It is important to know when not to take our kids too seriously
I don’t know if boys do this, but most little girls I know come home every day with a soap opera to enact about their day in school.
(I suspect boys come home grumpy or with bruises, scruffy shirts, evidence of them having been in a disagreement. I imagine them not wanting to talk about it. Maybe their reticence to share the details will be equal parts postured manliness and an inability to properly articulate what the problem was. My boy is 3, right now I’m only taking notes.)
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Girls on the other hand! By Oprah, you get the details. From the time they’re about 4, they will tumble out of school at 200 wpm, peppered with jazz-hands, tears, arching eyebrows, dejection, conversations repeated in detail, “and then I said”, “and then she said” “and then I said…”
By the time my second daughter was about 5, in the interests of my sanity, I learned to blur it all out only keeping half an ear open for any danger words or phrases. These red flags were usually signs of physical violence or lack of supervision, “she pushed me”, “she said she’d kill me” (actually happened, they were 4), “the teacher didn’t listen”. But over time, I realized there was a Very Big Red Flag, “her mummy told her not to talk to me.”
And so I became acquainted with the type of adult woman who will get involved in the politics of 6 year olds, teach them to wheedle, whine and carve cliques out, but worst of all, coach them and give them battle strategies.
The Council of Gate Mummies crackled, rife with rivalries. I’d be damned if I knew what they were rivals about but unwittingly, I got caught up between two arch-moms. Predictably it ended with them both ganging up on me. I’ll spare you the details but it played havoc with my little girl’s social life. Because the arch-moms both had their little women out there, in the fray, doing really pointless things like telling other kids not to play with mine Because Their Mummies Told Them!
Why would any mummy do that?!
Because these mummies aren’t busy enough? Because this is the way they think they are training their kids for the real world? Because they’re so short sighted, they’d put nasty words in their little girls’ mouths to further their own petty causes? WTF Mummies?!
This wasn’t harsh bullying or teasing or the usual nonsense some children get up to that necessitates intervention - a call to the school or to the parents. This was the sort of passive-aggressive posturing that is distasteful in adults but completely wrong in children. And it made my little girl miserable.
It took counseling from the Normal Mums, reassurances that I wasn’t losing my mind, and a concerted effort to Stay Calm and Not Carry Tales no matter how riled I was. I refused to armour my child with any adult strategies. I refused to acknowledge the slights of her not being invited to birthday parties. We went against our battle instincts and insisted on playing fair. No tattling was allowed, no ganging up on anyone and none of that, ‘if you’re my friend you can’t be her friend’ nonsense was allowed.
It helped that my older child had faced this in a milder form. New, she had trouble fitting into a class where friendships were already two years old. But a little research on the mums outside meant I knew who watched the same TV shows as hers, had the same toys and was learning to swim too. Now she has a large, very varied group of small circles that don’t always intersect. She’s got nerd pals, the ones I think of as the future IT-girl pals, the neighbours’ kids, the conservative ones… Some of them actively dislike each other. Some of their mums are really snarky to each other.
One day she came home, all of 11 years old, and said, “I told M I won’t be able to listen to her bitching S out anymore. Their mums don’t get along, but I don’t think we need to bond over being nasty about someone. We should have other things to talk about.” I was quite proud fully knowing that the Other Things was just the young boys of One Direction.
Patience and being fair paid off for my younger girl too. The high drama still continues but she has found a group of friends who fight, and cry and then make elaborate “I’m Sorry” cards for each other and write each other poems swearing undying loyalty. It is absolutely the most boring thing to listen to in detail, but I now know the “I’m so sad, I have no friends anymooore… well only one…” will be followed by, “Oh my god! My friend gave me a hug and said let’s not fight anymore EVER!” Jazz hands.
I hear rumours that the WTF Mummies are still trying to politicize their kids, but they fail more flamboyantly every day. Meanwhile, these girls are learning an important lesson; when NOT to take their mothers too seriously. (Because some of us mums need to learn 'when not to take OUR kids too seriously too’.)
Image courtesy: © Thinkstockphotos/ Getty Images
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