You Have Problems

My daughter had a friend over last week. They were playing in her room when I heard the friend say, “You have problems.” My daughter responded with an amused, “No, I don’t.” and continued to play. The friend repeated it a few more times. “You have problems.”

“No, I don’t have problems.”

“Yes you do have problems. My mom told me you have problems.”

I was sitting in the living room listening to this exchange with my gut slowly shriveling up inside me with hurt and dread and guilt. What do you say in that kind of situation? I called the friend into the living room and politely asked her to stop saying that to my daughter and that if she continued to say it, I would send her home. The friend meekly complied. For about 2 minutes. Then I heard some furious whispering and my daughter burst out of her room crying, ran down the hall and out the door. I ran after her, worried and upset for her. She told me she didn’t want to play with her friend anymore because she was being mean. I wasn’t sure what to say to her, so I thought about what I would do if someone was being mean to me in my own house.

“If your friend continues to be mean and you don’t want to play with her anymore, you can ask her to go home. You don’t have to play with friends who are mean to you.” I wasn’t sure if she’d do it. My daughter’s self-esteem is low and she is so social and loving that she puts up with a lot from other kids for the chance to play with them.

I sat back down in the living room. Playing commenced. About 2 minutes went by when the friend whispered something else and my daughter said, in a clear and loud voice, “You’re being mean and I want you to go home.”

The friend left the house crying and I called her mom to let her know she was walking home (a few houses down) and why she was crying. I can describe the conversation with one word: awkward. When I hung up with the mom, I was still upset. Not at the friend, or even at the mom who told her daughter that my kid had problems, but just generally upset that this was probably just the tip of the iceberg to come. Being hurt by your friends sucks. Watching your child get hurt by her friends sucks about a thousand times more.

That night while I was making dinner, my daughter sat down at the table and asked me if she had problems.

“Do you think you have problems?” I countered.

“No.”

“Then you don’t have any problems.” And I meant it. Because, who doesn’t have problems? If you feel good about yourself and you are functioning well in society, you’re doing just fine. And if anyone tells you otherwise, just tell them to go home.

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Bullying 101

teen-bullies

I signed up for that writing class. And then I promptly forgot everything I was going to write. My brain was empty of thought. I didn’t look at my novel for a while. I read a book about writing instead.

Today, I posted the beginning of my first chapter to be critiqued by my peers in the class. I keep peeking to see what the comments are, but no one has responded yet. Let the bashing begin. I’ll try not to cringe.

Something I’m trying to incorporate in the character development of my main character is bullying. In my mind’s eye, she was bullied growing up by the people in her village. My only problem right now is how to portray this. I was never bullied. Maybe it was because my family moved around so much that no one got to know me well enough to try to push me around. Or maybe I just got lucky. People didn’t mess with me. I’m glad, obviously, since I had enough going on in my own head. I was enough of a bully to myself to need to get it from anyone else.

So I need a little help here. Were you ever the victim of bullying? What did they do to bully you? How did you respond? I know that I’d like to think I’d beat the everliving crap out of someone who pushed me around, but not all bullying is physical. I’m sure I could have easily been crushed by the emotional violence that girls can unleash.

If you are willing to share with me (and anyone else who reads this), please do so. I want to hear what happened. I want to know how it made you feel and what, if anything, you did about it. You’ll be helping me out. Really.