“I asked my friend if she would fold me a fortune teller out of paper like she did for the other girls,” my daughter told me after school.
“But she said she only makes them for her prettiest friends,” she said and her lip quivered.
That girl is not your friend, I whispered in her ear.
It’s my second time to have a second grade daughter and this isn’t our first rodeo with mean girls. But that doesn’t make it any easier.
I hugged my little girl and reminded her that not only was she beautiful on the outside, she was on the inside, too–where it really mattered.
“What did you say to her?” I asked, trying not to show my anger.
Nothing. She said. I turned away from her.
Sometimes the best thing to say to a mean girl is just that–Nothing. It speaks volumes.
Like most 7 year old girls, mine is obsessed with cheerleading, much to her older (band member) siblings dismay. “This will pass, right mom?”
She’s never been a cheerleader, never really performed a cheer, but that doesn’t stop her from joining the other second grade girls from cheering for the boys playing football at recess. We are the Texas stereotype down here. The struggle is real.
My daughter explains one of the girls who is a “real live cheerleader for her brother’s team” has put herself in charge. So naturally, she tells everyone what to do, where to stand, what to say. She’s the “Cheer Coach of the Second Grade” if you will.
On the playground, after this had been going on for a few days, a new girl wanted to join the “squad.” But the Coach wouldn’t let her “because she didn’t like the dress” the new girl was wearing.
It was at this point in the retelling of the story, I stopped my daughter, “What did you say about that?”
“Well, Mom, I felt bad for the new girl. She’s really nice and I liked her dress,” my daughter said. “And it made me sad when she sent her away.”
She finished her story, but I could tell we weren’t done.
Because sometimes the best thing we can say to a mean girl is stop.
“Honey, you know that yucky feeling you had when your “friend” said you weren’t pretty? It’s the exact same way the new girl felt when she was excluded. Here’s the thing about girls who are mean-they change the rules. What happens if you wear red tomorrow and she decides everyone wearing red can’t cheer? I think if you stand up for your new friend, you both might feel better.”
And I could tell by the look on her face, she was thinking hard about this. I knew she understand standing up for someone being targeted, might make you the target.
After school the next day over a snack, she said very nonchalantly, “Mom, it worked. The girl in charge changed her mind and now everyone gets to cheer.”
Moms, here’s where we get to teach our daughters and speak into their lives that we are sisters. We protect each other. We support one another. We turn away from the mean girls by saying nothing. And sometimes we tell them to stop making up their own rules because we won’t follow them. Because when we go along with something wrong, we aren’t helping. We can encourage our daughters to stand up for each other.
It didn’t take more than two weeks of school for my daughter to encounter her first mean girl. It happens. And maybe that little girl wasn’t even trying to be mean, but she was asserting control over others. You know what’s crazy? We’ve all seen it in grown up women and it’s just as ugly.
We can live by the same rules. The next time a friend talks badly about another or excludes someone, we can do the same thing we want our girls to do.