Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Baby the Bully?

When I think of a "bully", I think of someone angry, aggressive, and possibly sad, who takes out their negative feelings on other people; often, targeting a few specific people. I think of it as a series of ongoing events; the "bully" searching out opportunities to intimidate others.

Which is why I was incredibly surprised when one of the parents approached me in the school line-up and said, in a loud voice, "Your daughter has been bullying my daughter."

Shocked, and completely blind-sided by this man I had never seen before, I asked if he was sure he meant my daughter. There are other girls with her name in the school. "That girl? The small one, with the braids and red rain boots?"

Yup. He was sure. He didn't introduce himself, and he didn't tell me what had actually happened until I asked him twice; apparently, Beege had knocked down his daughter and sat on her.

"That girl? Braids? Rain boots?" Yup. I assured him that this was the first I had heard of it, and that I would, of course, be talking to her about it. He continued to tell me loudly how disturbing he found this bullying, but wouldn't point out his daughter so that I could bring Beege over to talk to the two of them together.

I didn't even notice when Beege's class went in.

There was absolutely nothing I could do at this point, but I resolved to go in and talk to her teacher after school to try and get to the bottom of it.

My girl has always been incredibly empathetic, she's sensitive, and her feelings are easily hurt. I just couldn't imagine her purposely making someone feel bad. I've always been worried about her getting bullied, not being the bully. My gut was definitely telling me that this was not right.

Despite my personal feelings though, I know that there is always the possibility that she's different at school. There is this whole environment that she functions in that I know almost nothing about. But could she be that different? Was my daughter a bully?

I didn't get a chance to talk to her teacher after school, because I needed to go be with my sister, but I did get to talk to Beege about it before I left for the hospital.

Me: Beege? Is there anything you want to talk to me about?
Beege: Uhm... no?
Me: Did something happen yesterday at recess? Did you knock someone down?
Beege: Oh! Yeah! And I sat on her!
Me: ...
Beege: We were playing a game. I was the cat, and [older girl] was being Tori Vega*! The other big girls were being ghosts, and I knocked one down. Then, because I was a cat, I sat on her!
Me:So you were playing a game?
Beege: Yeah!
Me: Did she know you were playing?
Beege: Yeah, she was being a ghost and scaring the baby. That's why I knocked her down.
Me: Did you know that she was upset? Her daddy told me that she was upset and she felt like you were being a bully.
Beege: Oh. I didn't mean to be a bully!

Her immediate response was to be upset that she'd made the other girl feel bad.

So, while she did knock the girl down, she did it thinking that it was part of the game. I was relieved to know that it had been a one time event, that she didn't realise how the other girl felt, and that once she did, she was sorry about it. We also talked about why it's wrong to do something that might hurt someone, even if you are playing a game.

I still went in to talk to her teacher about it the next day, to make sure that was all there was to it. When I mentioned the word "bully", she frowned and shook her head, saying immediately "No." This was a one time incident and it wasn't malicious. She assured me that Beege is very kind with the other kids, and doesn't show signs of bullying behaviour.

Beege has been hanging out with older girls though, and it has been worrying her teacher a bit. They like to pick her up and carry her around and tell her how cute she is; which unfortunately, I bet she loves. She gets over-excited from all the attention, and acts silly, which I could totally see leading to this incident.

Not only is her teacher concerned about her possibly getting hurt, simply because they're just so much bigger, but she doesn't think that Beege needs to hear what some of these grade fives are saying. After five minutes of listening to them after school, I totally agree; just the incessant name calling is too much for me, let alone anything else they're saying.

Which isn't to say that they're bad kids at all, it's just to say that my kid is only five. I'm glad they think she's cute, but she is not a doll.

I would also really appreciate it if people don't throw the word "bully" around with so little provocation. Bullying is a very serious accusation, indicative of larger emotional issues. I was (and am) sorry that my child did anything to hurt another child, even inadvertently, but it was unintentional.

I also wish that the girl's father had approached me less aggressively. I understand that he was upset that his child was upset -- so would I be -- but his intimidating me didn't help the situation and was completely unnecessary. Especially when I wasn't being the least bit defensive, other than making sure that he was really talking about my kid.

So. The new plan going forward is to encourage her to play with the kids in her own grade.

And maybe to invest in some tranquilizers for myself; I've got 14 more years of school to get through.

So, question for you: What would you do if someone accused your child of bullying? What if it turned out to be true?

*I had no idea who "Tori Vega" was and neither did Beege. We had to google her.


  1. as someone who was severely bullied, I can tell you that Beege is most certainly not even capable of bullying. Bullying requires a certain disinterest in another person's feelings, and she just cares too much about people.

    Bullying, is serious and I agree that the word should not be thrown around all willy nilly.

    to be honest, the only bully in this situation would seem to be the other girl's father. He felt the need to intimidate you to get his point across, and considering you had to ask twice and he wouldn't even tell you who the other girl was, I assume that he wasn't really there to talk about the situation in any sort of adult manner to work out an action plan to deal with what he felt was bullying, he's the bully himself.. not beege.

  2. It was the worry that she could be a totally different kid at home that was eating me up.

    Because the kid I know at home would never hurt someone (other than her sister, perhaps, but that's not malicious, that's just siblings) someone on purpose.

    And if she's got that good kid/bad kid thing going for her now, then I am SO screwed when she's a teenager.

    Thankfully, her teacher thought it was just as ridiculous as I did. And so did the other teachers that she discussed it with to sort it out.