Last week of school

It’s the last week of primary school for Miss 10, and she’s alternately excited and sad and nostalgic and ready to move on. At her prizegiving the other night, I was reminiscing about how she used to be so small that her uniform dress — the smallest size the school uniform shop sold — went all the way down to her ankles. “And now you’re so grown up,” I commented fondly, while she scowled and rolled her eyes.

“I am going to miss this place,” she confided as we walked back to the car with her graduation certificate proudly held aloft. Her primary school is small and her graduating class comprises only around 40 students, only some of whom will be going to the same secondary school she’s starting next year.

And here’s my confession: There is one student I’m particularly glad won’t be going along with her.

We all have that kid in our child’s life. The one your child doesn’t get along with. The one whose name you always hear along with the words “pulled my hair” or “pushed me on the playground” or “made fun of me”. And there’s a big part of me that feels very sorry for that kid, and that kid’s parents. But there’s another part of me that thinks, “Enough is enough.”

This one particular student is apparently popular and well-liked, but has for some reason decided that my daughter isn’t likable. I’m okay with that. We can’t always get along with everyone. I have people in my life that I don’t like, too. But when “I don’t like you” turns into “So-and-so won’t play with you because I said they can’t”, I see red. Because I grew up with peers like that. Peers who used their own position of popularity to make others feel inferior.

It’s bullying, but it’s not the kind that’s easily dealt with. And it’s difficult to differentiate between normal preteen friendship negotiations — the constant fallings-out and makings-up of adolescent girls — and something more insidious. We’ve taken the high road for a while, and I’m tired of it, because it’s not working.

So this other student will go to another school, and my daughter will go to her new school, and we’ll inevitably encounter this situation again at some point, in some shape or form. Next time, I’ll counsel my daughter to deal with it differently. I’ll encourage her to be an upstander if she sees someone else being bullied. We’ll discuss tactics she can use if she’s the object of a bully. I’ll help her to build up her own self-esteem.

And then in another eight or so years, we’ll be walking back to the car after her college graduation, and hopefully my daughter will say, “I’ll miss this place — but I’m ready for my next adventure.”

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