Dear Mrs. R-B.,

I understand willful ignorance. It’s a powerful thing – especially when it comes to our children. Heck, I spent a year denying that my baby girl had autism. So I get it. I really do.

But one day, something snaps. It has to. When you live with someone, love someone, PARENT someone, eventually the time comes when you see something that wakes you up – that drags you out of your bright shiny bubble of blissful ignorance. Something that just doesn’t sit right. Feel right. Can’t. Be. Right.

I find it hard – no, if I’m being honest I find it IMPOSSIBLE – to believe that in your daughter’s eleven years on this planet you haven’t had that moment yet. That moment just a split second before she plastered on that sweet, “Who me?” smile. That moment when you caught a glimpse of the face beneath the facade – the one that she shows to kids like my Katie. The ugliness beneath the “I’m so cool it hurts” exterior. Because, Mom? She is so cool that she hurts.

She plays with kids like mine for sport. She toys with the power that comes with your money, with your leniency, with the cool stuff that you buy her that serves as currency in elementary school. Currency that buys her not friends but minions who do her bidding lest they be her next target.

So it was in kindergarten when she asked the kids at a birthday party to raise their hands if they didn’t like the birthday girl.

So it was that two months ago, my baby girl finally – finally – came clean and told me about her insidious cruelty – her oh-so-crafty jibes, her just-under-the-radar manipulation.

So it is that her brand-new, begged for jacket – the one she simply had to have because she wanted so desperately to fit in – went abandoned after one wearing. So it was that I wouldn’t pull the story out of her until six months later when finally she could say to me, “You Know Who told everyone that it was SO last year as soon as I wore it. That she couldn’t believe I’d wear something so lame. But Mama, she’d worn one exactly like it the day before! I felt awful about it, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. I’m sorry.”

And so it is that I clean up mess after mess and try day after day to convince my girl that her worth – or God forbid lack thereof – cannot ever be determined by your daughter’s – or anyone else’s – opinion of her.

And so it is that my girl continues to swallow your girl’s shit and not tell me until days, weeks, months later. Because she thinks she has to. Because everyone else around her thinks they have to.

Because a school can’t change a child whose parents don’t see who she is.

But how is it? How is it that every teacher and every parent and every kid knows what you don’t see? How is it possible that you have no idea how much pain your daughter leaves in her wake? How is it possible that you’ve NEVER caught her in the act of making someone’s life miserable when she spends so much time perfecting it?

She’s good. I get that. The teachers have told me just how good. But she’s eleven. And you’re her mom.

It’s time, Mrs. R-B. Please. Not just for Katie but for so many more like her who are bound to cross her path. Watch your child. Really watch. See what’s happening. Do something.




69 thoughts on “untitled

  1. The sad truth is, these parents don’t see it, because they refuse to. They can’t acknowledge their child as anything less then wonderful in their eyes, and twist circumstances so whatever they’ve been told becomes about how others just don’t understand their child or how others must not have all the information to draw the conclusions they do. I’ve seen it up close in people I know, and it boggles the mind. In my experience, (and boys are a bit different than girls–not quite so brutal), life doesn’t get better till 8th grade. A very long time to wait. Good luck.

    • And sometimes, it’s because the child learned from the parent….

      My daughter fought one of these for years – K through 8th grade – it wasn’t until 7th grade that she finally started accepting that it wasn’t her who had the problem, it was the Queen Bee. Fortunately they went to separate high schools (one of the reasons behind our choice of schools), and are now at the same small university – but no longer are in the same circle.

      And an excellent book – Queen Bees and Wanna-Be’s….

  2. This breaks my heart. I’m so sorry for your daughter’s pain, for the pain this child has caused to all of them.

    As for the mother? I’d first take the high road and ask the school (guidance counselor? teacher? principal?) to call her in and speak with her honestly about her daughter but if that didn’t work I admit that I’d be sorely tempted to send her this letter, anonymously with identifying details removed, to give her a chance to really think about it without being forced on the defensive publicly. It might be the wake up call she so desperately needs to burst that bubble of deniability.

    Hang in there… xox

  3. I remember That Girl all too well from my childhood. This post almost had me in tears.

    Thank you for speaking out against bullying – especially the bullying of autistic children.

  4. I sincerely hope you give this letter to Mrs. R-B. She needs to read it.

    That being said I am sure the apple does not fall far from the tree and the behavior you see in this little girl is just a mirror image of her mother’s own disdain for others who don’t measure up.

    Either way, we all know how lovely Katie is…truly inside and out she beams beauty and compassion.

    Just like her Mama.

  5. If I didn’t have to walk away from the computer to get ready for work, I would probably exceed the maximum comment length in this comment. Thank you for what you shared — and believe it or not, it says something about the parent/child relationship that Katie felt like she could tell you, even six months later. In some ways childhood has always been hard BUT I am pretty sure it is harder now. I am a little farther down this parent of a daughter road than you, and I can tell you it has had its very, very daunting moments in the bullying/peer pressure realm. When I told a bullying expert about the situation once, and she was asking me if I had approached the other parents, I told her I thought the dad would be receptive but I wasn’t sure about the mom. She said you would be surprised how many mothers enable this behavior. UGH. I know that we all have to weather some adversity as preteens and teens, but when the cruelty turns systematic, we as adults can’t stick our heads in the sand. I can say that once our situation was brought out into the open (i.e., I stopped saying “just ignore it, she’s just insecure, you are beautiful/confident/loved and it doesn’t matter what she says” and involved others (the principal and schoolr resource officer), the situation did improve significantly. I was afraid it would go underground but it really does seem to have improved. I never did approach the other parents directly – maybe I should have but ….. I didn’t.

    I think I have shared my blog post about this w/you before so I apologize if I am duplicating: http://waytenmom.blogspot.com/2011/05/nothing-blog-about-bullying.html

    Also, I recommend Jodee Blanco’s book Please Stop Laughing at Me to give you a view of a bullied child’s perspective (a hard read but ….) and her site: http://jodeeblanco.com/

    Hang in there — I know that’s generic advice and easier said than done but you know it is said from a very heartfelt and empathetic place.

  6. Aw, hugs for Katie!!!! And tell her that I promise by her 10th high school reunion, that girl is going to be the one who is jealous of Katie!

  7. don’t we all know at least one of those girls. Unfortunately, they learn this behavior from somewhere. Often times mean girls grow into mean moms, spawning more mean girls. I hope that this mom gets a huge wake up call.

  8. The sad truth Jess is that this mom doesn’t see who/what her daughter is because she probably is the same way now and was the same way when she was younger. The sad truth is that this child will continue to be this way .. contiue to hurt others because she knows no better.. because it is what she has seen her “role model” do… because it is the only way she knows to get the attention she so desperatey seeks. Your wonderful letter will do nothing because the sad truth is the mother will not care enough about the other children who are getting hurt. She will believe that it is just you moaning because your daughter isn’t as popular or as well liked as her daughter is. It breaks my hurt that Katie and any child has to go through this. Maybe you can have Katie and a group of friends over for fun events – help her build a circle of friends she can feel comfortable and secure enough with that she won’t have to care what this child thinks. And keep installing in her how it doesn’t matter what others think – it matters who Katie is deep inside and it matters that she is loved by ohters who really care. Keep showing pride in what she does and who she is – it will eventually be the thing that matters to her.
    Hang in there Jess. Hang in there Katie.

  9. Ugh. I happen to agree with Sunday… The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I bet that mom doesn’t think there’s anything wrong because she was the same way & everyone “loved” her.

    K knows this girl too well & even in 1st grade she has done much damage to his self image & confidence. It is so hard to know when to stand up for yourself, no matter how old.

    I hope things get better for Katie. She does not deserve to feel this way. Ever.

  10. Wow, I am shocked that a kid in kindergarten could be that mean. That is beyond explanation. Inherent evil or something. Can you imagine what must go on at home to make a kid act that way, bc a kid doesn’t come up with those things on her own. Without someone modeling that behavior. That is why the parents do nothing. They are probably the same. Hopefully Katie can stay far, far away from her, and hopefully as they get older, the other kids will realize this “bully” is not worth their time or tears.

  11. My friends and I used to joke that we could pick out the future bullies by looking at their mothers. It’s no joke that years later, we realized how right we were, so very sad. I hope this girls mother reads this and wakes the hell up! Katie is so strong for her sister everyday and she certainly doesn’t deserve that girl in her life! Big hugs for Katie!

  12. Just another reminder of how important it is that we as parents teach our children compassion. And that it is not okay to be willfully hurtful. My heart goes out to you and Katie. But also to this other girl who will never have the chance to develop meaningful relationships and may never understand why. Good luck!

  13. We have a boy like that in school. His parents are aware of it, and just don’t see it as bullying. When we see the family coming, we leave. I also contacted the guidance department, with a lot of detail and why I believe there is need for intervention- for the child himself, not just for the sake of mine.

  14. A really good book that might help Katie is “Bullies, Bigmouths and So-Called Friends”
    It helped my son no end.
    The worse thing is that the bullies like this are often enabled by their parents, in our school it was the daughters of the deputy principal who have been the worst bullies and they act with impunity and the teachers either don’t see it or they are too afraid to say anything being scared for their own positions – it got to the point that one child wrote a note and put it in the girls bag saying that she was a bully and a teacher at the school who used to be a policewoman stood in front of the class with a pile of the kids workbooks saying that “you know what I used to be, I shall be working out who did this” yet this particular child had been mercilessly bullying the other girls AND boys for years. Sometimes the parents and the enablers just can’t see the disaster that these children are! Anyhow, the book I mentioned allowed my son to work through a lot of his reactions to what his “so-called friends” were doing and it made a huge difference to his confidence – it is aimed at kids and written really well.

  15. I ache for Katie. I think we have all experienced the wrath of a “You-Know-Who”. If only the parents of this girl would notice the cruelty…and take action. *sigh* I hope they do.

  16. I don’t think kids learn that sort of cruelty in a vacuum, Jess. i think they learn that sort of thing from their parents.

  17. My heart just breaks for Katie. I was there once and I know just how she feels. Parents really need to wake up and be aware of what their child is doing. Has there been a meeting with the parent? If the parent won’t do something the shook needs to intervene. I hope it gets better for Katie. I know it will.

  18. I knew a few girls like this in school. I wish I had known then what it took me decades more to realize; they only have power if I let them. Wishing with all my heart that your beautiful Katie could see and KNOW that for herself now. Sadly, I think the other girl won’t change unless/until something forces her to.

    • we talk about that all the time – that they only have the power we allow them to have. i couldn’t agree more. unfortunately it’s tough to remember even at 41 – and nearly impossible at 11.

  19. Ditto on the observation that these kids are often the product of parents who want their kids to be cool more than they want their kids to be good people. Who knows where that pattern of making themselves feel better at someone else’s expense started– probably a few generations back. It’s toxic, and it is terrible that Katie had to feel that poison.

    I hope that Katie, with all her beyond-her-years-wisdom, can glimpse the difference between the kind of life and relationships she has, and what that bully has: it’s the difference between love, which is real and solid, and the kind of power that is contingent and always has to be renegotiated at ever higher cost until it provokes complete rejection. It is beyond terrible to be on the receiving end of that negotiating, but the wheel will turn.

    Thanks for writing this– it’s going to be dinner table conversation at my house, and I’ll bet a lot of others!


  20. I have kids in middle school…and not to strike terror in your heart…but middle school is when “those” girls reign supreme. Status is everything, and the social structure for high school is laid out. Their parents don’t see it because they are “those” parents…and honestly, they often encourage and praise that behavior. In my experience…and my experiences with my kids being bullied is LEGION…there is nothing you can do about “those” girls or “those” parents. If the parents are not naive and blind…which some truly are… they are bullies themselves who have perfected the act of snobbery and have taught their children well. Now, on the flip side, I have stopped spending emotional energy trying to stop the unstoppable. It is like trying to stop a flood with a paper towel. I have done everything in my power to build up my children and give them power of their own…I do not encourage them to lower themselves to the level of others, but I want them to be tough and resilient and strong…let’s face it, the world is tough. There will continue to be bullies around us all of our lives. And, typically, when a bully runs into someone who couldn’t care less about them, they go look for a weaker target. (That stinks for the weaker target, I know.) You are protective of your girls, for good reason, and I know that you want SOME aspect of your NT child’s life to be easier than it is at home. I totally get that. My NT is a boy who is sweet and smart and loved by the teachers….and hated by the other kids who want boys to be rough and athletic and cool. He is soooooo NOT cool. But, I don’t care about cool. I want him to stay sweet and smart and loved by teachers. Sometimes I involve the school…sometimes I don’t. I try not to wear out my welcome. I have talked to the principal and/or counselor maybe six times this year…when situations were extreme in language (like being called a mother-f***er) or when violence was used…but I didn’t talk to them the other forty or fifty times. And I am not exaggerating. The schools are overwhelmed…the kids know there are no real consequences. What are they going to do? Yell at them? Put them in detention? It is heart-breaking, and I hate it more than I can say. So, do what YOU can…find what you CAN control. You can give your girl tools for her survival toolbox. There are lots and lots of resources. I try to teach my kids to use snappy comebacks…humor usually diffuses a lot of surface-level bullying. For the bad stuff, I tell them to hold their tongue, get out of the situation quickly, and tell an adult or two or three. They have to learn the difference between tattling and alerting an adult to danger. And, I always remind my kids, that although it is no excuse for bullying, try to imagine what this child may be coming from. Regardless of family income, the reality is that children are abused and neglected every day. A girl being sexually abused, will start to do some pretty severe acting out in those tween years. A boy being verbally bullied, not to mention physically, by an adult will come to school and take it out on everyone. I have been in the school office when some of these kids have a parent come to pick them up…and I am afraid for them. I was in the therapist’s waiting room just yesterday, listening to a father verbally badger and bully his kids and talk threateningly about their mother (ex-wife)…and I “wonder” why they need therapy??? So, continue to be strong, Mama Jess. Nothing could have prepared me for how hard it can be to parent. And it isn’t my own who make it hard…it is the world. I consider myself a “warrior mom,” and I know you are, too. We walk a fine line carrying our mighty swords…we want to sweep the path clear for our kids and remove the obstacles…but, as good moms, we can’t do that. We are not immortal. We won’t always be there. We have to help them find their own inner-warriors. Watching my kids lose their innocence…when they discover that real life can be brutal…is the most painful part of parenting so far. And it is a terrible pain. If you don’t believe me, ask your mom. She watches you fight your battles here everyday…and I would be willing to bet that her “warrior mom’s” heart breaks a little every time. And, please remember how very, very blessed your girls are to have a warrior mom. Many children do not. They are left to flounder on their own. You are a good mom, and the level of your pain speaks to the level of your caring. Onward and upward, fellow warrior!

  21. Bullies are desperate for attention. Who knows what’s going on in that girls house. I’m not by ANY means, defending her…but if her parents don’t see the bullying, what else are they missing in their family?
    Katie is a beautiful, smart, compassionate girl. I know it’s hard to believe that for her when something like this is happening. I pray this child’s mother sees, and the school sees. It should not be tolerated. Ever.
    I was picked on pretty badly as a kid. I wore glasses, was in the band, and loved broadway shows when every one else loved New Kids On The Block (wow, I just dated myself, lol).
    My heart goes out to her, and your family. I know the pain it causes.

  22. I love this blog. I love how you tied in the denial of seeing your child with autism to seeing a child as a manipulator/bully…wake up people! Your child could be the one bullying, stealing, or manipulating. They are CHILDREN, this is how they learn, it is our jobs to teach them why what they are doing is wrong, not to ignore it and pretend they are perfect.

  23. Kudus for calling like it is. We, as parents, ARE responsible for our children’s behaviors. Good, bad, and unfortunately AWFUL as well.

  24. Bullying shouldn’t happen to anyone, but it hurts my heart just a tiny bit more that it’s happening to a girl as empathetic, sweet and wise as your Katie. Katie is lucky to have you in her corner as her mama. I’m so sorry this is happening.

  25. This has been our saga for the last two years – kindergarten and first grade. What I try to stress with the administration and teachers is that I recognize that girls act out this way when they have voids in their own emotional lives – that meanness comes most often from sadness. My daughter’s instigator is a girl going through a divorce – as a classroom community we are trying to come to terms with how to help her heal, because it’s still early.

    But I also have to help my daughter heal.

    I’m off to the end-of-year picnic to keep an eye on things – work be damned!

    Good luck, Jess. Katie is a star – and I read in her situation that the other girl knows no money or material item will help her reach Katie’s internal gold, and so she tries to take it down.

    What’s amazing is how true to herself Katie stays, as I read in your posts.

    Best to you…. Keep us posted.

  26. Ahhh…..yes one of those girls. I had one of those to make my life hell in Elementary and Jr High. Got away from her and her posse for High School. Best time of my life school wise. Did’nt realize school could be so fun and not have to worry. Damn Bullies suck! Bless Katie’s heart. I know those feelings all to well.

  27. I am so sorry that Katie has to deal with this. My son was bullied last year and it drove me crazy. It’s a tough lesson to learn at a young age but my son has now learned that some people enjoy making others miserable. We dealt with the situation though the school and this year the bullying stopped. I wish he could have held onto his innocence a little longer.

  28. It literally boggles my mind that parents cannot see and perhaps perpetuate this kind of behavior in their children. What happened to embracing individuality? Enjoying each person for the special gift they bring to the world? Maybe being the mother of a special needs child, it all seems more in your face than before or maybe times have changed from when I grew up in a rural area in the midwest, but I don’t understand how we have so many cruel children in this world. It does not bode well for our world. Cruel children without a wake-up call or better guidance grow up to be cruel adults.

  29. Perfect but, SEND the letter and all other parents should send the letter too because if you don’t send “your particular” letter, then the bully and the bullies mothe/father (the teachers) win as bullies.. Too many parents of children that are bullied end up backing off to avoid waves when waves are just what are needed…
    Love you,

  30. I could have written this (well perhaps not quite so eloquently). My own Kate has a girl like this in her class as well. At Kate’s birthday party this girl stated very loudly, during a typical girl discussion of cute boys in their class, that Kate shouldn’t care about the boys because, “they all hate you anyway”. She continually chips away at Kate’s self esteem, saying her clothes are “ugly”, she’s “a dork” etc. etc. After Kate confided in this girl (when she thought they were friends) that she takes a special injectable medication for a condition she was born with, the girl told all the other kids in the class that Kate had a “gross condition” and that she was “handicapped” (should I be glad she didn’t use the R word?) I have spoken to this girl’s mother, yes. She acknowledged that there might be some unkindness going on, but said things like “girls are a handful” and ” it takes two, doesn’t it?” I feel that the best I can do at this point is support Kate, continue to encourage her to confide in me, coach her at what to say when certain insults are hurled, and demand that the school NOT put them in the same class next year. Secretly, I like to take solace in my sister in law’s philosophy of….”the girl’s a b@*ch, but so is karma….”

  31. I for one am so grateful that my daughter’s schools in K-5 and 6-8 emphasized character education and social & emotional learning (SEL).

    There was still bullying, of course (because kids are human and status jockeying is a human trait), but it was dialed WAY back and didn’t seem to be persistent–Bobbie would be a bully for a while, then give it up; a while later Vickie would go through a bout etc. It seemed like esp after 3rd grade, the kids themselves policed the bullying and protected the kids who were most likely to be bullied. The K-5 school also had an explicit “buddy program”, teaming up older children with younger children for reading and playground time.

    The middle school SEL program emphasized addressing conflict & conflict resolution; the class met twice a week for an hour each time. It was just engrained into school culture.

    I wish more public schools could invest in SEL.

    • ours actually does, but it sounds less intensive than the program you mention. truthfully, it all seems to bounce off this kid. no matter how much the school does, it won’t stick without it happening (or not being systematically undone) at home.

  32. Oooh – I feel your pain just reading this. And it brings back so many personal memories. But Jess, I could never share this stuff with my Mom – so take a bow.

    Mrs. R-B, and your “sweet” daughter, let me say that you picked the wrong kid to mess with. You have NO IDEA what’s coming!

    • thanks, lady. i appreciate hearing that because it kills me that it takes her so long to tell me. i almost never get it in real time.

  33. It’s good that she has a mother like you. I was bullied some in middle school, and tried to telly mom one time, as two older girls said they were going to beat me up after school. My mom ignored my terror, but I found a teacher to walk me to the bus. (This was in the early 70’s). As my sons started school, I threatened to thrash them if I EVER heard them being cruel to another child – they knew I was joking about the thrashing but understood that they’d have to face my wrath. As it turned out, my old son was bullied a lot in middle school. I went to the school and talked to the coaches and teachers, but Rich still carries the mental scars around.

  34. I had a conversation with a 4 year old once..who told me she and her 2 friends couldn’t play with the 4th girl because they were wearing Sandals and she had on sneakers. She told me..my mom says I don’t have to play with anyone I don’t want to. She says I can make my own rules. and my rules today are no sneakers. The 4th girl cried. I took her to her teacher who was well aware of what this girl was like..but was doing nothing.
    I was bad that day. I went back and told her that maybe the 3 girls wouldn’t play with her because THEY had pony tails and she didn’t. It made her think…but I don’t think she got it.

    4 freaking years old.

  35. There is no other way to put it, mean people suck! I’m sorry for Katie, and for you. I can’t wait until the day Katie puts her in her place by showing her that compassion will accomplish great things. You are beautiful in every way Katie! Keep doing exactly what you’ve been doing!

  36. As a former target of girls like Mrs. R-B’s daughter, I don’t think I’ll ever figure out what drives them to be so cruel. It baffled me then and it still does. So sorry to hear that Katie has had to deal with this as well. Sending love.

  37. Oh, dear, sweet, precious and brilliant Katie… my heart just hurts for you. Sending love and hugs from someone who gets it. I’ve been right where you are so many times before. (Honestly, sometimes I feel like I’m still there.) Hang in there, beautiful, and know that it’s not you who has a problem. It’s her problem, and it always will be. As difficult as it may be sometimes, never let her steal your joy – I promise that it’s worth way too much for her to handle. 😉

  38. At the risk of sounding petty (as I think this is something Katie would never brag about in a million years), has this awful girl modeled for Ralph Lauren? No? Well that settles it then. Katie wins at life.

    In all seriousness, Katie will win at life. Kindness trumps cruelty, even though kindness doesn’t get the same recognition as cruelty in our lives. At least some of the peers will eventually lose their fear of manipulation and cease to let the mean girl wield her power over them. It might not happen in the next year, or even by high school, but it will happen.

  39. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! My daughter is in high school and still has this problem. I copied this and sent it to her high school principal beause it so beautifully expressed what I couldn’t!

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