Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mean Girls

"It's not about aptitude. It's the way you're viewed. So it's very shrewd to be very very popular. Like me." -From Wicked

Kids really do say the darndest things. Sometimes we'll have a conversation with Peanut and the words that come out of her mouth are so hilarious, whether intentional or unintentional, I bury my hands in my face to avoid embarrassing her. Just last night at dinner, for example, she was trying to explain to My Director what she thought the cause of My Director's "g.i." issues were. I sat in stunned disbelief, chewing my food while subconsciously holding my nose as Peanut described in great detail what causes certain types of bowel movements.
I don't want Peanut ending up in a garbage can.
Or walking away from someone who did.
Other times the conversations are more serious in nature. Like being nice to others, accepting those who are different, and feelings of exclusion and inclusion. These conversations revolve mostly around girls. Sometimes, mean girls.

Little boys can be obnoxious. For the most part, they're rough-housing, insensitive little jerks. I should know. I used to be a little boy. But I don't worry about Peanut being able to handle herself with the boys. They push and she pushes right back. She stands her ground. Defends herself. Peanut has established herself as the boss. The alpha female. It's the other girls I'm most worried about. Because while boys might engage in physical combat, girls are all about mind games. And being popular.
As I wrote that, I couldn't believe it. This is really a topic of conversation now? Popularity and cliquey girls? Already? She's six for crying out loud.

Mind games and the race to the top of the popularity ladder recently became an issue after  My Director and I spoke to a friend a few weeks ago. This friend has a daughter who is a few years older than Peanut. She said it started in third grade - third grade! - for her daughter. The cliques. The catty behavior. The exclusion. Mean girls. Picking and choosing who's in and who's out depending on what you wear or what sport you play. Third grade. Geez. I immediately worried for future Peanut because she's not into sports. Then I stopped worrying about future Peanut's popularity - or not - because that's just ridiculous. I wouldn't have believed our friend if I didn't see it myself. In Kindergarten. Not so much the clothes or the sports. But the choosing of who's in and who's out.

I look at how Peanut interacts with her friends and classmates, and how she chooses. I see her retreat into herself when two girls she likes are playing with each other and she's not included, even if they're not doing it on purpose. Poor Peanut, I think. But Peanut is just as guilty sometimes. She can be bossy or controlling. After a recent play date where her friend clearly didn't have a good time because of Peanut's behavior, I made her call her on the phone and apologize. Then while talking about another friend a few days later, Peanut dropped THIS bomb on My Director, straight out of junior high school:
"Peanut, so-and-so tells me you're not nice to her sometimes." 
"Mommy, sometimes when people try too hard it makes me not like them."
No black jeans in the pile = tantrum.
It's so scary that this dynamic exists in Kindergarten. And that Peanut even talks like that. Who says "tries too hard" at her age? Who is she, Alicia Silverstone in Clueless? And while My Director and I might empathize with Peanut (who doesn't have that one annoying friend who tries too hard?), we insist she be nice to everyone. Acceptance. Patience. Understanding. Ironic coming from me, I know.

She was four years-old when we first spotted this dynamic. Yes, four. Peanut threw a fit one morning because she wanted to wear black jeans to daycare, even though she didn't own any pair of jeans. Let alone black ones. But her best friend was rocking the black-jeans look the day before. So now Peanut wanted to do the same. Really, ladies? You just learned to control your bowels and now you're being all Clueless about fashion?

Some kids prey on the weak. I saw it myself. My Director experienced it herself.  John Hughes made a career out of it. And even though we know now how unimportant that whole silly popularity race that many of us obsessed over was, I worry we are hopeless to prevent it from happening to Peanut. Then I once again realize it's ridiculous to worry about this right now. Or is it?

So here I am, less than two months until my 38th birthday, and again I'm experiencing angst. Over being accepted. Over mind games. Over girls. I don't want Peanut to be a mean girl. But I don't want her to fall into their trap either. Then again...

She's outgoing. She takes charge. (Bossy.) She's funny. She's type-A. So she's no victim. Is she a mean girl? Probably not. I could spot one pretty easily. But I'm on the lookout.

An incident involving Peanut's secrecy with us when she started Kindergarten reminded me of a famous quote from Goodfellas, which inspired THIS POST.


  1. I am a kindergarten teacher…everything you've said, I've seen it all.

    But I want to toss in an observation that may be helpful. I've noticed that children who are predominantly introverted (not shy) need alone time, or one-on-one conversations, to recharge and thrive. In kindergarten, an extroverted child might feel excluded if a pal needs a moment of silence. This past year, my class learned to use words to convey "I need some quiet time" and "Let's have a party!"! And I created spaces in the schedule where both types of activities were celebrated.

    I am once again delighted to have followed a Twitter link and found a fabulous blog! Have a happy summer :-)
    (PS: I deleted the 1st comment because it was missing the first word, "I"! Yikes. I haven't had enough coffee this morning!)

    1. Peanut is good at asking for alone time. Now I know why she does it. Thanks for the heads up!

  2. In kindergarten my daughter got teased by a few girls because she didn't wear nail polish and lip gloss. Yes. Kindergarten. That was Florida. We moved up to Minnesota in 1st Grade and didn't experience that kind of behavior again until 3rd Grade, but it's been mild exclusions/inclusions depending on what music you like or didn't like "I like Bieber, I like 1D"... smh.... Now, My Aunt who lived in Point Borough, NJ - Her daughter went through hell. It started in Kindergarten. Clothes, shoes, hair, the whole nine.... who got to go to the Girl Spa, who didn't... it's nuts the hoops my aunt had to jump through to keep her daughter from being the outcast... and then she had enough and home schooled both her kids. Her daughter, is still definitely older than her years fashion wise, however... she's still playing with Barbies (something that was previously uncool in 3rd grade!!!) and American Girl, and basically, still a child. Thank God!

    1. This is why I am a proponent of keeping her young and 'innocent' for as long as we can. PG movies and Pop Idols can wait.

  3. I know exactly what you mean having once been a girl myself but was shocked to hear my son's worries about clothing already, too (P's same age). "But, Mom no one else at my school wears 'fancy shirts!'" He would not wear a collared shirt to Kindergarten for fear of someone making fun of him. And I've had to correct the boys on his baseball team from pronouncing his name wrong to make fun of it. WTH - ganging up on another kid already? It frustratedone to see how the boys' parents were oblivious to it, and I worry about teasing only getting worse.


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