February 27, 2013
I’ve sat staring at the blinking cursor for many nights, trying to find the right way to begin this post. I wanted to write it weeks, even months ago. This issue has been on my mind a lot in the last few years. Ever since Itty started Kindergarten and we experienced bullying first hand. So I’ve had time to think about this. To contemplate the reasons, causes and solutions. And I thought when I was finally ready to write this post that I would have answers to all those things. A clear course of action that would help others based on what has helped us. No wonder I procrastinated!
Because I don’t have a clear course of action. I remember naively thinking that speaking to the mother of the child who bullied my child throughout Kindergarten would being a dialogue that would eventually resolve the issue. Her grasping-at-straws attempt to say something, “Well my daughter told me Itty didn’t like her drawing and that’s why she acted out.” fell quite short of what I expected would happen. Especially considering her daughter was “acting out” every day towards Itty and others.
Well we evolved. From the tears that fell every drive home, we started to talk about kids Itty wanted to be friends with and kids that simply weren’t the type of kids she wanted to spend the majority of her time with. Eventually by the end of the school year, she had learned to say no to this one particular girl. It wasn’t easy. This “friend” was insistent — constantly hounding Itty to play, claiming that she would be nice now, or using emotional blackmail “I’ll never speak to you again unless you sit with me.” It went against everything that was inherently natural to Itty — to heed someone’s request of her. They just wanted to play, right? What could be so bad about that? But time after time, Itty learned that playing with this “friend” meant being bullied into doing things exactly her way or being bullied out of the friendship if Itty disagreed. The Kindergarten teacher was even shocked by the behaviour – surprised by the maturity of the blackmail. She had seen this kind of behaviour in older kids, not in Kindergardeners she told me.
Summer came and went and we kept our fingers crossed that Grade 1 would be different. Maybe this “friend” would be in another class. Didn’t quite work out that way. So the cycle continued. The “friend” made promises she was different and Itty believed her. At first she was different, then the emotional blackmail and bullying started up all over again. Itty and I were both fed up and I decided to contact the mother again.
Her initial response to me,
Wow, my heart hurts…….. As a parent, my first reaction is to get defensive and come to [daughter's] defense and claim her innocence. My second reation was… “Really, again???”
Fine. Fair enough. He response felt honest but what I can’t buy is the incredulity. The kindergarten teacher had numerous discussions with this mother. The grade 1 teacher as well. And this was the second time I was bringing it up with her. She claimed to be “an adamant advocate against bullying and an HR professional” yet she couldn’t see what was happening?
And what sealed the deal for me was her final comments near the end of our discussion.
All I can promise is that we are working on the behaviour…… But from the bottom of my heart I have to be honest and tell you, if I ask [daughter] about school and who her BEST friends are… Itty is ALWAYS the first one she talks about I guess the old adage is true… we always hurt the ones we love
Excuse me? Old adage? Maybe the wayward thoughts of some drunken poet or the justification of an abusive husband…But what 7 year old girls should live by? I don’t fucking think so, thank you very much.
And we evolved again. Only I put my foot down more sternly. I explained to her that I appreciate her always including others in her play and that yes she should consider everyone her friend, but that taking abuse from someone was unacceptable. She would have to stand up to this one particular girl and accept the fact that not everyone is a good friend. Some people just don’t know how to be friends and even though you still treat those people with respect, you do not under any circumstances. TAKE. THEIR. SHIT.
The mother never did speak to me again. Never once questioned whether things had gotten better. That was last February. Thankfully, Grade 2 has been peaceful as this particular child is in another class. Unfortunately her bullying hasn’t stopped as I just heard from another mother that her daughter is struggling with the class dynamics dictated by this one particular child. It makes me incredibly sad because I know exactly what this mother and daughter is going through. The only comfort I can give them is that there is a lengthy list of children that have been in one way or another bullied or rubbed the wrong way. As terrible as that is, it means that you are not alone and have support.
After all of this, I found that the only solution is what my family and I can do. As kind as someone can be on the outside it doesn’t mean they will face their flaws and change — as this mother failed to do with her child. She truly seems like a nice person, but for whatever reason she’s not getting this. And I suspect this may be the case for many parents. I’m not naive to think this won’t ever happen again. My goal is to raise my daughters with the skills and tools they’ll need to face whatever challenges they face. Bully or not.
Until then, we will support causes like PinkShirt Day, and I Am Someone. One day, when my little terror is in school I would love to volunteer with the Kids Help Phone or in a school anti-bullying program. Children like Amanda Todd will not be forgotten no matter what color shirt I happen to be wearing.