A Letter to the Moms of Mean Girls
Every time I walk into my kids’ school, and smell that school smell that cannot really be described (it’s sort of a combination of athletic shoes, day-old pizza, floor polish, and puberty), I’m immediately transported back to 1983, when I was a gangly kid with enormous brown eyes, stringy hair, and feet and teeth that I hadn’t quite grown into yet. I always say that the worst thing about having a child in public school is reliving your childhood traumas -- only now, they’re a million times worse because they’re happening to your kid. Your baby.
Today is my oldest daughter’s last day of 5th grade, and she’s come through elementary school reasonably unscathed, though she’s certainly had her share of ups and downs. She’s a beautiful and graceful ballet dancer, but she seems to have inherited my unfortunate lack of ability, and general disinterest in sports, so she was frequently mocked by overly competitive, testosterone-charged boys in P.E. whenever she messed up. This is almost expected because sports are EVERYTHING! (Please read this with the heavy dose of sarcasm intended).
I lived through this too, and while I’m not happy that my child has to suffer the same fate because of her athletically challenged genes, I’m bothered far more by the cruelty she’s endured at the hands of other girls. You know, the girls who pushed her into her locker, and threw her stuff on the floor when she was in the lunch line. The girls who lead her to believe they were going to invite her to party, so she waited and waited for an invitation that never came. (The next day, they made sure to talk about how, like, totally amazing the party was, right in front of her, just to rub it in.) There was the girl who wrote on my daughter’s arms and clothing with permanent marker, and ate off her tray in the lunchroom, and let’s not forget the girl who shoved her out of her seat on the bus. Of course, there is also the group of girls who judged and nitpicked and criticized, and basically made her feel like a loser.
Every time my daughter came home upset because another girl was mean to her at school, I would ask my mom friends, “WHY? Why do they do this to her?” The most common response was, “That’s just how girls are. They’re mean.”
Most of us have dealt with girls like this at some point in our lives, and what’s really sad is that we have to deal with adults like this, too. Those mean girls grow up to be women, who then have daughters of their own, and the cycle continues. I once read an article that posited that the so-called “Mommy wars” don’t really exist -- they’re simply a creation of the media. I would have to disagree, because I see battles being fought every day. Women who have children criticize those who don’t for being “selfish.” Women who breastfeed/cloth diaper/babywear/co-sleep/you-name-it, judge those who can’t, or don’t want to do any of those things, and vice versa. Of course, we all know about the ongoing battle over working versus staying home.
Another perfect example is how, whenever I write about this topic, certain readers who homeschool rebuke me for letting my daughter go to public school. I once received an email letting me know that public school is “evil,” and I’m doing my child a terrible disservice in letting her be brainwashed by the government.
See? Grown women are mean to each other, too. We just have different methods to our meanness.
When my child is picked on in school, my first instinct, as her mother, is to march down there and rattle some cages, because I too suffered at the hands of the “popular” girls in school, and watching my child endure the same treatment makes me absolutely livid. The big difference between me then and me now is that I’m no longer afraid to speak my mind because I’m not in the throes of crippling adolescent self-consciousness. Even so, it simply would not be appropriate for me to confront the mean girls because they are children, and I’m an adult.
Instead, I’d like to say a few things to their mothers:
Your daughters are watching you. They look to you as an example of how to be a woman, so when you stand around in packs in order to whisper, and gossip, and cut other women down, don’t think they don’t notice. Remember, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Children have to be raised. They can’t simply be allowed to grow up. You owe it to your child, and the rest of the world, to teach her right from wrong. It’s right to be kind and compassionate, responsible and conscientious, thankful and generous and loyal. It’s wrong to be hateful and dishonest and duplicitous. These traits will not win your daughter any true friends… only followers. And they will only follow her out of fear.
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