Quandary

Kate did not go to school on Friday.

She got up complaining of a stomach ache and a headache. While she felt somewhat warm to the touch, the ear thermometer showed her temperature was normal.

She broke down. “No! That just shows that my ears are normal! Maybe it needs new batteries!”

Now, mornings are already trying times in my household. We don’t do them well. With the #bathroomredo it’s a touch more chaotic, what with me running across the yard and all.

So: Friday. Kate is physically refusing to move. She is buried under her blanket, curled in a ball. She will not get dressed, and we lack the strength and the fortitude and *time* to pry her apart and get her out the door. We suspect we are being played (no temperature), but can’t be sure (she really does look bad, bags under eyes and all) and WE HAVE TO GO.

Fine. She’s off to Bella and Tadone’s. I’m off with Flora; Dan is off with Michael. I check in a couple of times throughout the day. She’s fine. She’s eating fine (and she PIGGED OUT at dinner), she isn’t warm, etc. etc.

I’m somewhat preoccupied with this situation on Friday. This is the second time of note that Kate has pleaded sick in the morning without actually being sick. The first time was because her class had a Thanksgiving program the day before Thanksgiving (that I didn’t even know about), and she was nervous.

So I suspect that something is happening at school.

And then I remember what she told me when I picked her up on Thursday. In short, a classmate of hers (whom she has complained about before) was all up in her face all day AND said classmate had pulled Kate’s jumper over her head. When I asked if she had told the teacher, she said she hadn’t because when she said she was going to CLASSMATE CRIED. And she felt bad Classmate was crying. So she didn’t tell the teacher.

I told Kate that the reason Classmate cried was because she knew that she was going to suffer the consequences of her actions. She knew she was doing something wrong, and that she was going to get in trouble if Kate told on her, and so she cried.

And Kate fell for it. (Empathy can suck it.)

Ironically, of course, Classmate harasses Kate the way Kate harasses other people (especially, let’s see, FLORA). Classmate wants to play all the time, Classmate gets too close to Kate, Classmate touches Kate A LOT, Classmate won’t accept it when Kate asks to be left alone, or play with someone else, Classmate gets very upset. The jumper incident is kind of an escalation.

I would prefer it not escalate further. Obviously.

I talked to Dan about it, and Dan and I talked to Kate about it, and I nailed it (Kate was “sick” because she doesn’t want to deal with Classmate), and we basically said she can’t pretend to be sick when she doesn’t want to go to school.

Here’s my pickle: Even though I am a bad helicopter, and part of me thinks that Kate and Classmate are going to have to work this out (and Kate is going to have to tell the teacher about Classmate if/when she is giving Kate problems, which happens a couple of times a week), let’s face it:

THIS IS MY BABY DUCKLING. I WANT TO GO ALL MAMA BEAR ON THIS CLASSMATE. I AM MIXING MY PARENTING METAPHORS HERE.

Should I go talk to the teacher? What should I say? Should I maybe call Classmate’s mom? We have chatted at school events. I also happen to know that Classmate’s parents are engaged in custody warfare over Classmate, so I’m guessing some of her issues come from her home lives. (It’s messy, people. MESSY.)

Or do I give Kate the tools she needs to deal with Classmate on almost-6-year-old terms?

What are those tools?

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12 thoughts on “Quandary

  1. Talk to the teacher ASAP. Sooner, if you can. The teacher needs to be exerting control, and she needs to know of this bad dynamic that’s going on and how it’s affecting Kate.

    The tools she needs are patience and words — and a little bit of toughness, too. If Classmate does something horrifying like pulling Kate’s dress over her head, that’s NEVER okay. EVER. And it may seem contradictory, but it’s NOT okay for Kate to not speak up about it. Kate needs to tell Classmate that what she did is wrong. She needs to tell the teacher immediately, but without whining and crying about it. That part is hard when you’re six. If you can teach her to be matter-of-fact, she’ll be ahead.

    Good luck! This is a hard one. Been there. Survived it.

    • Part of the problem I think is that this stuff isn’t happening in the classroom proper. Recess and/or extended day (which is so chaotic anyway) seem to be the scenes of the crimes, so to speak. I’m going to set up a meeting with the teacher, and see what happens from there.

      Words, patient, toughness. Got it. Will talk to her. Thanks!

  2. Talk to the teacher or talk to the parents. I recently had to deal with a bully situation with my duaghter being bullied and I spoke directly to the mom and she had no idea it was happening.

    She’s still at a young age where she needs her mom. If she were 10 or something, she’d have to figure it out on her own, with just parental guidance. But with her being this little, she doesn’t know and it won’t just stop. Or it’ll just move on to another person. Still give her the tools, but also show her that you don’t stand for it.

    I understand the mama bear situation. I wanted to rip that 9 year old’s head from his shoulders when I heard what he was saying to Claire. No way. No way!

    Hang in there!

  3. I’m thinking just the opposite from the other posts; maybe give Kate another chance at working things out with Classmate. Somehow get them to talk together and have Kate tell her how the behavior makes her feel and how she is feeling like she doesn’t want to be around Classmate anymore. Maybe she wants to still be friends with Classmate but only if she stops doing those things because of the way it makes Kate feel (all in her own words).

    Maybe there is something that you can do to encourage this dialogue between the two? Maybe during school drop off ask Classmate if she has a few minutes to talk to Kate and give them the space to talk alone? Or maybe have Kate draw a picture about it and give it to Classmate to get the conversation going? Maybe you be there for part of the conversation to direct it/facilitate it but still have the girls talk it out?

    Then see what happens and whether the teacher gets involved. Kate may suffer the consequences of being a tattle-tale and it might be worth the extra effort of working with the girls in advance to see if things can change before you take the teacher route. Or you can also inform the teacher of what is going on so that she is aware of the situation, but let her know that the girls are working it out so that if the teacher needs to get involved it does not look like Kate is tattling on Classmate.

    I’m out of my league here. This has not happened to me; so any/all of the above may be nice in theory but just not practical in real life. Please share the outcome!

  4. I don’t know what the best route here is, whether it’s contacting the teacher or not. Whichever route you take, having regular conversations about it is important, to give her strategies to deal with it and try to get the classmate to stop the behavior. Not responding, walking away, telling classmate to stop, and ultimately talking to the teacher. It might not work, and she might not be old enough to handle it yet but dealing with obnoxious, difficult people is an important life skill. It might also give her some empathy about how Flora feels when she pesters her. As crappy as it is, this is probably what my family fondly calls a Valuable Learning Experience for Kate. And talking about it with her, a lot, is probably your first and best tactic.

    (coming from someone who isn’t a parent but remembers dealing with ‘problematic’ classmates, and how my parents coached me through it at dinner. let me tell you about the time in 8th grade a male classmate pinned me in the back of the classroom and tried to feel me up. Yea.)

    • That’s not a Valuable Learning Experience; that was assault and if I’d been your parent I would have raised holy hell.

      Knowing my parents, they would have, too.

      • Oh, they did. I was in 8th grade (a far cry from Kate in kindergarten) and he had been harassing me for some time. I had tried to deal with it by talking to teachers, filing a harassment complaint (they had an Official Zero Tolerance Policy against bullying and sexual harassment!) and was unilaterally told to ‘ignore him’. When that happened, my mom called the principal at home at 10PM and screamed at her. He was suspended for 2 weeks the following day. My mom spearheaded a successful effort to have the principal removed from her position the following year.

        The Valuable Life Lesson was that sometimes, the adults around you won’t do what they’re supposed to do to protect you, and Zero Tolerance Policies are usually worthless. My parents had to take things into their own hands at that point. Sometimes, you have to. And trust me, they were a far cry from being helicopter parents.

  5. This may have been covered by the others (I skipped comments because I suck and have a headache) but this is KINDERGARTEN. This is the place where she is supposed to be learning the tools she needs to deal with this but she is supposed to be doing it with adult help. Therefore, you need to speak with the teacher.

    Being the wife of a person who was severely bullied as a kid, this kind of stuff makes me nutty. It’s one thing to try to have Kate learn to deal with it but when it begins to affect her ability to GO TO SCHOOL you have an issue that you, as her mother, must intervene to solve.

    I think the word ‘bully’ has become too much of a buzzword and I don’t necessarily think that Classmate is a bully. But I believe that if Kate is so upset that she doesn’t want to go to school and fakes being sick it’s time to talk with her teacher. It is perfectly OK to say “I know that Kate is being bothered in the same way that she bothers others and this needs to be a lesson for her but she also should not be faking sick to get out of school.” If the teacher is worth his/her salt (and I bet they are) they should agree with you.

    HUGS!

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