When I was one of the first moms to arrive for the Friday after-school pick up to find her curled up and alone, pretending to read her book in the middle of the chaos, I sensed a problem. How many times before have I seen kids escape into books? It’s actually quite a clever move because it’s missed by most adults: “Oh, look, she’s reading! Always reading, that good little girl.” Most people can’t find fault in reading. Most kids who always have their noses in books do so for a reason other than the joy of reading.
She waited until we reached the car, and then with tears welling in her eyes, gasping for breaths, she confessed: “Maestra Samuela had to talk to me on the playground because I pinched Cecilia because they were all making fun of me and Samuela just yelled at me and didn’t believe they were making fun of me.” By now she couldn’t breathe or speak as the tears flowed along with the emotions. “I don’t have any friends they all just like to make fun of me even my best friend Diletta doesn’t like me. I just couldn’t take it anymore they are all so mean, mamma. I just couldn’t so I pinched Cecilia and then I went by myself and now Samuela yelled at me. I’ve never been in trouble before I didn’t tell my teacher. And I couldn’t talk to Samuela because all I could do was cry.” And she cried and cried and cried as I held her.
I talked with her. Richard talked with her. We discussed doing the right thing; of course, pinching is never the right thing, or hitting or kicking or spitting or scratching. We offered ways to deal with the teasing, ways to deal with the anger that creeps in as a result of the humiliation from the teasing. We tried to help her to understand the difference between teasing and disagreeing. We talked about ignoring and playing along, and about this behavior being a way of communication among young girls. When Clara sings, “You are Roberta’s best friend! You are with Roberta!” instead of becoming angry and arguing, just sing something back or sing with her or run off to get some water. Coping. We warned that being on the other side of the teasing is just as dangerous. She admitted to being on that other side at times, too. I also issued the warning of a consequence if there are any more reports of the physical retaliation. (That was difficult for me to do...)
When the story of the events from her point of view finally became apparent, the actual “offense” wasn’t high drama or, when considered alone, reason for alarm. This came as no surprise, as we’ve witnessed similar interactions out back with neighbor kids. If someone tells her that her purple bike is pink, well, that can send her over the edge. Repeated attempts to persuade her to “let it go” or adopt a “Who cares?” attitude are useless. It incites her. I imagine that these seven-year-old girls quickly assess weakness and take aim. When I surmised that they probably treat each other the same way, she confirmed that they do and quickly called them mean.
We had one of those activity-packed weekends that inevitably ends with everyone wishing for just one more day before the start of the routine that Monday brings. For most of it, we were able to bury Friday’s events and emotions and enjoy the moments. Richard and I discussed it again in hushed tones before she joined us for breakfast, opting not to bring attention to it again. She reamained silent during the twenty-five minute drive to school with her dad, saving her only words for just before exiting the car: “I want to change schools.”
When he told me, I cried.
I need a good book to help me to help my sensitive child. Any suggestions?