Monday, April 2, 2012

Mean Girl

I was totally a Good Girl as a child. Not perfect by any stretch, but I got so upset about being reprimanded that most of the time I chose not to do naughty things (I also got incredibly sneaky. I sometimes still feel this weird urge to sneak around and do...well, I have no idea WHAT, but the sneaky must be programmed in me). I was, I think, generally sweet and empathetic.

In first grade I went to a Montessori school that my older sister attended as well. I don't have too many memories about that year besides the fact that I never really knew what exactly I was supposed to be doing. That was also my last year in montessori (a need for structure is also programmed in me). I do, however, have one very clear memory that makes me cringe every time I think of it. There was a boy in the class, Lester. Lester was That know the one, never quite clean, messy hair, kind of a crybaby and apt to do things like lick the frozen pole at recess and get his tongue stuck (yes, really). I don't recall Lester being mean to other kids, and it amazes me that at age 6, I was old enough to have these negative perceptions of him. Anyway, one winter day at recess, several other girls and I coaxed Lester out into a field away from adult supervision, pushed him down in the snow and stole his boots. Why? I have no memory. I don't know whose idea it was or what the consequence of that awful act of bullying was, but I do remember that I did not immediately feel remorseful.

Clearly, I did not grow up to be a sociopath and I think am still, in general, thoughtful and empathetic and wouldn't dream of recreationally hurting another person. So WHAT THE HELL WAS I DOING? I don't dwell on it or anything, but I do think about the fact that even as *good* as I was, I was either influenced or otherwise compelled to do this mean thing. My goal now, as a mom, is to try and prevent my kids from ever doing something so cruel.

I feel like I'm entering a new phase of parenting where these experiences will come into play...and I'm not really ready for it. It was sort of funny in a completely obnoxious way that Brighton recently told me she didn't like me anymore, but the reality is that she dealt with her anger at me by saying something intended to be hurtful. SHE IS TWO. I honestly thought we had some time before these social developments really came into play. She likes to talk about who is her best friend (this changes daily, if not hourly) and is clearly started to grasp the idea that she has some control over her social circle. Little girls can be so venomous with their fickle loyalties and threats of uninviting to birthday parties, etc. Knowing her temperament so far, I suspect that my daughter will be something of a ringleader and so it is really important to me that I teach her to use her powers for good. Although I believe that she will be exposed to differences and therefore tolerance and acceptance earlier and more personally than some children, I also know that having a brother with Down syndrome doesn't make her a superhuman. I don't want her to think that she should only be kind and compassionate to those with different abilities or *because* of disabilities.

There's a lot about parenting that really comes as a shock, and that doesn't stop after the infant stage. Being tasked with raising good, productive and kind human beings is so huge, and definitely something I didn't think much about when we decided to start a family...


Mary W. said...

I've been having similar thoughts lately, especially with all of the news stories about bullying. I've overheard Anna un-inviting her brother to her birthday and she has un-friended me a couple of times too. I keep thinking, where did she learn that?! It makes me nervous for her teenage years for sure! Raising a little girl is tougher than I expected too.

Heather said...

Yup. My Bean is a little thing- so she's learned to use her words to hurt. "I hate you." "You're stupid" "You're not my friend anymore." It's maddening because we don't talk like this in our house. Even when the Hubs and I fight privately away from the kids, we don't hurl insults or harsh words at each other.

We talk all the time that we should only say kind words and be nice to people. If you have nothing nice to say, etc.... but it's so frusterating. All I can hope is that what we teach her sinks in over time and we don't have a mean girl on our hands.

Anonymous said...

On Sunday, we had dinner with my husbands family and the five cousins (all girls, ranging from 5-1) got together to play. Part way through the evening my oldest came over to me pouting that her cousin would not play with her because she was being bossy. I asked her what she did and she said that she would not let her cousin be Pippi Longstockings because she was. I laughed and said to her that she was being a little bossy and suggested that they both be Pippi for the evening. This is not exactly being mean but it shows how they exert themselves at a young age. It will beinteresting to see how they are as they get older.