Saturday, April 16, 2005

Me....ow....w.....w...... Hiss....sssss.......

Blogroll Me!

Girls, girls girls. Doesn't the blog title give it away?

Today for Shabbat I had my three kids at home, and four "extra" kids-- my older son had a friend sleep over, my youngest son had a friend come for lunch and spend the afternoon, and my middle child, my daughter, had two girlfriends come for lunch and spend the rest of the day.

I am fascinated by children, by their actions, by their priorities, by their conversations and especially by the dynamics. Yes, I was once a kid (sometimes still behave like one, too) but I was different than my children. I mostly had neighborhood children to play with, because I was quite a loner at school for many years. L'havdil, thank G-d my children are outgoing, social, involved, and athletic.

I am more than pleased to watch how they interact with their friends because at times I think I am living vicariously through them. My daughter is quite the social butterfly and I find that since kindergarten, when she started attending her school, her social life has exceeded mine-- she's only in grade two, but her calendar is rather full.

But I watch these seven- and eight-year-old girls and wonder at some of their behaviors. They are fickle, they are catty, they are petulant, there are egocentric. And many of them turn out to be just plain mean!

Of course I want to protect A. from the meanness, the bullying that I see often runs rampant in its own way among socializing skills, but I'm also sometimes at a loss as to what to say, as I'm sure my mother was at a loss to say to me on those many times I'd come home crying because kids or girls "were mean to me." I had no sisters, I was a loner for many years, so I didn't really know for the earliest years what it meant to have girlfriends -- yes, I was friendly to everyone, but I was shy, and that held me back in many ways.

Yes, I should allow behaviors to develop or change over years, but I can foresee that several of my daughter's peers will be as mean and as catty in 10 - 15 years as they are today. Many of them take after their mothers, I suppose, so their mothers might not see anything wrong in their daughters' behaviors. But I see it, and oftentimes just have to keep my mouth shut about it, or complain to my husband, or just try to have my daughter keep different company.

When A. was in SK, I was already forewarned: "Her grade -- the girls in her grade -- are a tough bunch." But sadly, "forewarned" does not necessarily mean "forearmed"...


tuesdaywishes said...

(Sorry this comment is so long, but you've pushed some big buttons for me.)

Girls can be really tough on each other. If they are starting to get catty in Grade 2, I'm sure by middle school the 'Queen Bee' will be well-entrenched and the 'Wanna-Bees' will be copying her and carrying out her orders. I don't think much can be done to prevent that dynamic, as it is so old that you can read about it in "Little Women" and "Little
House on the Prarie". However, if you are worried about your daughter, there are some things to start telling her NOW, to help her not be victimized later.

1) Only you decide who you are. Don't tell her she can't do or wear or try something because 'no one else does it'. Show her how you make descisions based on your own needs, values and desires, not by what 'everyone else does'.

2) If someone does put her down or make her feel bad, tell her to stand up for herself. Don't tell her to take it to the teacher, or another adult. I know that is what the school recommends, but I think calling in the adult disempowers the victim. Remember that the bully in these cases is no older than the victim, and is only stronger by virtue of being able to convince others that what she says is important. Teach your girl to say 'You don't make the rules' 'It's as much mine as it is yours' and the ever popular 'Says Who?'.

3)Consequences and conclusions. Much of the Queen Bee's power comes from other girls fearing her. But really, what can she do? Get your child excluded by the snobby catty crowd? So what? Girls tend to 'awfulize' and think that if they defy the ruling clique, something horrible will happen. In my experience, what happens by letting the cats sharpen their claws on you is much, much worse. So should your girl experience this kind of 'social death', don't let her see your pain over it. It will only reinforce the idea that something terrible has happened.

4)Help her seek out the nice girls in the class NOW. Don't encourage her to be friends with the catty types. Trust me, there really are a lot more of us nice, tolerant, inclusive people than there are of the other kind. If you think your daughter shows Queen Bee tendencies, remind her of the importance of being open and accepting to all kinds of people. Help her find activities that make her feel strong and powerful so she doesn't have to get that 'fix' from being the boss of her clique. Don't allow "mean talk". Get her to read "Blubber" and discuss it with her.

M said...

Ah yes. Often I envy my brothers their simplistic social attitudes. "Raffi was mad because Yitzi took the ball he wanted to use." "Wow, what happened?" "Raffi tackled him in football." "And then?" "Uh, nothing. Why?"

Luckily, my class has by now largly surpassed the catiness, ect, but even simple conversations between friends can be charged with the tensions of give and take, inclusion and popularity. I think in this aspect, girls have absurdly sensitive social antanae that simply don't exist in boys. Unfortunately, the girls with the most insecurity seem to have the weakest, making them easy prey for the denizens of the super-intimidating Queen Bee cliques.

Mirty said...

I guess I should thank my lucky stars that my step-daughter is a sweetheart. Of course, she's older, but she just has a good neshama. If we have a party, she always seeks out the child (of any age) who is alone in a corner. She naturally befriends any creature (including dogs and cats) who seems to be alone. I should remember that when some of her other characteristics drive me up the wall.

On the other hand, I remember very catty and mean girls in my own grade school when I was a child. Sad.

Eli7 said...

I graduated high school a couple of years ago and had a relatively good experience with the otehr girls in my grade. So, when I recently saw the movie "Mean Girls" I asked my high-school aged sister about it, saying that I thought it was slightly overdone. To which she responded "that's exactly what my grade is like!"

If anyone has seen the movie, they know how scary that is, but suffice it to say that girls can just be cruel and mean and terrible and there's no way to stop them. Despite all the learning about middot and good deed and chesed, somehow girls will be girls.