Children who beg for your food when they see you eating (even though they had food in front of them), always irked me. Somehow, I always reasoned, they had no one around to tell them that was rude and made folks uncomfortable. I'm not talking about a hungry kid who has no food. I'm talking about the child who sees what you have and wants it for themselves even though they have something in front of them that is theirs. When my own daughter does this, I tell her she can have some after I've eaten all that I was going to eat. With typical ceremony, she pouts and then forgets and finishes what is in front of her. Recently, she started just taking my food when my back is turned. I don't like that.
"Why did you just take the last of my sandwich?"
"Because I wanted it."
"But, I did, too. It was mine. You had your sandwich that you picked out and didn't even finish it. Why would you eat the last of my food?"
"Well, Mary Joy eats my food at school. So, I was just doing it, too."
Ah ha. I knew there had to be someone, somewhere telling her that this type of behavior was acceptable. What I didn't expect was to learn that the little girl she eats lunch with eats most of her lunch during lunchtime. Of course, I wasn't thrilled about it. Upon closer investigation, I learned that my kid is most likely is a willing participant in her own bullying.
"So, does Mary Jo have food at lunch time?"
"Yes. She has food. But, she likes mine better. Oh, and her name is Mary Joy."
"Oh, ok. My bad. Does she ask for your food or just take it?"
"She usually just takes it. But, that's ok. She's my friend. She lets me be her friend if I give her my food."
Oh hell no.
So, of course, I'm floored. My 7 year-old is feeding a bully she calls a friend. Apparently, there are other girls that my daughter is grateful to be friends with because then, they won't be mean to her. So, she is willing to not only give them what they want to leave her alone and call her friend, but she hides who she is-- she doesn't sing and share a lot of herself-- so they will like her. I found that out when she told me that her friends wouldn't know what to do with me.
"What do you mean your friends wouldn't know what to do with me?"
"Well, they would probably think you were weird because you sing all the time and do different voices and stuff." She's talking about my "acting" voice.
"Um, well you sing all the time, too. You sing with me half the time. If you like you, they should like me, right?"
"Well, they don't know I sing. They make fun of people who sing."
Oh c'mon now.
So, after reading all of my damn parenting books, mentoring other kids and teaching workshops on how to advance youth development and all that jazz, you are telling me that my kid can just go to school and be bullied into being less than the star that she is? Well ain't that some malarky.
Of course, I knew this day would come, when she would be peer pressured and friend desperate and all, I mean, don't we all go through that? But, the pain of it all to watch and hear is just, well, it is just overwhelming. I mean, where do you begin? I start with telling her dad who then pulls her aside and says,
"Don't be friends with mean people."
Gee, thanks Dad.
And, so then I come next. I tell her that she shouldn't be friends with people who need to take things from her in order for them to consider her a friend. I tell her that if she doesn't think that someone will like her if she is being herself, then, they are not worthy of being her friend. But, then, she reminds me that she is a big girl. She tells me that she knows how to say no. And, she says, after all, "I probably won't be friends with them that long anyway."
Hm. I guess she gets it better than I do. I'll be waiting in the wings to shake a kid, though, if she needs me. I guess, that's what us mommies are really for anyway.