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Popularity Contest

by Mothership on October 3, 2012

Before we left Stepford, Eight had always been a popular and confident girl with many friends and a sense of belonging to her community. The year in San Francisco was a challenge for her – we moved her school three times until she finally settled in November, and then, although she mostly felt comfortable there, she definitely felt more wary around the other girls – for good reason, a few of them were quite terrifying – and seemed to have lost her propensity for inserting herself into any group that happened to be having a good time.
She was so excited about returning to Stepford and her old gang, looking forward to seeing her old friends, being at home in her school, and generally fitting in better. However the re-entry has not been quite a smooth as she had hoped. A whole year had passed since she had seen them all, and in that time new friendships and alliances had formed in her absence. It’s easy to see that she feels unsure of her place in 3rd grade. To add to this insecurity she has been rather aggressively pursued and  befriended by an extremely overbearing girl who was not there when Eight left, and I can see that this association is not helping the situation on a number of levels. Now I know one is not supposed to take against children for characteristics and behaviour that is not exactly their fault, and one should be understanding of different backgrounds and abilities, but this particular child rings so many alarm bells for me that I find myself fighting the urge to tell Eight not to be friends with her and having to grit my teeth and smile insincerely when I am forced to address the kid because she is so incredibly annoying.
Interestingly, one of the children I know from Eight’s former 1st grade class, when observing annoying kid harangue Eight for attention and bully her into playing a game, mentioned to me:

“Yeah, she did that to me last year”

I asked what she meant and she said that the girl had selected her to be her friend, pursued her relentlessly and then sort of taken her over in a mad possessive way, alienating her other friends and making her feel guilty for wanting to get away.

My heart sank at this, and did so even further while I was volunteering in the class and annoying kid distinguished herself by being the only one not even to attempt to do her work, but instead spend the hour trying to disrupt the class and talk to other children who were doing geography. She didn’t know which state she lived in (what?) and when pressed, said that she thought Washington DC was another country, right after I had just told her it was the capital of the USA. Sigh. Oh. And she’s a mouth breather who wears t-shirts with*ahem* unsuitable slogans for a prepubescent person.

Alright. I’ll try  to calm down and be rational.

I can clearly see that she has glommed on to Eight because she’s the ‘new’ girl, and is the only one who is not yet sick or wary of her. Eight is reasonably tolerant and willing to see the fun side of annoying kid, but what she doesn’t see is that her own social standing is being devalued by association and the longer she spends with annoyingkid and the less she is able to make forays of her own back into the world of the other girls, the harder it’s going to be.

Eight is nervous of the groups of 4 or 5 girls that  gather in the mornings and at recess. If they don’t openly say ‘hi’ to her, she doesn’t go over and say ‘hi’ to them and insinuate herself which used to be one of her chief skills (it always worked). I can see her trying to work up the courage and just as she does, annoyingkid comes over and scares them off.  It’s very hard to watch and even more worrying, Eight tries to conceal it from me as if it were a personal failing.

I don’t exactly know what, if anything, I can do for her, but I have gotten very busy trying to arrange playdates with girls she used to be friends with in the hope that this will re-open channels. I ache for her, and I am somewhat at a loss – I was always a loner (still am, really) but it’s not something I see her naturally being, nor is it a way of being I would necessarily recommend.

I know that this is the age when friendships become very real, and girls break each other’s hearts on a regular basis with casual indifference. I just can’t bear the thought of my own sweet, funny, interesting girl being wounded by another, although doubtless she could do it herself.

Once I turned 17 I breathed a sigh of relief that I’d never have to go to school again and I’d never have to endure playground politics and the agony it caused me. But I didn’t know that when I had my own children I’d have to go through it all over again. This time, of course, I have the knowledge and maturity to understand the dynamics of what’s happening, but that doesn’t exactly help because I still don’t have the power to stop the pain.

When she bleeds, so do I.

{ 8 comments }

1 Mum October 3, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Heartbreaking! So sad to hear of Eight’s loss of confidence when she had been so at ease with friends. Might it be an idea to have her talk to one of the other girls, ask them to tell her about annoyingkid and how they dealt with it? Would alert them to her suffering under this pestering perhaps?

2 London City Mum October 3, 2012 at 11:27 pm

Poignant timing. Just last night I attended a session at the kids’ school on bullying. It is part of a new initiative we have started (by the parents for the parents) called, appropriately, ‘Parents’ Voice’.
The speaker was very good, has a primary school teaching background, and has been working closely with all manner of schools for the past 20 years or so, and more recently with our own school developing their ‘living together policy (behaviour)’.
It was enlightening, all the more so as she had been the victim of bullying herself, as had – many years earlier – one of her twin sons (they are now adults). So a perspective from both sides: as a victim, as a mother, but also as a facilitator of practices that can identify, deal with, and root out bullying in schools.
So, a long-winded manner of saying that there are some websites she pointed us towards for more information, with the proviso that “you will not agree with everything they state, but ‘pick and choose’ as there is validity throughout”.
They are as follows:
- http://www.kidscope.org.uk
- http://www.antibullying.net
- http://www.bullying.co.uk
- childline.org.uk

Although more UK-centric, I believe the underlying issues are commonplace regardless of where you reside.

Hope this helps.

LCM x

3 jongleuse October 4, 2012 at 10:52 am

Having similar issues with my UK Year 3 who has just moved up to ‘juniors’ and says the older boys are mean to him and annoy him in the playground…sob…
We’re not even allowed into the playground in the morning so have to watch the poor little mite go in like a lamb to the slaughter. Not much to be done but let them work out their own way of dealing with it and keep on talking.

4 Mothership October 4, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Jongleuse, that is so difficult. Have you told the school about it? I guess they (as we did) all find their own way, but does it have to be so hard?

5 Mothership October 4, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Thanks for all these links. I will go and look. I’m not sure she’s being actively bullied, but social isolation is definitely a marker for being a victim of bullying at some point.

6 jongleuse October 8, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Thanks for your kind words MTFF. Spoken to other mothers today and there have been similar incidents with older boys-one of the Mums is also a teacher in the school so hoping she might keep an eye out.

7 BrisneyMum October 11, 2012 at 3:38 am

I suspect that ‘annoyingkid’ will move on when she realises that she will get nowhere with Eight. Is there only one class per grade at your school? You could ask for Eight to be removed from that particular class if there were two or more, although it sounds like you live in a small town so possibly school numbers are also small. Another thing you could try is enrolling Eight into some after-school activities where she could make new friendships and improve her self-confidence. Find out whether her ‘old’ friends go to any after- school activities and join in.

8 Geekymummy October 14, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Urgh, poor eight. I feel bad for dorky overbearing bad T shirt girl too, she clearly has her own issues. I always ended up befriending those kids myself, then walked the fine line between being mocked for being with them while still being cool enough to hang with the other kids.

Eight is so smart and funny and cool. The kids at school will see that and and she will form awesome friendships.

It’s so hard though, feeling our kids pain. Have a lot of that going on here, too. Xx

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