I picked up my granddaughter from school last week. She was so busy yacking with some other girls that she didn't see me - or hear me when I called her. I looked at her standing there with her friends so involved in her conversation...so pretty, smoothing her hair back, hip jutting out, clothing very trendy. I was glad she had friends to talk to. So different from my boy who is so alone at his school.
She finally spotted me and got in the car. We had a little time to kill before going to pick up ZBoy, so we chatted. I asked her how her day was and she said "oh, it was okay... except for this one boy in my class. We hate him!" My ears perked up at the "we" in the sentence. It sounded a lot like group-think had invaded my granddaughter's life.
"Why do you hate this boy?" I asked. Her response was a long list of grievances about his behavior - not towards her in particular but in general. From her description, I suspected this boy may have Tourettes.
Z took fencing with a boy who had Tourettes. He was a charming person with impeccable manners - but he would occasionally twitch or stomp his feet or bark. During one of the classes, I sat next to his mother and asked about him. He was being homeschooled now. He'd gone to the same school my boy goes to, but was bullied mercilessly. They tried the Virtual School, but discovered that light, especially long exposure to electronic light, triggered his most severe symptoms. So homeschooling was the way they decided to go.
So I asked her, "Are you a Mean Girl?"
The question shocked her and she shook her head, saying no-no-no!
Then I told her that I thought maybe she was.
I explained that her hatred of someone who had never done anything to her was wrong. That she had no idea about his life or what challenges that kid might be facing. And I asked how she would feel if someone decided to hate her and make her life miserable for no reason.
And I talked to her about ZBoy. He's a normal kid. He's quiet and respectful. He likes to read and play video games. He's a Star Wars, Pokemon, and Transformers fan. And yet, for some reason, the kids of his school have made him an outcast. He gets pushed around, has balls thrown at his head, teased and is treated badly in general. He doesn't understand why. Is it because he's a little on the chubby side? Or could it be his glasses? Or maybe they're just envious because he's obviously smart? We don't know the answer, but have arranged for a different school for next year because of it.
She was very quiet for a bit, thinking things over. She tried another tactic, talking about some girl in her class and how she would punch her if that girl messed with her friends. She says THAT girl is a mean girl.
And I told her that SHE was a Mean Girl too. You can't walk around looking for a fight, physical or otherwise and NOT be a mean girl. Feeling superior to other people with no reason (or even with reason) can make you a mean girl. Teasing other people and hurting their feelings for no reason makes you a mean girl.
You don't know what kind of reaction they'll have to your behavior. They might fight back. Or they might be depressed. They might flunk out of school even if they have the ability to do well. Or, in some cases, they might kill themselves because you've contributed to feelings of such inferiority that they don't feel like life is worth living.
I asked her if she wanted to be the cause of any of those things. Her eyes teared up and she shook her head. She just wanted to be popular. And thought that this was the way to go.
Granted, I'm not in the school system. The Mean Girl/Mean Boy culture seems to be everywhere - but is that really the way to be popular these days? By running other people down? What happened to being nice, polite, and courteous? Helping other people who need it? Including people who might otherwise be left out? I always thought that was the way to be a good (and sometimes popular) person. I am very disappointed that my granddaughter doesn't believe that.
I have given her food for thought though. I really hope that she thinks about what we talked about, because the way she's been going will only lead to a very disfunctional and unhappy life.
This clip from the movie Mean Girls kind of says it all. It gives all the reasons why people behave the way they do - they categorize others, make judgments about them, and treat them according to their often-misguided judgment. Kids are not mature enough to make those kinds of decisions but they do it every day - often to the detriment of other kids.