Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mean Girls

Tonight was the parent open house at Julia's school. I'm one of those people who loves, loves, loves open houses. I love to ask the teacher questions, talk about how Julia's doing, watch her play in the environment she's used to, meet the other parents, etc.

For the past few years they have grouped the kids like this: 0 - 12 months, 12 - 18 months, 18 months - 2.5 years, 2.5-3.5 years, and then 3.5-5 years. They're starting to transition to a new way to group the older kids: 2.5 - 3 years, 3 - 4 years and 4 - 5 years.

Her teacher in the 2.5-3.5 year room has been seriously sick from May - August. She was in ICU for a month, had IVs for the next 2 months. She had some really serious case of meningitis where she practically died. It was scary. But she's doing better and has been back part-time for a few weeks. The teacher told me tonight that she is waiting to transition Julia to the next class because she thinks Julia is being bullied by another little girl and thinks it's best if she gains confidence by being separated from her - the plan is to move the other girl up (who is 2 months older) and then not move up Julia for another month.

The two girls have been close for the last year. In my observations, Julia has seemed to be kind of snooty and dismissive to the other girl, at least in front of us. Husband has observed the same thing. Julia and her have been on a playdate recently, and I observed Julia and the other girl switch off who was in the lead. Julia ended up leading the girl further out of sight distance than the other mother was ever used to the other girl going, per the other mother's nervous comments. The other girl did suggest some activities, but Julia suggested some too. For example, Julia wanted to go on the zipline, the other girl didn't want to go and wanted to do something else.  Julia went to get in line anyway, and within a minute or two the other girl came over and got in line. For the most part, for that 2 hour playdate I didn't see anything that concerned me (but what do I know).

The teacher cited one incident where the other girl basically said, "Julia, come here or I won't invite you to my birthday party" in a 3-year old Mean Girl kind of way, and then Julia acquiesced. The teacher didn't cite any other examples, but she's only been back for 2-3 hours a day for 2-3 weeks.

Of course I was concerned when I heard that, and it kind of conflicted with my personal assessment, so I talked with the teacher who Julia has spent far more time with over the summer. I asked her to be honest, and she said that they have a back and forth relationship. The other girl is more vocal, but Julia gets her point across in her own way (perhaps like when she got in line for the zipline even though the other girl wanted to do some other activity - there wasn't any protest on Julia's part, she just went to get in line).  The other teacher also said that Julia takes the lead as well. So basically what I've observed. So, I'm conflicted about it all. I don't want to disregard the one teacher's viewpoint because I'm sure it was true in that moment, but I'm not sure she can extrapolate from one incident to generalize their whole relationship. Still, I'm fine with Julia hanging out in the room for another month because they teach pretty much the same thing as they do in the next room. I mean, come on, she's learning her freaking letters and numbers and how to spell anyway.  I don't think she's in any way disadvantaged although the reason why behind it kind of irks me.

There will always be Mean Girls. There are definitely Mean Girls in junior high and high school and college. Unfortunately, there are Mean Girls in the workplace. And, even more unfortunately, there are Mean Girls in preschool.

This is precisely, exactly why I always liked to hang out with the boys. Boys are not mean (well, from my perspective as a girl). A boy cannot cut you to the core like that with one threatening statement. Perhaps I shouldn't generalize. Perhaps it's just me who can't be cut to the core like that by a boy, or maybe I've just never experienced it. Not that I want to.

I can't even come up with one example of a threatening statement I've ever received from a guy.  None. Of course, I've been asked by a whole slew (okay, maybe 15) of guys for sex, which I turned down.  But those were always phrased as questions, and there really wasn't even an implied threat behind it.  I said, "No thanks" in a polite way, and - well - that ends the discussion.  Sure, I never heard from some of them again, but if sex is a dealbreaker then I don't want him in my life.  Others were like, "Well, okay, just had to ask" and then we went back to normal. 

Girls, on the other hand, are a whole different story.  When I hear, "If you don't come here, I won't invite you to my birthday party," my heart sinks and I feel so vulnerable. 

Bitchy, passive aggressive me would glare at the girl and walk the other way.  Screw you, I didn't want to go to your stupid birthday party anyway. That's what I would DO. 

But what would I THINK?  All the cool girls are going to that party.  I want to belong. I want them to like me. Now that I've pissed her off, she's going to rally all her friends against me, then no one's ever going to talk to me again. Everyone else will go to that party, and I'll be all alone. I could do something with someone else, but let's face it - only the loser girls won't be going to her party. So I have to choose between hanging out with the losers (and being labeled as a loser) or stay home by myself. 

After being in a similar situation myself, I came to the realization that the best solution to that dilemma is hanging out with a nice, interesting guy while the girls are having their elitist party where they talk about boys they think are cute and paint each other's nails and contemplate who stuffs their bras versus who has real boobs.  The girls can't say my alternative plan is engaging in loser activity...after all, I'm in the company of a guy while they are merely talking about him.  I'm having a far better time than if I was engaging in gag-inducing activties with the girls. AND I'm not home alone on a Friday or Saturday night.  Win - win - win. 

However, this does not solve my immediate problem (although I did ask a mom tonight if her son and Julia could have a playdate, so perhaps I am reverting to my old ways).  I think it's time for some discussions that start setting the tone with Julia.  "Mommy and Daddy will always be your friends, no matter what.  Good friends are always your friends. When you're a friend to someone, it's the nicest thing you can do for someone.  Taking that away from your friend really hurts your friend's feelings. If someone wants you to do something to stay their friend, how does that make you feel?" And see how the conversation goes. 

Seriously, I didn't think I'd be having to deal with Mean Girls in preschool.  I really thought I'd have the don't get in a car with strangers talk before a Mean Girls talk.  (I would give her the strangers talk if she already wasn't completely paranoid about strangers and didn't already scream her head off if anyone but a few select people pick her up. I don't want her paranoia to increase even more.)

Mean Girls.  (sigh)

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