Mean Girls on the (Pre)School Playground
Last week, I was laying in bed with my 4 year old daughter, reading her a bedtime story. It was one of those learn to respect your parents and be nice to other kids or else lots of kittens will die type books. You know the ones I mean. We love those in this house.
Anyway, this partictularly enlightened book was about respect and at the end of the book my daughter turned to me and said "Sometimes Edna and Geraldine* aren't nice to me. They don't respect me and it makes me sad".
I narrowed my eyes thinking of the two little girls in question, whom I had a not-so-positive run-in with at the preschool Halloween party back in October. I wasn't surprised by this statement in the least. Geraldine was very snotty with me when I asked if she needed help writing her name on her coloring book.
I turned back to my daughter. "Why would you say that?"
"Well, Edna and I used to be best friends, but last week she said that Geraldine told her that she couldn't be friends with me any more. Geraldine doesn't like me and says I can't play with her or Edna. It makes me sad because sometimes they let me play with them but sometimes they don't. If they do let me play with them, they won't let any of the other kids play with us, and I feel sad for those kids."
Oh my God. My daughter is the least popular of the popular girls. I would rather her be the nerd in the corner than suffer this fate - the least popular popular girls are always so desperate to fit in and have no leadership ability or identity. I wasn't liking where this was heading.
My response to this was extremely adult-like and thoughtful.
"Well, Geraldine is not the boss of you. You can play with Edna if you want to. Geraldine is not the boss of Edna either - you should tell her that!"
Then I couldn't help myself - I continued "You know what? YOU should be the leader. You decide who can and can't play with you. You don't have to wait to be invited - you are your own boss, and you can make your own group of friends!"
My 4 year old looked at me like I was crazy. (She could be on to something.) She responded with a cautious "ok" but I think it's because she was wondering if I might blow a gasket.
The next day I took it upon myself to talk to the preschool teacher. I felt silly even having to have the discussion about who can play with whom because we are talking about preschool here, people. I didn't remember having this problem personally until at least the 5th grade. How do I convey the importance of being your own person to a 4 year old?
The teacher offered some reassurance. She promised to look out for Audrey, but also said that when my daughter doesn't like what the kids are saying, she simply walks away. (That's my girl!) She said some of the other girls fall apart when they are treated meanly by the "mean girls". I felt a little bit better leaving the school that morning but I still felt a bit surprised at how early these dynamics were beginning.
Mean girls on the preschool playground. What's next? Puberty at 7?
Lord help me.
*Names changed to awful old-lady names to protect the not-so-innocent little brats who were mean to my baby. I had to change the names, but I refused to make them cute. Apologies to my Aunt Edna.