Thursday, August 28, 2014

an almost girly lunch

Yesterday I picked M. up from school early. I wanted to take her out for some a girly lunch, well it was almost girly.  Her older brother remained at school and her younger brother was at day care but her baby brother tagged along. To compensate for his presence I wore a skirt and she wore a dress that I’d made for her earlier in the year.
 
virtù - frocking up for lunch
 
The reason for the lunch? Well unfortunately all the crap that she experienced at school last term has resumed. My poor darling girl has been coming home in tears and spent a good part of last weekend sobbing on her Dada’s shoulder.
 
My heart is breaking for her and I just wanted to give her respite from the intense experience. Some special time.
It is sometimes difficult to get a clear picture of exactly what is going on at school. Questions come to mind as to whether or not she is exaggerating or perhaps misinterpreted things. Last week though two other parents approached me to let me know that something was going on. One parent had been told by her daughter that M. was being ostracised and the other was a parent helper for another class and witnessed M. being shunned at lunch time. Devastating.
 
The most confusing aspect of the situation is that the apparent ring leader also happens to be our neighbour. A neighbour who knocks on our door to play almost every afternoon. I’ve never witnessed any untoward play between the two girls, but E. says that’s because its different when I’m around.
 
After much consideration on Monday of this week I sent her mother a long text message letting her know that the issues had resurfaced (I had wanted to catch up with her husband before school but got caught chatting about the situation with a parent of one of the other girls involved).  Last term after the classroom teacher had pulled her aside she’d exclaimed that she’d wished I told her, blah blah. At that time I explained that I had not discussed it with her because I had not actually witnessed anything. The  teacher discussed it with her because the teacher had observed the behaviour first hand. In my thinking at that time it was therefore a school issue.
 
Now however I feel like I have to protect M. more. Coming home from school after a tough day to then play with the person who’d left you out is confusing for her. Dave and I can see that M. is overly keen to please our neighbour and we’ve also noticed that she is very anxious when we say ‘no’ to play of an afternoon (because you know there are things like dinner to make and baby brothers to bath and cleaning up bedrooms and so on and so on…) We just don’t have a good feeling about it, especially since during the school day she won’t let M. play with her or her friends and she actively encourages other children not to sit next M. on the mat.
 
So in my text message I asked that she keep her daughter at home of an afternoon until the issues at school are resolved. I explained that I wanted to provide a safe place for M. after difficult days at school.  The next morning at school drop off I approached her to chat about it and she said that she’d discussed it with her daughter but she denied knowing anything of it. What more could she do? she asked.
 
I don’t know.
I don’t know.
I don’t know.
 
The whole situation is heartbreaking, confusing and awkward. Dave and I wonder what we could do to help M. fit in. We’ve asked our neighbour and M’s teacher if there is anything in particular she is doing that alienates the other children. No answers.
 
We’ve questioned ourselves about the advice that we give her. On this past weekend we’d counselled her to consider whether or not she’d wanted people who treated her meanly to be her friends. We suggested to her that if people didn’t like her just the way she is then they’re not going to make good friends.
 
Then her classroom teacher advised me that this week M. wasn’t making an effort with the children in the class (who had had another class discussion about inclusion). M had told her teacher that she didn’t want friends. So that night Dave and I re-wrote our advice to her and suggested that if people were making an effort with her she should meet them halfway.
 
virtù - love my girl
 
We’ve got no idea what we’re doing here. We’re feeling totally ill-equipped as parents.
 
M. soldiers on though. She becomes more and more resilient and our family, especially her older brother, has closed ranks around her. I know that her Grandpa has penned some words of love and encouragement to her too which will soon be delivered by our postie.
 
Meanwhile there are glaring looks from our neighbour’s mother. Looks that suggest we’ve made the entire thing up. Looks that suggest that she perhaps feels like she is the victim in all this. Or maybe that’s not it all? Perhaps I’m just misreading it and the looks are of tired confusion the very same that I wear on my face.
 
girl time
 
On a brighter note. Lunch was lovely. We sat by the water, had a stroll, laughed as we watched our baby Ace chase seagulls (crawling!) and she had a giant chocolate ice cream. (Technically speaking it was a ‘small’ ice cream – serving sizes these days are ridiculous – I had wanted to get one too but the small was just too large for me … but that is a rant for another day)
 
Oh … and details about the dress – because I never did blog about it at the beginning of the year. The fabric, picked up from Spotty, has the most darling May Gibb’s gumnut babies print. The pattern is the very same that I used for her 5th birthday frock sans the sleeves. It’s from Ottobre 3/2011 from memory.

9 comments:

  1. Oh Sal, my heart breaks for poor M. It's such a tricky thing to manage and especially hard seeing as it involves your neighbour. The not so nice side of me suggests that those looks are because no longer are you looking after her child for her all afternoon, giving her peace and quiet.

    I think you are being very mature and doing the right thing. It would be a difficult situation to be diplomatic in. I definitely agree with the not allowing her to play at your house. Is this where she is getting fodder (whether real or made up) to tell the other students during school?

    My suggestions, which are probably no more helpful than the ones you've come up with as you, personally, can only help M and not do much to make the other child aware of their actions without the parent's help.

    - there are some really good bullying resources around. I used this one earlier in the year on the national day against bullying so your teacher may have as well but if not you could suggest it? http://www.takeastandtogether.gov.au/under8/index.html
    - continue talking to the teacher about it. If she doesn't hear from you she may think it is resolved and speaking personally, even when you are out on duty (usually two or three times a week tops) it is very difficult to keep an eye on an exact picture of everyone and everything that is going on. Eyes are peeled for fights and dangerous behaviour, not so much for people standing alone.
    - I remember doing a PD about bullying and the importance of 'walking tall'. Bullies are less likely to pick on someone who is walking with a purpose (or a pretend purpose) to another location, walking at a confident pace and with a straight back and head held high. They know what body language means a person will be easy to pick on. I've gotten kids to practice walking across a room, pretending they are heading somewhere important with their eyes focused somewhere else, ie. try to pretend you haven't seen the bully.
    - are boys involved? At that age, boys are generally less bitchy. Can she find a boy to develop a friendship with?

    I'd definitely request that they are not in the same class next year, if that is an option.

    I hope the lunch date was special, M looks happy to be having some mostly one on one time with her mama.

    ReplyDelete
  2. awwww... it's so hard. We all just wing it in these sorts of situations as it's all a gamble on the advice you give. It's hard. Poor M. I hope it sorts out soon... Just keep doing what you are doing... tell her what you think is the right thing to do. That's all you can do...
    Sounds like you had a lovely afternoon out...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh Sally...thinking of you and your beautiful daughter. No advice. Have weathered this storm but we just bumbled our way through - probably to the detriment of our daughter...I'm sure we could have handled it better...but how? Don't let the girl in question's Mum bully you too. You are doing the right thing. You are a good Mum and a wonderful advocate for your daughter.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh, Sal. This is so similar to what we are going through with out youngest at the moment. The hideous behaviour of one child towards our daughter and others last year has resurfaced this year recently and we are working with teachers and parents and trying to sort out some pathway that will improve things for her.

    My heart has been breaking too so I get it. I am thinking of you all and hope that things get better. xx

    ReplyDelete
  5. Like Megan said, there is not much you can do to change the other girls behavior so all you can do is equip M the best you can.

    There are lots of good books and we have started a bag of worries where she talks to us about the things that have happened during the day (only a quick conversation) then we filter out the superfluous stuff and look at strategies to break down the 'real' worries. I would also be bringing it to the attention of the principal so that all the teachers on lunch duty are aware of what is going on. Make sure M is keeping an ongoing dialogue I find is one of the hardest as my kids don't want to keep going over it at the end of the day.

    Lots of play dates with other kids the the teacher recommends so that she has some 'practiced' friends. I would be giving the other girl a wide berth too, tell her that there are other friends that will treat her nicer. A good visual stratergie Caleb has been taught is that you see a person as a cup with coloured sticks and every nice word they say is a colour and every mean word is a red stick and at the end of the day weigh up how many of each they have to decide if that person is friend worthy because no one is all bad or all good but a combination of things.

    Poppy had a similar situation, not in the class but in the playground and she decided that it was worth giving up her best friend (that wanted to join in with the mean girls) then to continue to feel crap every day and has managed to find a new group of friends. The original ones now leave her alone, no use bullying someone if they don't care. As for - don't sit with her on the mat - the teacher should be all over that. Ask her to pick 2 kids that are a good fit for M, have extra playdates and have them as mat buddies for a couple of weeks.

    Book links -
    http://www.bookdepository.com/My-Secret-Bully-Trudy-Ludwig/9781582461595
    http://www.bookdepository.com/Stand-Tall-Molly-Lou-Melon-Patty-Lovell/9780399234163
    http://www.bookdepository.com/Huge-Bag-Worries-Virginia-Ironside/9780340903179

    xx

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh Sally - my heart is breaking for M and for you guys too. So hard to know what to do, how to do it, when, where, everything. Hope you get some helpful suggestions soon and things are resolved x

    ReplyDelete
  7. Me again Sally, had to pop back to let you know that my girly is absolutely fine and happy now. I feel I should have written that in my comment and it's been bugging me all day that I didn't x

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thinking of you, this is so heartbreaking. I hope it is improving and with a great family around her she will thrive!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hey Sally, I seem to recall you offering me hugs and kind thoughts way back here, - http://missmuggins.blogspot.com.au/2010/07/tween.html, and now I want to return that to you. It is such a difficult thing to experience and to live through, but it is true to say that it builds resilience, empathy and strength of character for not only your daughter, but for you and your family as well, over time. Just keep listening, and loving and accepting that some people do not make good choices, be them child or adult. The time shall pass, and new trials will come, but much learning comes from hard times xx

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.