Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mean girls and the hurting words

Chicky, CC and I are part of a playgroup that meets once every week. It's one of those groups that are equal parts playtime for the kids and sanity saver for the moms. This week, seeing as we were experiencing one of our only nice days in the past five thousand years (at least), the group decided to have it at a local park.

Fresh air and sunshine, just what everyone needed. Desperately.

In this playgroup there is a for year old boy whom we'll call "B". B. adores Chicky. It's really cute, in a horrifying, this-is-your-future-with-teenage-girls type of way. The two of them, to quote Forrest Gump, are like peas and carrots, and when we take our leave of these get-togethers B is almost always there to give Chicky a huge hug goodbye. Like I said, terrifying and adorable, all at the same time.

When we arrived at the playground this week B was already there and from fifty yards away we could hear him screaming, "Chicky is here! Chicky is here! Hi Chicky!!" To say he's always excited to see her is an understatement.

(Mental note to lock this one away for the next 13 years until he shows up at our door to take Chicky out on a date. Just remember, kid, I know your mom.)

But my child was fickle that day. She didn't want to play with B or any of the other kids in our playgroup. She wanted to play with her new friend, the little girl whom she met on the swings and was instantly captivated by.

(Name: unknown. Because really, why bother with inconsequential details when making new BFFs?)

The two girls ran around the large play space as fast as their little legs could carry them. Which, apparently, was pretty fast seeing as how poor B couldn't quite keep up. It got to the point where, dejected, he ran back to his mom and cried, "Chicky and that girl won't let me play with them. They don't like me."

The look on his tear covered face nearly broke my heart. My kid was causing that pain. Uh uh, this is not working. So I called Chicky over and asked her nicely to include B in their games, to which she replied, "No", and ran off.

I've got so much control over that kid. It's spooky.

But B., not giving up so easily, kept trying. He ran where they ran and sat where they sat. And from the sidelines I cheered him on while his mother and I inwardly wondered if and when we should step in.

What came next was told to me by B.'s mom.

While I busied myself with CC and her mulch-eating obsession, thinking my child was playing so nicely with this new girl she had met, Chicky and her new, unnamed friend were swinging, not allowing B. to take a turn. And as one girl descended from her movable perch toward B. she would chant, "Dumb" while the other swung upward. Then the other girl would swing down and chant, "Dumb", and so forth and so on. "Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb." That's what B. heard.

I watched as B.'s mom stepped in and removed her son from in front of the girls but didn't know the reason. Like I said, I was busy making sure CC didn't get too much fiber from the playground mulch. I was busy chatting with the other moms. I was... Okay, to be truthful, I never thought Chicky would ever say anything like that to another child.

But she did.

Taking her cue from the other girl, she wielded this new word like a weapon. She was drunk off the heady feeling that comes from watching another person react to something you say. I honestly don't think she knew what she was doing but she was enjoying the shock value, not understanding the pain she was causing.

We've had discussions about the word Stupid and why she should never use it in relation to another person, or to ever use it at all really. We've had long talks about why that word is hurtful, the meaning of it, and so far all that work as been successful. She knows not to say it, will correct others when they do and gets upset when she hears it used in a pop song on the radio. But while I was worrying so much about the usage of one word, I forget to mention it's synonyms.

I'm giving myself the ol' pat on the back for my foresight.

In the end, I apologized profusely to B.'s mom for missing it all and she, in turn, was very gracious and understanding. She had removed her son from the two girls and admonished them for the name calling, making the executive decision to not allow the kids to work it out for themselves and seizing the opportunity to teach everyone a valuable lesson. The other girl's mom came over to apologize as well.

In the end, Chicky and B. were friends again, as four year old's are often inclined to be even after hurtful things are said and Chicky's new friend went home, probably never to be seen by us again.

Chicky, on the ride home, was given a stern lecture about hurting words and how they affect others.

And I made a mental note to break out my thesaurus.

CC, however, has not yet made a commitment to stop eating mulch.

One thing at a time.


Bon said...

oh. this broke my heart.

b/c my big one is three and i can see this all unfolding down the pipe, the joy in power, the potential to be both wounded and wounder...and i think of him as either B or Chicky in that situation and wonder if perhaps i could just stop time now before i have to cope?

uh, no, huh?

sounds like you and the other moms all handled it very well, in a way that the kids can all learn from. i have to commend B's mom, actually, for talking to you about it as she did...there's a part of me that wonders/fears internalizing the eventual random rejections of my kids. lesson learned.

TwoBusy said...

One of our girls has definite queen bee tendencies, and we not infrequently find ourselves trying to pull her back from the precipice of mean girlhood. It kills me to think of my sweet, smart little girl using her powers for evil...

Mom101 said...

My daughter is so thin-skinned it breaks my heart to see her left out and feeling alone. But the one time I saw her rebuff an invitation to play from another kid I was mortified. It's like a Molly Ringwald movie with 4 year olds. I can't stand it!

Sarahviz said...

Oof. I could totally see Baby doing the same thing. Stupid is the "s" word in our house - but thanks for the reminder about its synonyms! I'm on it.

SciFi Dad said...

This is one of my biggest parenting challenges, personally. I try to teach my kids what's right and what's wrong, what's good and what's bad, and when they make the wrong choice I explain why it was wrong to them as best as I can, and then I go and beat myself up for not anticipating it. The only thing I find solace in is the belief that one day they stop eating mulch.

Maggie said...

Oh poor boy! I dread the day when my 18 month old is old enough to behave that way! I still have terrible regret-filled memories from my childhood of doing things like that to other children because my friends were and I was afraid to say anything because I didn't want to end up on the receiving end of it.

Good for B.'s mom for saying something about it. I just posted today about a similar but toddler scale experience that we had at the park, with my daughter being hurt by a little boy whose mother wasn't watching the incident. I didn't say anything to her because I didn't know her. But I regret not letting that mom know what her boy had done.

Alex Elliot said...

I'm impressed by you and by B's mother. It's great that you were able to talk with Chicky about what happened and I think it's good that B's mom was able to step in and at the end of the day everyone was talking to each other. Most of the time, I think it's handled like that but a couple times now we've had the experiences on both ends (my kid being mean/my kid being picked on) where the parents got really upset. In fact one of our bad experiences was with a mean little boy and the big park by where I live. I had no idea how to handle it and the mom was no where in sight.

Avalon said...

I dunno. I'd giving the girls the benefit of the doubt by saying they were simply creating a rhythmic chant to go along with the timing of their swinging.Like the theme from Dragnet.....dum,da,dum,dum,DUM.

Too farfetched?

ewe are here said...

Ugh. I think it's the age. While I was chasing my 2 year old around the baby pool in April, my then almost-4 year old was apparently calling a 2 year old girl a scaredy cat at the other end of the pool. The girl's mother told him off, that he wasn't bein gnice; then apologized to me for doing it. I was horrified... I didn't know he would do something like that ... and I thanked her profusely for handling it -- I would have done the same thing.

Heather said...

I do think that most kids will be on both the giving and receiving end of this situation, simply because learning the power of words and the heady power of affecting another person so easily is part of growing up. Kids often learn these social behaviors through experimenting with what works and what doesn't. By no means are the kids who are doing the taunting bad kids, just normal kids who are learning.

I think you handled it well.

Also? My Baby D is firmly in the mulch-eating camp too.

Anonymous said...

aww sounds like you have a little heart breaker on your hands haha

Lesha said...

Oh no!
I know that heart wrenching feeling, I've felt it for G when he doesn't want to play with one cousin, or when the other cousin doesn't want to play with him. I think you all handled the situation so well though. I think it was great that B's mom was able to talk to you and let you know what had happened rather then get upset and leave and let it fester.

Ah, the playground dramas to come.

Julie @ The Mom Slant said...

Ouch. It sucks to see/hear your child do something you never expected, something you thought they knew was wrong.

Sarah @ said...

I can't imagine the horror of having your child rejected, or the horror of knowing your child is the reject-er, but I do think you handled the situation as best you could. The talk she had with you will likely stick with her more than the hour she spent playing with the little girl you may never see again.

Heather said...


Not a Housewife said...

I agree that you and the other mom took a lousy situation and made the most out of it. You're setting them up for greater understanding and compassion when they're older and confronting similar, yet more serious, situations.

What is it about the mulch, anyway? My baby stored a piece of mulch in his cheek for like an hour the other day until I found it.

kittenpie said...

God, it takes neverending correcting, listening, being on the ball, and still, STILL, they slip things by you, trying out something new to see if thy can get away with it. Gah!

IzzyMom said...

Ugh...I've been on both sides of that situation and they both suck. As the mom of an almost 9 year old, all I can say for sure is it doesn't get any easier and the girls get a lot meaner.

PS~Erin said...

Oh gosh. We just went through this heart-wrenching situation with my daughter. She was smitten with what hubby and I have deemed the "mean-girl". Her influence over my daughter was so strong that my 6 yr old was acting like an aloof teenager. It went on for several months, with my *many* efforts to combat it. 2 days into summer vacation, my sweet daughter is back and completely un-programmed. It makes me dread school starting back. Ack.

Love your writing!

Johnsshv said...

Oh gosh. We just went through this heart-wrenching situation with my daughter. She was smitten with what hubby and I have deemed the "mean-girl". Her influence over my daughter was so strong that my 6 yr old was acting like an aloof teenager. It went on for several months, with my *many* efforts to combat it. 2 days into summer vacation, my sweet daughter is back and completely un-programmed. It makes me dread school starting back. Ack. Love your writing!

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