I want to talk to you about fifth grade. The year you inexplicably treated me like sh*t. It was a small class, and you made into a leper. I have no idea why. In fact, do you? We went to school for years and years after (some of us are even Facebook friends), and I have asked if you remember that time when you so cruelly ostracized me for months, running away when you saw me on the playground, moving to another table if I tried to sit with you at lunch. According to you, you don’t remember. I, however, will never forget it. And it’s still affecting me to this day.
See, recently, some friends were over and the kids were playing upstairs. After a while I went up to check on them and found my 8-year-old daughter alone in her room, reading. Immediately I scolded her for being an impolite host and sent her off to play with her friends. When I popped back in a few minutes later, however, my daughter was sitting in the hallway on the verge of tears. Turned out, the other girls didn’t want to play with her. Sound familiar???
You know better than anyone that kids can be cruel and insensitive, but I still couldn’t believe it: my daughter’s friends—guests in our house—had shunned her. Instantly my blood boiled and I marched into the playroom.
“What’s going on?” I asked. “Why aren’t you all playing together?”
The other girls shrugged. “She won’t leave us alone. We told her to go away because we don’t want to play with her.”
That’s when I lost my sh*t. I mean, seriously.
“That is unacceptable!” I snapped. “You are a guest in my house and you’re telling my daughter you don’t want to play with her? No way. Nuh-uh. If you don’t want to play with her, you can leave.”
The poor girl just stared at me, blinking.
“I’m serious,” I went on, feeling my blood buzz as I let myself get more and more worked up. “Get out of my house if you can’t be nice!”
At that point, one of the other girls stepped in and led everyone out into the garden where they all started playing tag, back to giggles and camaraderie. And that was it. All was well.
I know I lost my cool, and as a parent you really aren’t supposed to do that sh*t, but I couldn’t help it. Later, when I thought about my mood shift, it dawned on me that you—my fifth grade enemies—and your b*tchy, immature behavior might’ve been why I went so crazy on my daughter’s friends. I was that traumatized over what happened to me back then.
Lucky for me, you guys only blacklisted me for a few months. By spring we were friends again. But I know some kids have it worse, and my heart breaks for them. Nobody deserves to feel like they’re nothing. Ever. Especially when they’re children and they have no idea what is happening. My daughter got off easy; their mini-spat wasn’t a big deal and her hurt feelings were forgotten. What worries me is what worries most parents: that my baby will be hated, ignored, or bullied at any point in her life. More than anything in the world I want her to be happy and have friends and be a good friend to others. Isn’t that what we all deserve?
I know a few of you have kids of your own now, too, and I hope none of them ever go through what you put me through, or worse.
Your Old Friend