Today is Pink Shirt Day at my children’s school. It is an anti-bullying statement that the Toronto District School Board has adopted board wide. In theory, I think it is fabulous. But truthfully, I worry that all of this attention on bullying and the word being thrown around in far too many situations is actually drawing attention to the behaviours and making it kinda cool. I mean, teens try smoking or drinking or drugs despite all of our attempts to have them see the negative impact. Because what they see is a chance for power by doing it IN SPITE of our advice.
I kinda see this with bullying. Or, maybe the word bullying is too harsh. I do find the term way overused. Maybe it is simply being “mean”. Today the kids go through the motions and wear their pink shirts but I hear about some incredibly mean things happening in the schoolyard. And, honestly, it seems like it is a bit of a trend. It even seems to define and identify the Cool Kids. Especially the girls.
I have heard it far too many times – “Girls can be mean.” And yes, I know this is true. I know it because I was a girl and, sometimes, I was mean. But the world was still very small when I was little and I don’t think our meanness was as sophisticated or started as early. Maybe I am being naive, I don’t know, but I can tell you one thing, I am shocked by what I hear.
I have an 8 year-old daughter and a nearly 12 year-old son so, I’ve been through this stage before with my boy. But nothing could prepare me for the cold-hearted ugliness of these little girls. With the boys it was simple: Boys fight, they hit each other or yell, they move on, they are friends again.
With the girls it is far more manipulative and hard-hitting. And, if like me you happen to have a girl who doesn’t play by those rules or isn’t as sophisticated, watch out. These little divas find their weakness and pounce. You can not turn your back for a minute without being left out of a club, told you are weird, or risk losing your best friend. For a girl like mine this is incredibly confusing, she simply does not get it. She tries to play along but, because she doesn’t really understand the complexity of the game, she finds herself missing a step and standing on the outside.
Now don’t get me wrong, she is not the only one. Really there are only a few who are immune and even they have to work very hard at it. I hear these girls talking about the boys they like (yup, grade 2), who they hate and who are their friends (this is constantly changing), and encouraging others to do the same. This is what I find most disturbing. I want to make it clear, as far as I know this is NOT happening to my daughter. So, this is NOT a personal rant. My girl is pretty confident in herself, although sometimes unsettled when these things happen, and is rarely the target. She seems to have a number of friends in various groups.
However, she has been telling me lately about one friend in particular who “everyone hates” and it is upsetting to her. My daughter was told that she shouldn’t be friends with her or others may not be friends with her anymore. She didn’t seem to get it or chose to overlook the threat but it really bothered her that people have decided not to like this girl.
I know this little girl, she is cute and fun and friendly. She is a good friend to my daughter and they always enjoy each other’s company. However, what I found out from my daughter when this came to light is that her little friend had a fight with one of the Alpha Girls and since that point she has been on the Do Not Friend List. Basically, the Alpha Girls have spread the word that being her friend is risky business and you do it at the risk of becoming an outcast yourself.
Does this not seem incredibly cruel? I am proud of my girl for not giving in but I also worry about her with all of this craziness going on. How does one navigate these treacherous waters or help their children do so? For now, it has been more the revelation that this is happening than any kind of emotional response from my daughter but I know that how we respond now will influence the way she deals with this stuff for the rest of her life.
So, do you see this trend for meanness happening too? Do you think Mean is the New Black?