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Meredith wore a green skirt today. Because green is not allowed.

August 30th, 2011 · 41 Comments · Conversations with Meredith, Daily

Last week Meredith and I started a Mom & Me journal, and it’s turning out to be the greatest thing we’ve ever done. Because it’s a secret from the rest of our family, we decided that our code word is Pancakes. When she is finished writing in the journal, she places it under my pillow and somehow works Pancakes into our conversation. When I’m done writing on my side, I place the journal under her pillow and do the same. My hope is that this will serve as a vehicle for conversations that might be too difficult to have in person, as well as ease the embarrassment of the tricky conversations that we need to have face to face. Obviously, I’m not going to share what we’ve written so far. All I’ll say is this: It’s Very Good.

On a related note, a monumental change has taken place in my parenting philosophy. (Read that sentence again while picturing this version of me. It’s much less wearisome that way, no?) I have always encouraged my girls to be friends with everyone. “It’s good to have some close friends, but it’s also good to be friendly! That’s how you learn about other kids! You don’t have to play with the same group every day. Shake it up! It helps you learn who you are!”

No more. NO MORE! Meredith is “friends” with a girl in her class whose main purpose seems to be making other girls feel badly about themselves. This girl (shall we call her Regina George?) repeatedly tells Meredith that she doesn’t like Meredith’s clothes. Yesterday Regina George made fun of Meredith’s clothes until Meredith reached the level of anxiety where she couldn’t wait to come home and change OUT of those clothes. Regina George has started a club called The Shady Girls, where she requires the girls to wear certain colors and devote their recess to playing tether ball. (I know. I don’t know.)

I asked Meredith if she knows what Shady means.

Meredith: Like when it’s sunny outside, and you make the choice to hang out under a tree?

Me: Metaphorically, yes. But I have a funny feeling The Shady Girls don’t prefer to actually hang out in the shade. It’s about maybe being a little dishonest. Maybe being a little mean. It’s not necessarily a good thing.

Meredith: Regina George is mean.

According to Meredith, if Regina George gets angry during class, she has been known to yell, throw things, and curl up into a ball.

Okay. Let me say that again. According to Meredith, if Regina George gets angry during class, she has been known to yell, throw things, and curl up into a ball. To me, this means Regina George has some issues, and probably really NEEDS a friend, right? If the girl has to create clubs to have other girls hang out with her, she has some stuff going on, right? Right? Because of that, it hurts my heart (figuratively!) to ask Meredith to leave The Shady Girls, but that’s exactly what I did. Meredith has had a terrible relationship with this girl for over three years. Meredith has come home crying more than once because of things this girl has said to her. The last thing Meredith needs is to feel badly about herself at age eight. (At age six? The girl broke Meredith’s glasses. Oh my goodness, people!)

I’m a bit conflicted, because as I mentioned earlier, I’ve always encouraged the girls to try and be friends with EVERYONE. BUT, at this stage, I would be much happier seeing Meredith make a connection with some girls who exhibit kindness and curiosity and intelligence, perhaps with a love of American Girl stuff and Big Time Rush sprinkled in. (I’m not saying that the girl in question is lacking in those areas. I’m just saying that Meredith has been fairly miserable striving to “turn things around” with Regina.)

I’m trying to remember what it was like for me in the third grade. It was the year that Mrs. Barker read “Island of the Blue Dolphins” to our class. I don’t recall anyone being mean. Then again, that was many many years ago (over thirty years ago! Holy crap!) — before hormones in milk and rude kids on television. And padded bras in kid clothing stores. And raunchy magazines in every checkout lane at the grocery store. Oh, internet. This is a tough one. Have any of you dealt with this? By encouraging Meredith to gently leave the group, am I encouraging her to turn her back on someone who probably needs some help? Then again, Meredith has been reaching out for three years, and it’s totally killing her joy.

Please know that I have never said anything bad about Regina George in front of Meredith. The closest I came was this morning when I said, “Meredith, sometimes people who are unhappy actually feel a bit happier when they make other people feel unhappy, too.”

Today I shall get a haircut. This has nothing to do with anything.

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41 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sarah // Aug 30, 2011 at 9:47 am

    I think you are totally doing the right thing. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have compassion for Regina George–it means that you are teaching Meredith that she deserves to be treated well. It might make sense to let the teacher know about “The Shady Girls”, if you feel comfortable doing that. As a teacher of 20 years now, I’d sure want to know. And it would be *my* job to help that little girl. So an all-good vote of confidence in you from this gal. :)

  • 2 Leslie // Aug 30, 2011 at 9:53 am

    I actually think it is really important to teach kids that they don’t have to be friends with everyone. Sometimes you just don’t get on with certain people or they don’t particularly like you and that’s okay. If you have to be friends with everyone, then it’s going to drive you crazy when you come across people who don’t want to be friends with you, which is definitely going to happen. What’s important is that you are kind to everyone even if you aren’t friends with them.

  • 3 Stephanie // Aug 30, 2011 at 9:57 am

    You absolutely did the right thing. You’re teaching Meredith several things — that nobody (NOBODY) has a right to make her feel bad about herself, that sometimes people are not ready to accept her love and friendship, maybe because those people (or just Regina) might need help, that Meredith cannot solve other people’s problems, that Meredith can stand up to peer pressure….

    …girls are so hard, and so mean to each other. I’m sorry that it’s happening so young.

    Oh, and I agree with the previous commenter who said you should mention The Shady Girls to the teacher.

  • 4 LaraSuzy // Aug 30, 2011 at 10:06 am

    It’s tricky, isn’t it?

    Meredith is a fabulous girl who is quite kind and considerate…and very compassionate. You’re doing a wonderful job raising her, and this is the best thing for her.

    Feeling like you’re encouraging her to turn her back on a desperate soul? I don’t see it that way at all. A healthy distance from a toxic friendship is definitely in order. You know Meredith will still be kind and friendly, just not close.

    Keep up the going-with-your-gut parenting!

  • 5 Em // Aug 30, 2011 at 10:08 am

    I agree with everyone so far. Teaching Meredith how she should allow people to treat her does not take away from her being compassionate. It isn’t an 8 year old girl’s job to save another 8 year old girl. It is the adults in that child’s life that need to step up and get her help. Consider if she went on trying to please Regina George until some nice troubled boy came along who is always really sorry after he hits her. We’re jumping decades a bit, but I think you are smart to instill this lesson in her now. She deserves respect and the people in this world unwilling to treat her with respect have no claim to her time and energy (and tears!). This stranger inside the computer thinks you most definitely made the right decision.

    I also think the idea of a Mother Daughter journal is the best idea ever and I may steal it, if you don’t mind very much. We’ll dedicate the first volume to the Puddings.

  • 6 Christy // Aug 30, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Your close connection to Meredith is likely the difference between her and Regina. I wish Regina (and all the Reginas out there) could have what Meredith has…a healthy mother daughter relationship. I love how you are equiping Meredith with the philosophy of St. Francis: “Give me the peace to accept things I can’t change, the courage to change things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

  • 7 T // Aug 30, 2011 at 10:15 am

    I struggle with this issue with my 4 (FOUR!) y/o son. There is a kid in his class who is a jerk at best and may have behavioral issues at worst (by general whispered consensus among many parents), and unfortunately his parents Do Not Get It At All. There are so many unbelievably sweet kids whose faces light up every morning when my son walks in the room and ask him to play with them, tell their parents my son is their best friend, etc etc etc, but who does my son want to play with every day?

    Oy. I’ve been telling him to walk away for a year now to no avail.

  • 8 Cindy // Aug 30, 2011 at 10:17 am

    I’ll come talk to Regina. You need me to come talk to Regina? Oh…I’ll do it. But seriously, this is horrible.

    I remember things going sour in middle school. This is when the mean girls grew wings. I was really good ignoring and dismissing. I can’t help but feel sorry for little Regina. Somewhere she has mother figure in her life that’s teaching her that it’s OK to behave this way. That’s what really pisses me off.

    Every year I buy Island of the Blue Dolphins for a young girl. Loved that book.

  • 9 Polli // Aug 30, 2011 at 10:17 am

    I’m a Girl Scout leader and a parent of three. I’ve seen some Reginas in my time, and I have a Regina George in my troop. It is tiring. Any teacher/counselor worth his or her salt wants to know about the Shady Girls, so speak up. I don’t think you have to say a bad word against this girl – you are making sure she get the help she needs and protecting the other girls, too. I’m pretty sure the staff have their eye on her but it takes a village, as they say.

    At any rate, encouraging your girls not to spend time and energy on people who make them or others feel bad is the first step in a long process of saving your girls from the societal pressure to Please Everyone Always Or Else I’m Not a Nice Girl! It sounds like in advocating for your daughter, you are worried about Not Being Nice, too. (I understand. I’ve been there, done that and bought the snow globe.) Give yourself permission not to sacrifice yourself or Meredith for this girl. Meredith can always be polite, but standing up for herself and others may be the biggest favor she ever does Regina, but certainly herself. Easier said than done, I know…

  • 10 Haus // Aug 30, 2011 at 10:23 am

    The speaker for a conflict-resolution workshop once told me that sometimes, making people live up to expectations — and showing them there are consequences for failing to do so — can be a gift.

    Meredith is awesome, and while it’s kind of her to offer friendship to a girl who’s struggling, she should (and I know does) have boundaries for what’s acceptable behavior in a friend. And if another child can’t behave that way, then it’s kinder in the long run to let that kid suffer the consequences of that failure now.

    Being friendly is different from being friends. Sounds like she’s figuring that out, and that’s a good thing! You’ll be glad she’s learned to minimize the influence of bad friends and rely on her better friends instead when she starts middle school. :)

  • 11 Judi // Aug 30, 2011 at 10:51 am

    My daughter and I had a mother/daughter journal we started when she was in about fourth grade. Angela it is one of the best things you can do with her. It will, as you expect, open up lines of communication with her that she may not feel comfortable talking about in front of you. It is also great for you to be able to be “silly” where sometimes they just see us a parents. Our M/D journal has now turned into texting….as my daughter away as a freshman at college, but it has helped tremendously through the years.

    About the possessed child, I kid, sorta. About Regina. I don’t know that I would tell her not to be friends, as someone said earlier, maybe the difference between friendly and friends. You don’t want to get in the habit of that, then they turn into older teens and build resentment for you choosing their friends, it happens ;) But, I think I would tackle it more as we don’t join secret clubs that would alienate or hurt others feelings. We don’t just hang out with one group of girls, when there are so many friends in the class, etc. Also, I have always allowed my children to use me as a scapegoat when dealing with people who push. As in, my MOM said I cannot be in any clubs, but I can sit with you at lunch, sorta thing.

  • 12 CrazyMomTats! // Aug 30, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Meredith does not have to hang out with the Mean Girls. They’re usually really insecure, and the only way they feel better about themselves is 1) being mean to others, and 2) having people adore them for it.

    You are doing the right thing. Not everyone is a good friend. It’s a hard lesson – and this won’t be the last time she has to face it.

    Hang in there, you’re doing a good job!

  • 13 Effie // Aug 30, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I think you summed it up with your last statement. Even though Meredith *might* help Regina G in the long run, in the short run, it’s hurting your daughter to try to stay with those Shady Ladies…maybe she’ll find her *BFF*…

    I like green skirts!
    Which hair are you getting cut, the 43rd on the right? ;)

  • 14 tuesy // Aug 30, 2011 at 11:08 am

    My daughter starts grade 5 this year, and I cringe for her and the social situations she’ll be encountering. She’s pretty introverted (actually I call her an introverted extrovert, if that makes sense), and mostly keeps to her few close friends, but I already can see that one of those girls will likely be a Regina George in the future. So far she is nice and her parents seem on the ball, so no conversations with my daughter are necessary.

    I’ve told my kids many times that, while they don’t have to be friends with everyone, they do have to treat everyone with respect.

    I did tattle on a kid last year who was being a known schoolyard bully, and happened to do it right in front of me. The teachers tend to know what’s going on, but they can’t be everywhere at once. Girls tend to be more covert about their bullying, so I would think any teacher would welcome a heads up from someone who is seeing what is going on.

  • 15 Mitzi // Aug 30, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Do not doubt yourself for one minute. You are absolutely doing the right thing. Shady girls are a sad reality in life. If it were me or my daughter, I would wonder if the teacher knows about t his. But, then there is that fine line of should you bring this up to the teacher, or should you just let it play itself out… which could go on for years.

    I love the journal idea. We don’t keep a journal per say, but if something is difficult to discuss face to face, I usually get an e-mail from Eli. It’s a great way for us to discuss some subjects. (we are usually within 5 feet of one another when he sends me an e-mail).

  • 16 Amy in KC // Aug 30, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I agree with so many things that have already been said. One of the most important pieces of parenting advice I was ever given was to trust myself.

    Trust yourself.

  • 17 Meghan // Aug 30, 2011 at 11:30 am

    You are ABSOLUTELY doing the right thing. It is your job to protect & guide your own daughter. It’s nice if you can protect & guide a few of those in need along the way, but not at the detriment of MC or HR, and it sounds like this girl has crossed over the line into official Mean Girl territory.

    Also, tell the teacher. It sounds like this girl needs so major help, much more than just friendship (especially with the description of how she acts out in class.) The teacher can bring in here parent(s) for a conference, get the school counselor involved, etc.

    The whole situation breaks my heart because your kids area seriously so kind and wonderful, and I would absolutely hate to know that someone was making their light shine less brightly.

  • 18 Cairn // Aug 30, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Okay, everyone had pretty much said what I would have. My daughter dealt with this issue in kindergarten. I was amazed at how young she had to deal with clubs and mean girls. We did let the teacher know and the teacher was happy that we did. She had not been aware of it yet and dealt with it immediately.

    Also, I love the idea of a mother/daughter journal. I think I will have to go find a journal and start it this week. I may also have to go find a copy of “Island of the Blue Dolphins”. I have never read it. Oh, and didn’t Mrs. Barker just have a birthday yesterday?

    Good luck and I like green too! :)

  • 19 Kait // Aug 30, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    I know I’m echoing what others have said but there is a big difference between being friendly and kind to everyone and being everyone’s friend. Meredith can be friendly and kind to Regina George without being friends with Regina George. Knowing when you’re being trampled on and when to say enough is a valuable life skill as well.

    And the mother/daughter journal is an idea I’m going to have to stash for a few years but will probably be genius with my girls.

  • 20 Sarah // Aug 30, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    I love the mother-daughter journal! As for the kid who definitely has issues, it is important for kids to learn to be nice to everyone. However it is also important for them to know that some people just have mean stuff pouring out of their pores and that some times all we can do is stay out of the way. My oldest has observed one of these girls in her class and has stepped further and further away from said girl as the drama becomes bigger and bigger (things I don’t want my kid near). I think the most important part is learning that our girls are worth more and they can not allow themselves to feel squashed!

  • 21 kathy // Aug 30, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    There are lots of people in the world and some don’t make good friends. It’s hard when your world is classroom to see that.

    Wow, great job on the shared journal! It actually scares me a little! Kind of like when I tell my son something and he believes me. It’s scary to have that much power over their little hearts. She’s lucky to have you as a mom.

  • 22 You can call me, 'Sir' // Aug 30, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Of all the things I’ve done and subsequently lived through, nothing scares me more than the prospect of a being a parent who has to deal with other parents’ shortcomings (my passive aggressive way of flipping the bird at Regina’s parents) through a proxy (my kid). And yes, there may very well be other explanations for the behavior, more to the story, etc., etc., but holy crap, yo.

    By Big Time Rush, I can only assume you mean that the girls enjoy skipping rope while rhythmically shouting,

    ‘A modern-day warrior
    Mean mean stride,
    Today’s Tom Sawyer
    Mean mean pride!’

    They have very sophisticated taste in music. And so young!

  • 23 Jane // Aug 30, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Sir, if I could “like” or “+1″ your comment, I would!

    I read the comments with much interest, as I have a 4th grader who has an almost-RG in her life. Thank you, everyone, for your comments.

  • 24 marianne // Aug 30, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    I LOVE the mother-daughter journal. I’m going to suggest that to my sister-in-law.

    But my goodness. Three years is WAY too long to have invested in poor Regina George. She certainly does need a friend. Perhaps an adult friend who has a degree in counseling.

    There’s a difference between being kind, polite, tolerant, and decent to a person, and putting up with abuse. As long as Regina George has people to manipulate she will.

    Sometimes what we really need is a friend who will stand up to us and call us on our crap, “Regina George, you are being very mean about my clothes today. Until you can say treat me nicely I’m going to play hopscotch.”

    Of course, I’m still looking for my own Mr. Knightly since I would eviscerate any man with less spine the first time PMS rears its ugly head. (“I’m sorry, but you’re being a crazy witch. Right now I think we both need quiet time and ice cream.” And then we elope.)

  • 25 blackbird // Aug 30, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Maybe ask Meredith what she wants to do.
    Just sayin.

  • 26 pharmgirl // Aug 30, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Absolutely you are doing the right thing.
    We had a similar issue. In our case it was complicated because we are friends with the parents. Ultimately, we landed where you did.
    Friendship is a gift of self. Anything you give under pressure or duress is not a gift.
    Be polite but be firm. People judge you by the company you keep.

  • 27 amy // Aug 30, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    As I read this post, I was struck by how similar a situation my daughter is in. And how you and I feel similarly conflicted about the right thing to do. In our case, Regina George’s mom passed away a couple years ago. I read everyone’s comments with interest — thanks for all the wisdom!

  • 28 Elizabeth // Aug 30, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    This sounds so familiar! When I was in the 5th grade, a group of girls started showing up wearing the same color clothing. More than once, I asked them what the color for the next day was, and showed up in that color, only to have the rest of them show up in another color. When I stopped trying to be a part of the group, I took away the power they had over me. I was a lot happier. You’re doing the right thing!

  • 29 Natalie // Aug 30, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    Hi, here are two things I have said to my daughter about similiar situations:

    1: Always be kind to people, but don’t work so hard at being someone’s friend that it’s at the expense of being kind to yourself.

    2: Maybe some people aren’t ready to be your friend yet. Leave them alone. Try again later.

  • 30 Alana // Aug 30, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    So, during one of my college jobs, I worked for a woman named Regina George who (I had to look it up) actually looked like a grown up version of the Mean Girls’ Regina George. Let’s just say we pronounced her name like the Canadians do when she wasn’t around.

  • 31 Mary K. in Rockport // Aug 31, 2011 at 9:10 am

    I agree with everything said above – with one exception. It’s often true that the Regina Georges are unhappy children, but it’s equally often that they are very entitled feeling young ladies. It’s their followers, the ones who let themselves be bossed around, who lack self-esteem.

  • 32 Ami // Aug 31, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    It starts young, doesn’t it? My 10yo fifth grader had some issues with one girl who would pitch a fit any time my daughter wanted to eat with someone else, or do something else at recess, and if she did, she was kicked out of the club. I told my daughter to keep being nice to her and keep doing whatever she wanted, and even to tell her friend “Look, your my friend, and I’ll sit with you tomorrow, but today I’m going to sit with So and So” and the other girl got mad, but got over it. Turns out the other girl’s parents split and she had some serious alienation issues. Plus, she was/is kind of a control freak. I have mentioned to my daughter that she’s a better friend to that girl than that girl is to her, and not to reject other people in favor of that girl. My daughter’s response? “I started my own club. It’s for people who want to do whatever they want.” It made me laugh — and the problem of conflicting “clubs” never arose b/c the club for people who did whatever they wanted just did whatever they wanted. It wasn’t really a club. Anyway, I think you’re doing the right thing. You can encourage Meredith to be friendly without being close friends — and a few years later they might end up in separate groups — thankfully, my daughter and this other friend of hers see eachother maybe 5 mintues a day now — they were assigned to different triads.

  • 33 Karen // Aug 31, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    First — I LOVE the mother-daughter journal idea. I don’t have kids yet, so I’m hoping I’ll remember that idea down the road! :)

    I think you’re absolutely spot on with encouraging Meredith to leave the group and distance herself. After several years of trying to be friends with her, maybe it’s time she stepped away. She of course should still be friendly towards her, but she doesn’t have to join her shady club!

  • 34 joe // Aug 31, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    The journal idea is great. You are a witty one and it’s good evidence you’re a great mom.
    I think there’s a difference between being “friends” and “polite.” Being friends with everyone seems to be a lot of work and sacrifice of self. I say, you don’t have to be friends with everyone, but you should aim to be polite to everyone. Doing that is difficult enough.
    Regina needs some help, but it may be more than your daughter can give. The best gift she can perhaps give Regina is the lesson that if you treat people like crap, they won’t want to be around you, so don’t treat people like crap. Your daughter might also receive the inverse lesson. If people treat you like crap, you don’t have to remain their friend. Just slide into polite and avoid crossing to the dark side of enemy.

  • 35 Ani // Sep 1, 2011 at 9:41 am

    You are just a really, really good mom.

  • 36 Mary // Sep 1, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    I’m with Ani & virtually everyone who chimed in here. You have some smart readers! I’m not looking forward to this stage with my daughter.

  • 37 Rachael // Sep 2, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Oh, I wish I had had someone tell me when I was Meredith’s age that it’s okay to distance yourself from people who stress you out, and have an overall negative effect on your life. I think you’re teaching her that it’s fine to draw her own boundaries and choose to spend time with people who are kind and reasonable instead of the Regina Georges of the world.

    Also, a mother-daughter journal? Completely awesome.

  • 38 schmutzie // Sep 3, 2011 at 10:32 am

    I know I’m late to this party, but boy do I know the difficulty of this kind of decision.

    I had a friend once for about 11 years, and he had Tourette’s and an anxiety issue that sometimes made it hard for him to be a decent human being, but I finally ended the friendship, total contact block, but as much as there were reasons for his being a jerk, those reasons didn’t fix the fact that I was made to feel like absolute crap by him on a regular basis.

    I finally came to the conclusion that he was a jerk, even if there were reasons for it, and that I was not put on this earth to endure his being a jerk just because there happened to be reasons for it.

    Regina George is not Meredith’s responsibility, and it sounds like Regina George has issues deeper than another 8-year-old can fix.

    Also? And I might sound like a jerk myself here, but having difficult issues to deal with is one thing, but having difficult issues to deal with and then treating other people like a jerk is a character flaw, a dick move. The person is still worth empathy and decent treatment, of course, but weathering their abuse does them no favours. It is, in fact, encouragement of that behaviour.

    I’m so mad a Regina George!

  • 39 orooni on ravelry // Sep 3, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I agree with everything said so far – it’s not Meredith’s job to help Regina George, even though RG probably needs some help.

    I just wanted to add, thank you for writing about these issues. I love the insights into motherhood and parenting that it gives.

  • 40 Rachel // Sep 9, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Why does everyone have to have a Regina? It’s so hard!

    It took 15 years for me to stop judging myself through her eyes. I could only be happy with myself if she was happy with me. So unhealthy. As much help as you can give to Meredith, I think some of that growth can only come with time, and with realizing that you need to be happy for yourself.

  • 41 Looking for an open door : My Mommy's Place // Sep 11, 2011 at 11:24 am

    [...] (Thanks to Angela at Fluid Pudding for the inspiration.) [...]