May 22, 2015
By Ekta R. Garg
Two weeks ago we went to a social event where the girls got to play with some of their classmates. Because this event and most of the people there were new to us, finding out that Eight and Six saw some familiar faces made me more at ease. After about an hour we said our goodbyes and came home. The girls said they had fun, and I didn’t sense anything amiss.
Three days later as we got ready for school in the morning, Eight mentioned that one of her classmates had said some bad words and directed them at her at the social gathering.
“What did he say?” I asked.
“Bad words,” she repeated.
“Like what?” I said while making Six’s bed.
“Like the F-word and the B-word,” she said, more insistent.
Floored. That’s how I felt. I stopped making the bed and turned back to her.
She gave me an emphatic nod.
After a moment’s hesitation I asked her to spell out one of the words, but just before she started spelling I told Six to cover her ears. Then I told Eight to go ahead.
She did, spelling out the B-word, and, yes, it was exactly what I thought it was. I didn’t know whether I should be more flabbergasted that the boy had called her that or whether she knew how to spell it. I didn’t dare ask her to spell the other one.
“Can you please tell Mrs. N.?” she asked, wanting her teacher to get involved somehow.
Then she told me the boy, G., had said the word in school too but not directly to her. Another classmate, N., said G. had said the word to her in reference to Eight. N. came back and told Eight about it later.
Despite the fact that the second incident happened in school, Eight was clear on the fact that no one else had witnessed or heard it. I explained to Eight that her teacher couldn’t do anything directly because she hadn’t been there. After some thought, though, I told her I would email the teacher. I also told her not to talk to G. Don’t be rude, I said, and don’t be disrespectful. Just find other friends to talk and play with for the rest of the week.
From the time Eight told me about the profanity until I dropped the kids at school and drove home, I could hardly think about anything else. Little by little I started to get angry. How dare this boy call my daughter names? Where did he learn language like that? I had half a mind to text his mother right then and there and ask her how she’d feel if someone used those words against G.’s younger sister.
By the time I sat in front of my computer about 30 minutes later, though, I’d gotten enough distance from my anger that I talked myself out of texting G.’s mother. When I actually composed the email to Eight’s teacher, I did my best to control my temper. I simply told her what happened and asked her to keep an ear out for anything at school. She wrote back and told me she would.
I managed to work through the rest of the day and only stop to marvel at the situation (with a tinge of horror bordering the marvel) a few times. When I picked the kids up from school, Eight told me she was mad at G. and would never forgive him.
I found myself in a delicate situation. Her anger at G. was fully justified, but I didn’t want her to get into the habit of holding a grudge. With middle school around the corner, she’ll have several opportunities to witness or be on the receiving end (only the receiving end, I hope!) of drama. Holding a grudge takes up way too much energy and time, and I want both girls to put their energy and time toward positive things.
So I told her she was right to be angry and feel bad about what G. said but that staying mad at him ultimately hurt her. She seemed to understand what I said, although she didn’t like it much. I could fully understand. I kind of felt the same way myself.
I also knew that I needed to tell my husband what happened. That night when he came home from the hospital, I updated him on the events of the day when the kids went up to bed. Then I told him about G. and the profanity.
If I’d gotten angry, my husband was livid. He even tried to call G.’s father to discuss the issue, but no one answered the phone. I told him it was just as well, that he probably shouldn’t talk to someone when he was all fired up anyway. He agreed, reluctantly, to wait until the next get together so he could talk to G.’s father face to face.
G. and his family didn’t attend the next get together. My husband brought up again that maybe we should talk to G.’s parents, but to be honest I felt really uncomfortable. I’m not a fan of confrontation, and a situation like this would only create confrontation no matter how nicely we handled it. Add to that the fact that when G. used the bad language to Eight’s face no one else was there, and I could see this quickly turn into an argument of our word versus theirs. And that kind of confrontation always yields bad results.
Interestingly, though, Eight managed to handle the situation with an old-fashioned tactic: the silent treatment. She didn’t speak to G., and he came back and apologized to her three separate times. By the third time she managed to thaw out and started talking to him again, and on the afternoon of the third apology she told me they were friends again.
I’ve had several days to think about the situation since it first occurred, and I’m still not quite sure how best to handle it. I hate that my child, at only eight years old, got exposed to profanity at such a young age. I hate that someone she considered a friend would say those words to her, that she felt disrespected.
I told my husband that if it happened again we should handle it in a more aggressive way, and I’m all for that. The problem gets compounded, though, by the fact that Eight sees this boy in school as well at social events outside of school. If the situation between the parents goes overboard, the kids might deal with the repercussions—or create their own—when they see each other.
But Eight seems okay about the whole thing now. Does that make it better? Should we still talk to G.’s parents? I don’t know.
I also don’t know if I’ll be ready for the drama of middle school.