One of my favorite things about small children is that, while they do lie sometimes, they are also brutally honest. The filter we all (hopefully!) develop later in life isn’t in place for them yet, and so the truth comes naturally and unimpeded by manners or “Should I mention this?” awkwardness. So it was that on Tuesday, while playing on our front porch with my son and her brother, one of my small neighbors opened her mouth and spilled out to my husband the litany of lies that an older child (she’s 11 and the oldest on our block) has been spreading to the kids and parents over this summer about my son. “J stole my brother’s scooter.” “Our mom said we’re not allowed to play with J alone because he’s bad!”. “Our mom said if nobody else is playing with J, then we shouldn’t either.” These are just a handful of the things she told my husband, who then walked down the street to talk to her mother about the ignorance of allowing yourself to be completely led by an 11 year old mean girl in your parenting (or non-parenting, as I see it) decisions.
This has been an incredibly hard summer for me, and for my boy. Our block is a small one, a cul-de-sac street with less than twenty houses. We all know each other except for one or two neighbors who have no kids and don’t come out much to socialize. We have a lot of kids on our street, most my son’s age (7) or younger. And one older girl, who got angry with my son over something or other, some stupid kid thing, and decided that she was going to start a campaign to get the other kids not to have anything to do with mine. An older girl with the ability to manipulate the smaller kids, who are not on the same level of maturity and therefore don’t understand the game she’s been playing. They just believe whatever she says. We don’t play with J anymore because ___ said so, and that is just the way it is.
I’ve watched this play out for my son over the summer, trying to stay out of it, not realizing until a week or two ago that all of the meanness was being organized by the older one. I have been so angry and felt so helpless, that my child had to deal with being told “Nobody wants to play with you!” when he walks outside and ALL the kids are out there, that the kids who used to regularly ring our doorbell to ask for J no longer come around, wondering if it was something about his behavior that caused it. But I know it wasn’t, because he has friends from school who come over and play, who’s houses he goes to and plays, and they all get along fine. I’ve watched my son try to deal with being ostracized, not understanding what was happening, still wanting to play with the mean one. “She’s being nice to me today, Mom, please!” But no…he is not allowed to go to her house.
I put off talking to her parents because firstly, it’s a horrible conversation to have with another parent, let alone a neighbor. “Hey, your daughter is tormenting my son by influencing all of the other kids and lying about him.” I didn’t know if they’d believe me, I didn’t want to ruin our relationship because we are, I assume, going to live here a long time. But after the little one spilled her guts to my husband on Tuesday, I knew I had no choice.
I got home from work Tuesday night and I saw that her dad was outside doing their yard. I changed my clothes, and walked over there with the biggest feeling of dread to have the conversation. I didn’t even know how to start but basically told them I’m sorry to have to have this conversation, but your daughter has been lying about my son and influencing all of the younger kids to be cruel and to ostracize him, I’ve seen it happen all summer, here are some examples, here is what your little next door neighbor said today, I need it to stop immediately. My son is too young to understand what is happening, and your daughter is too old to be manipulating a bunch of 5, 6, and 7 year olds this way. I almost broke down in tears more than once during the conversation because honestly, I don’t think her parents understand at all how much their daughter has impacted my child and his relationships with kids who were his friends, and who are now unsure how to be with him, whether to play with him because “the big kid” says don’t, whether he really did the things she’s been saying. End result was that they said they would talk to her, that they knew she was kind of too old to be playing with the younger ones (I don’t think that’s true of all 11 year olds, but I definitely do for this one who has abused her older child status), and if necessary they’d “take her out of the equation”. But you know, I don’t want them to keep their kid inside. I do want them to make her apologize, and tell anyone she lied to about my son that she lied and she’s sorry, none of it was true. I want her to have consequences so that she never bullies another child like this again. I want my son to at least have an apology from this mean, manipulative girl who cost him his standing with his friends.
So last night, Wednesday, I get home from work. My husband and son are in the front yard, I can see that mean girl’s mom is on their porch and she’s riding her bike up and down the street. I wonder if she’s apologized to my son. I go in the house, change, sit down to relax. No, my husband says, she hasn’t said anything. J says “Mom, she said hi to me really nicely, can I go play with her?” No, you cannot go play with her. You can go ride your scooter outside and if she’s out there fine but you may not go to her house and ask her to play. I ask my husband to please go outside with him…this has been our summer. We always go out with him because we feel like he’s vulnerable. It sucks. And no apology has been made, I am sure she lied to her parents when they questioned her or made it sound much less worse than it was.
I sit in my living room. My husband texts me “Hey, everyone is outside”. Before this happened, I’d have gone outside to talk to my neighbors. Now, though…I’m not very happy with my neighbors right now. I don’t feel very neighborly. I wonder how many parents listened to their kids talk about my boy, and didn’t think to question them, didn’t bother to talk to us. The bully has been at all of these kids houses frequently this summer, even though she’s older than all of them. Are parents so damn stupid these days? There is no way I’d listen to my son badmouth one of the neighbor kids without getting to the bottom of it, and questioning that version. Talking to the parents about what’s being said.
Right now, I feel like my neighbors are a bunch of idiots who either 1) believed whatever this child said about mine, or 2) didn’t pay any attention to what an older child was doing with their kids. If this child was a boy, his behavior would be considered predatory. It would probably cause alarm, but she’s a girl. She’s cute. She’s probably been helping the stay-at-home moms with their kids this summer, who knows.
I sat on my couch and had a long cry last night. We moved here one year ago in July. I guess I feel like my illusions about neighbors and looking out for each other and teaching our kids right from wrong have been smashed to bits. I can’t believe her parents haven’t made her apologize, if there is no consequence for her actions who’s her next victim? I would never let my child get away with such meanness, manipulation, and dishonesty. I feel very jaded and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to feel better about this, or how I’ll react if that child approaches me. I don’t want to talk to her or even look at her unless she apologizes. I don’t want to gather with my neighbors and pretend that nothing happened to hurt my child. I just don’t want to live here right now, I guess. I suppose I’ll get over it at some point.