labelling someone behavior for what it is, is not being cruel, it's being honest.
    It seems that if they address the behavior instead of what was said, it takes the power away from the bully. I'm sure you know that trying to defend yourself verbally just leads to more bullying.


  2. Rita, thanks for the suggestion. I'm going to remember that and talk about that with her: call the behavior what it is and address it. That's a really good approach. Thanks.

  3. This may sound dorky, but, my kids still remember this. I always told them that children who were mean to them probably do not have the kind of family life and care that they need so they don't know how to be nice. They think being mean will make them feel better and of course it doesn't. I actually told them that they should feel sorry for these children.

    I don't know if it helped, but I think they grew up with a more understanding nature.

    Somehow we get through it, don't we. I think that providing your cildren with lots of healthy and exciting activities helps. When they get to highschool, there are more friends to choose from, so it gets better.

    I do think it is important for Caroline to learn to stand up for her self and to let other girls know that they have been mean.

    My love to both of you!!

  4. My daughter is very sensitive and made it through elementary and middle school by having a group of friends that stuck together, were supportive of each other, and had fun together. Most of them are still friends today as seniors in HS.
    Here's a link to a great site that has many resources for gifted/highly sensitive kids.

  5. It sounds to me like you're handling the situation very well, your daughter has your support and feels she can talk to you, that will help a lot.
    I raised one daughter, she's 22 now and she's a much stronger person than I ever was. I wish I could take credit, but I think it's in her genes (from her Dad, not me!). 4th grade was hard for her, too, but a lot of the problem was that the teacher wasn't doing anything about teasing in the classroom. I told my daughter to talk to her about it, and the teacher told her to tease them back! Fortunately my daughter had the sense to know that wasn't right.
    I agree with Cathy, I think having supportive friends can make a world of difference.

  6. Anonymous5:39 AM

    Well, I wish I could help but, I only have boys and they settle everything with a fight. I DO remember when my niece was in 4th grade and had some friends over for her birthday party sleep over. They were in the kitchen eating some of the treats my sister and I had made for them and we were listening in (of course). We went out of the room and Tara (who is only 11 months older than I am and we were in the same grade all thru school) looked at me and said: "were we such bitches when we were that age?" I don't think we were but, we had an advantage in that we always had at least ONE friend.

    The only thing I can tell you is, most of them grow out of it. Andi (my niece) turned out to be one of the most caring and compassionate people I know (she's in medical school). We always just told her to think about what she says to and about people and consider how she would feel if it was her these things were being said to/about....and I encouraged her to seek out the girls being picked on and befriend them.

    And Rita's suggestion is great. I can just see the look on some little meany's face when Caroline looks at her and says in a matter-of-fact voice: "wow, does being so mean make you feel important?"

    Good luck.


  7. I want a Panda, too! They give unconditional love, devour all troubles, and are not mean! How to deal with this stuff doesn't come in the "Mom Instructional Manual", but you're doing a great job!

  8. I too think you're on track. I was always of 2 minds when it came to handling these type of situations...what I actually did/do leans more toward what Gerrie did coupled with advocacy to the school and/or with parents of children involved. I think its important for girls to see what advocacy looks like up close and personal, especially on their behalves...HOWEVER, there is that base self of me that flashes back to a scene from one of Maya Angelou's autobiographies when her son Guy was beaten badly...she went to the home of the ring leader with a gun and threatened everyone in the home from infant to the elderly that if so much as a hair on her son's head was ever touched again she would return and wipe out the entire far, I've always managed to temper that base self. ;)