Hi! I’m so glad you are here today! I really hope you are enjoying the Mom Crush Monday series! Don’t forget to share it on social media if you do! Follow along on Instagram and make sure to follow the hashtag #followthedyers too! Feedback in the comments is always appreciated too! Now, let’s see what Elizabeth has to say about being a mean girl. I really think you are going to enjoy this guest post! Give it a read and make sure you get all the way to the bottom to read her pledge against raising a mean girl. Don’t forget to join in on Wednesday for a short devotional and next Monday for another guest post. Next week will likely be the last guest post for this series, so please don’t miss it! Lots of love to ya!
How NOT to Raise a Mean Girl
The other day, my three year old came home from daycare with a note.
Ever since our littlest has been old enough to walk and play, Anabelle, older by only a handful of months, has been a terror. Grabbing away toys for no reason, shoving the baby, shouting at her; in essence: being a bully. The professionals have all told us it’s normal. As long as she shows signs of affection too, which she does, and doesn’t do anything excessively violent, which she doesn’t, it’s okay. Still, some ideas have begun to form in my mind about Anabelle. Nothing solid, not yet manifested into words or actions, but a feeling, phantasmal, in the back of my mind. Like an aftertaste when I think about her: My daughter might be a Mean Girl.
When the note came home from daycare, I’ll admit it; I thought it was to tell me Anabelle had done something wrong.
“Anabelle was kicked in the head by another student,” the note read, “She has a small cut on her lip, which we treated with ice and a towel.”
That was it, but it was enough to make me feel ashamed for assuming that my three year old had been the mean girl. My husband and I tended her lip, hugged her, sat her down, and asked her what happened. At first she was quiet, but soon a shift happened. I’ve seen it in her before, when she becomes overtaken by storytelling; when something really needs to come out. Her voice lifts, her body posture lightens. She begins to gesticulate, and her chubby limbs become almost adult in their motions. Her eyes lose focus. She’s deep in there, in the event she’s telling. When this change happens, the story just flows out, sometimes so quickly not all of it makes sense, and it doesn’t take long for us to recognize events have become jumbled. Anything that was big or scary for her gets puzzled into the story. Her hospital stay, when she had pneumonia. The time our neighbor got too drunk and tried to open our door instead of his. Last week, when I lost my temper and yelled too loudly. But we get enough, before all of these other events start getting processed, to get an idea happened at daycare.
The kick came from Leila, a classmate of hers, who also rides in the vanpool with her. We don’t know much about Leila, have only caught glimpses of her on the van, but in the next several months she will practically become a member of the family in absentia. Leila will get blamed for everything; from every scrape or bruise Anabelle brings home, to the mess of paint on her clothes, to her nightmares, to the person who pushed her sister.
This is how bullying, real bullying, the kind of bullying that can end a life, begins. The teachers have told us, without actually telling us of course, that Leila has a troubled past. She has impulse control issues; she’s taking her hurt and pain and mirroring it in the classroom, transferring it to my Anabelle, and other students. Now Anabelle is coming home and mirroring it here, transferring it to her little sister.
I have a very personal relationship with the beast known as Girl Bullying. I was bullied in middle school, body shamed first for being too fat, and then, after I became anorexic and dropped to 89 lbs; shamed for being too skinny. I grew to hate other girls, especially the ones I deemed “preppy.”
“I like boys better; most of my friends are boys,” I’d say, when asked about my girlfriends. Then I’d feel perplexed when my girlfriends echoed the sentiment. Well, aren’t I their friend? I’d think, not recognizing the hypocrisy. It was like we all had this idea of what “Girl” meant and it was something we all disliked. That is the effect of Girl Bullying. We somehow get this idea that we are “different,” that other girls are something to be bugged by; something to compete against, and then we do it. We split into subtypes and demean anyone who falls outside of our group or threatens our own self image in any way.
When I was sixteen I entered into an abusive relationship. Like all abusive relationships, the abuse was slow and insidious, and before anything I could really grasp and name as abuse occurred, I was in love with him. Which meant that I stayed for four years, and during those four years he would commit every form of abuse against me, including cheating. A lot.
I should have been angry at him, but instead I turned my rage and hurt onto those women; women who were victims themselves, who could have been my allies, but who I instead turned to enemies. That mentality stayed with me for years, even after I left him. Ten years distanced from my abuser, and many more between my middle school tormentors, I still fight the effects of Girl Bullying and domestic abuse.
I did not expect to be dealing with bullying in my daughter’ lives so soon. I’m not sure yet what to do, how to handle this situation. But I do know one thing: I want to teach my daughters, both of them, to be girls who like other girls. Who respect girls who are different from them. Who show compassion to girls who are hurting, and who serve as allies for girls who are picked on. I want my girls to befriend girls, all different types of girls and proudly!
Talking only goes so far. I can tell Anabelle to be nice to Leila, even when she’s mean. I can direct my daughters to share toys with each other, to fairly distribute treats instead of hoarding them. I can tell them to be proud of what makes them unique and special, and to celebrate the differences of their friends and classmates too, but I also have to show them.
I have PTSD because of my abuse. That means a lot of anxiety-especially social anxiety-self-esteem issues and trouble communicating. Friendship is not easy for me. Some of the lessons I hold dear are easy to model. Compassion, fairness, love for family; I demonstrate these to my daughters every day, but showing my daughters to respect girls and women who are different from them is a feat. I still have my jealousies; those negative associations my ex’s cheating grooved into my brain, and I have my trauma symptoms to combat. It’s important, and I have to try.
My 3 year old has it in her to grow into a Mean Girl. I see it when she gets angry. I see it when she doesn’t want to share a toy. I see it when she just feels jealous, for whatever random reason, of her sister, and does something spiteful and pointless to show it.
However, she also has it in her to be sweet, and generous, and funny. She’ll be a leader, I guarantee it. It’s on to me to help shape what kind of leader she will be. So I work through my problems with other women. I write about them. I talk about them at therapy, and I intentionally interact with other women in front of my daughters. Not just the women who dress like me, but the ones who don’t, too. The ones who I probably would have hated, or ignored, or feared, if we were fourteen again.
When Anabelle comes home complaining about Leila, I tell her to try being nice. Invite her to play. Tell her to stop if she hurts her, but don’t hurt her back.
I think all moms secretly wish we could control the world, but we can’t. We can’t protect our children from everything. What we can do is teach kindness and inclusion. The “Mean Girl” phenomenon doesn’t have to happen. We have the power to stop it.
I invite you to join me in a pledge to raise daughters who include all kinds of girls in their friend circles. Start simple: Next time you come across a type of woman you would usually ignore, say “hello,” instead.
Elizabeth is a speculative fiction writer, award winning poet and playwright, feminist blogger, DV survivor, vegan, and mama times three from the Pacific Northwest. She writes about living and parenting with PTSD on her blog, Betty’s Battleground, where she has an open guest post call. You can join her Facebook Page, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter to see more of her story.
Let’s make a pledge together as mother’s to stand united in NOT raising a mean girl.