It started out as a conversation with B about how to treat people nicely. It started out as my wanting to impress on her that I did not think she acted appropriately this morning in responding to a schoolmate who said hello. It was a conversation being held in the car, on the way to Hebrew School. Perhaps that was fail #1, as I couldn't sit and face her while talking. But I did not want the conversation to wait, feeling that it was important to address it before too many days passed and she would forget the particular circumstances. I wanted to remind her of what Daddy and I always say: "when all else fails, just be nice!"
That was how it all started. Then she started to cry. I'll never really know if I was being manipulated or not, if she started to cry to change the subject, or because she wanted to make the situation about how she has been harmed or hurt, and less about the other person. I'll never know, but I'm curious. Then again, I have to hope that she is not that devious.
At her core, B has an incredibly kind heart and is generous to a fault. Perhaps because of that loving heart, she is not quite sure how to handle people who are not nice. (I truly think that when she says things to people or adopts a particular tone of voice or demeanor, she is mimicking what she has heard elsewhere and I also believe that her mind moves too quickly to process how she is acting in any given situation. I think she just wants to get the words out and does not always consider the method of delivery.) In any event, she started crying.
I first thought she was crying because she was upset that I was upset. (She has done this before, when the idea of my being angry with her was too much to bear.) Then she started mumbling words in between the sobs. Apparently, a few boys have started calling her "nerd" because of her glasses. My initial reaction? Tell them to shove off. (Parenting Fail #2?) That morphed into her telling me that some girls on the playground don't treat her very well and it upsets her.
How did we go from my telling her that she needed to be nice to other people, to her telling me (through tears) that she was being called names?
I hate that I cannot walk through her day with her and give her advice on how to handle situations. I hate (sometimes) that she is young for her grade, despite being very bright, and that it creates an odd situation in which other kids may look at her strangely or treat her differently. I hate that she doesn't always tell me about these situations. And I hate that I can't go up to these kids and tell them to straighten out, or else!
There are the usual replies, of course. "Sticks and stones" and all of that. The ever-helpful "when someone is making fun of you, it's because they feel bad about themselves", and even B's suggestion of "no one can make you feel inferior without your permission." I'm not sure any of them helped. I also offered my usual advice of "ignore" them as to the boys who were calling her a nerd, and "walk away!", as to the girl on the handball court who she is having trouble with.
We are in an odd place in the world, when people seem to be hypersensitive to "bullying," so much so that kids aren't able to just be kids, without being labeled. But at the same time, I want B to be able to defend herself and stand up to those that are being mean to her or bullying her, without fear that she herself will be labeled. (The girl on the handball court that picks on her and causes trouble is apparently older but smaller - an interesting combination.)
As to the boys calling her a "nerd," I tried to make her feel better by explaining that in the end, its usually the nerds that come out on top. (Marc Zuckerburg, anyone?) I'm not sure she believed me.
In the end, I'm left sitting here, scratching my head and wondering if my initial point was made, and also wondering when I can sneak into school and beat a few kids up for picking on my kid. As much as it makes me cringe inside, I really do hope she learns how to navigate these treacherous waters. I know from personal experience that it's only going to get worse in Junior High. Until then, I guess I'll just continue to muddle through this "parenting" thing as well.