My darling, brilliant, beautiful eleven-year-old daughter asked me a question Wednesday night that broke my heart. We were driving home from church and she asked me if she could have my permission to wear makeup to school. Why? Because most of the other girls in her class wear makeup and she’s worried they will tease her mercilessly if she doesn’t.
There is nothing in the world that can destroy a kid’s confidence, male or female, like a mean girl. You’d think, with our kids being in a private Christian school that the mean girl problem wouldn’t be an issue, but it is. Perhaps it’s worse in Bree’s case because a lot of the kids have been in the same class together since kindergarten and Bree didn’t come in until third grade. She says that even now in sixth grade she’s still an “outsider.” I don’t know. But it breaks my heart to watch my vivacious, bubbly, happy child grow quiet and morose the closer we get to school a lot of mornings.
I taught the youth Sunday school class this past week. The first thing I had them do was to list things they like or thought were good about themselves. Know how many she came up with? Three. That’s all. She said that she’s smart, good with chickens, and …. I forget the third. I got hung up on the fact that she could ONLY think of three things she likes about herself. She is amazing in dozens of ways! Of course, I’m biased being her mama, but still. Only three.
This change in my baby has come about over this last school year. She hates dressing out for PE now because she gets teased about her underclothes. She got a pixie cut, which she loved at the time, but wants to grow out now so that she won’t get picked on about not having long hair. My own personal Punky Brewster is squashing her crazy inner fashionista because of what other girls will say about her outfits.
She is hesitant to even talk to her friends that are boys because the mean girls will start gossiping. There was a choir list mix up one day so she got to choir super late. She was mean girled to tears because they were hounding her about going to choir on Mars and wouldn’t stop when she asked. They only stopped when she completely lost her temper and literally ran away to escape from them. One of the new kids who just came to their class this year was sitting at lunch with Bree and her two good friends. He was asked why he was sitting at “the losers’ table.” Everything now is filtered through “will I get made fun of” and that is not how it should be.
I am trying desperately to raise her to not be a mean girl. At church Wednesday, I watched her interacting with the two girls closest in age to her and listening to her tone of voice when she told them good night as we were leaving. She sound catty and sarcastic as she said, “Good night… I have SUCH good friends.” She made me want to cry. And I promptly told her to adjust her attitude or I would adjust it for her. We do not act in such a manner just because others act that way towards us. If somebody mean girls you, you do not have license to mean girl them back. No, ma’am.
She’s building defenses, I know this. I lived through it. This mama does NOT want her to have the same issues of self doubt and feeling alone and friendless through school that I did. I want her to be that amazing, confident girl who puts on the crazy Punky Brewster outfits and KNOWS she looks good while she tells the best stories from her imagination. Tonight I reminded her of our favorite “here’s to the crazy ones” poster and that she and Conner, like me and Drew, are round pegs in a square world. I need to start calling her Peg more to remind her.
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be mean girls
Mothers out there, and dads, too – don’t let your daughters grow up being mean girls. Nip it in the bud. Girls need to stick together and build each other up.
Train your girls to be respectful of others, even their peers. Train them to be kind. To think before they speak and to ask themselves if they’d like to be treated as they’re treating the other person. Teach them that it’s ok for people to be different. It’s all right for a girl to have short hair and not wear makeup (especially at 11 and 12 years old!). To wear crazy clothes combinations, and make up stories in her head all the time. Teach them that different is good. Help them lead an anti-mean girl movement. I would love to see some sort of class at the schools about not being mean girls (and boys). People have written books about this it’s such a huge problem.
If you need a place to hang out and maybe bounce ideas off other moms about how to best help our girls, you’re welcome to come to The OpalTurtle. We all pegs of all ages, shapes, and sizes, but we do NOT allow mean girling. At all.