"Are you Maddie's Reed mom?"
"Yes, I am. How do you know Maddie?"
"She goes to my school. I'm in her class." A pregnant pause follows while she looks at the floor.
"She's mean to me," she says quietly, looking up carefully.
"Mean to you? That's awful! How is she mean?"
"She doesn't let me play with her and the other girls when they're playing and she ignores me when I try to talk to her."
Um, wow? At home, I immediately asked Maddie about it. Her explanation was she didn't realize this child wanted to play with her. Upon further probing, nothing has happened between the two of them. Maddie does not dislike the freckled peanut. She is just not interested in playing with her. They don't "click." Of course I want to believe that's true...but what if it's not? What if I'm raising a mean girl? (From my own experience with mean girls in middle school, I'm pretty sure their parents had no idea what was going on in school.)
Maddie is our middle child. MIDDLE in every sense of the word. And last year, her academic struggles really took a toll on her self esteem. Isn't it kids with low self esteem that are mean to others? To make themselves feel better? I have to admit, the word "manipulative" has been used on more then one occasion, by more then one person, to describe her. But she is also the one to get up when it is still dark to kiss and hug you good-bye; the one to defend her sisters against any criticism by anyone (including their parents); the one who wants to make sure we help anyone in need, including some people who might not be our favorite (He Who Shall Not Be Named).
I realize we all have good and bad in us, my precious babes included. But how do you teach a seven year old that the choices she makes will define who she becomes? And that she is going to have to like that person? I fear that talking about kindness may not be enough. I will have to find other ways to role model this, and reflect on how my behavior may have contributed to her attitude, if she is, in fact, insensitive to Freckled Peanut.
Man, parenting is hard. If anyone has any suggestions, speak up.