“Mommy, I have a tummy ache,” Ingrid said a few mornings ago.
Tummy aches mean one of two things: the flu or stress.
“What’s wrong, honey?” I asked her and she crawled into bed with me.
“Nothing,” she answered, “my tummy just hurts. Can I stay home from school today?”
“Is something going on at school?” I asked.
She nodded. Then, she told the intricacies of grade school drama. So-and-So says she’s my friend, but today, she glares at me and won’t tell me why. So I played with Such-and-Such. But Such-and-Such likes to play soccer but I don’t because the kids don’t play fair, so I tried to be with Girl A and Girl B. But they said they wanted to be alone.” Here her voice broke a little.
I hugged her and told her I loved her and that no matter what her friends were like her momma thought she was the best girl in the whole world and that I’m so thankful to have her. We strategized a few ways to handle her situation. Could she bring a book and read on her own? Could she play with the older girls?
This she tried for a week or so. But she’s a smart girl. The older girls were nice, but Ingrid’s not the type to innocently not understand that they feel sorry for her.
There was a day when So-and-So was her best friend again and another day when she was not. The glares and unanswered questions continued.
Finally, she announced she was ready to come home.
And I said okay.
I’ve heard the many arguments and justifications for making kids continue through these types of situations.
I just don’t take much stock in them.
For instance, “the other kids need to learn that this type of behavior is not okay.”
Well, my job is not to teach other kids. Nor will I allow them to use my child as the guinea pig for others to learn. This behavior will most likely not stop because of a lecture given by the principal or the teacher. This kind of behavior is only solved through day-to-day teaching at home. Very unlikely.
Or “They’re going to have to learn how to get through this some time or other” is one of the pieces of wisdom I hear parents speak and everyone nods at its sagacity.
But why now? Why, when she’s still young and her personality is being formed, should she have to experience betrayal and exclusion and abandonment? The world is full of evils that may befall us — why should I allow them to do so when I have other options? As adults, don’t we do our best to avoid the people who treat us badly? Is it often that we have to subject ourselves daily to spending six hours with people who treat us harshly?
Yet, somehow our culture has accepted the fact that this is a rite of passage — this is part of growing up.
All I can say is … not if we can help it. We’ll come up with some different rites of passage. We’ll invent some other challenge to overcome — one with a high rate of success so she’ll be in the habit of succeeding and overcoming, not in being excluded and badly treated.
Consider your own school experiences. Name one awful experience that taught you some great lesson that has made you a better person. I doubt it’s possible. I bet the scar is still tender to the touch.
Me? I still remember when my best friend told me to write something bad on the bathroom wall. She told me to write, “Heidi Williams is a fag.”
I did it.
I didn’t even know what a fag was, obviously.
The next day the principal called me into the office. Nikki had told on me. I had to clean the entire public bathroom. I used to hold it all day so I wouldn’t have to go in there. Now, I was using a toothbrush on its nooks and crannies.
She had also told every girl in the fifth grade what I had done, and she and Heidi Williams were now best friends. At recess, when I went to play foursquare, all the girls left and went to the other side of the playground. Wherever I went, they visibly avoided me.
In class, it was time to form new groups of desks. Of course, I was without one. I ended up joining with the (I’ll use the word we used back then) retarded girl and the girl who picked her nose and ate it.
Great memory. The fortitude I gained from those days helped me immensely in adulthood. Now, I don’t do stupid things my friends tell me to do.
Actually, I solved the problem by playing with the boys. I won’t go into where that led me.
Perhaps I’m bringing in my personal feelings about school into my decisions with my daughter, but who doesn’t?
Those of us who had great experiences assume it’s all going to be great. Those of us who didn’t distrust the system greatly.
I happen to land in the second camp.
So, Ingrid’s coming home and I’m glad to have her. It feels like she’s been withdrawn and distant for a long time and I’ll be happy to have her cuddled beside me reading good books together. It will be nice to see her ready smile return and her quick wit back at the table again. I’ll be happy to see her being herself again, unafraid of criticism, sure of love and acceptance, and eager to learn and grow.
I’m looking forward to tripping over another “ingrified” contraption — where she’s McGyvered something out of string and tape and paper.