Mean Kids: How To Keep Your Kid From Being One

Filed Under: Life

Greg Timm | Click to zoom...

Since Cara hasn’t ever been in daycare and isn’t in preschool, I’ve managed to stave off the onslaught of other kids directly influencing Cara’s behavior. Correction…no other kids influencing Cara’s behavior other than her brother but he doesn’t really count.

Now that Cara’s in gymnastics and has decided she’s in love, I’m finally getting a taste of what it’s going to be like for the rest of my life as a parent: I get to see my kids’ emotions get crushed by other kids.

When Cara says she loves this boy, she means it. Like she’s going to marry this boy. I’m glad his mom seems nice. Two Mondays ago I had to inform Cara that it is, in fact, NOT OK to kiss someone without first asking their permission and it’s DEFINITELY not OK to do it TWICE and WHILE IN THE MIDDLE OF CLASS! She assured me she would not kiss Alex during class. I figured I had at least gotten part of my point across.

Monday was another gymnastics class and Cara bounced around the gym floor like she always does…and by always I mean she bounces everywhere; Tigger has nothing on this kid. In between making sure Ollie didn’t smash Tucker’s iPad, I kept an eye on what Cara was doing in class and for the most part she was doing everything she should do. She was paying attention to her teacher. She was doing what was asked of her.

And then I saw the beginning of an issue.

Every time a task was assigned, Cara did what was asked of her but she was always keeping an eye out for where Alex was in relation to her. Like a good little homing pigeon, she always managed to make her way back to Alex’s side.

I kept watching and got to see the first time my kid was made fun of by other kids.

Cara stood on the platform and said something to Alex. From knowing Cara, I could tell she was saying something to the effect of, “I LOVE YOU! LET’S GET MARRIED! BABIES!!!” Granted, I was a floor up and there was a big piece of window glass between Cara and me but I know my kid. Alex smacked himself in the forehead. I don’t blame ya, kid. She’s a piece of work.

Cara’s teacher told Cara it was her turn and Cara bounced along with her arms held perfectly over her head. Just as I was smiling with pride at Cara finally keeping her arms up, I noticed Alex hold his nose and say something to the other girls in Cara’s class. They all looked after Cara and laughed and I glanced Cara’s way to make sure she hadn’t heard them. Cara was blissfully unaware.

I know kids are mean. I. Know. I was a kid. Really. And it wasn’t so far back that I don’t remember what it was like to be made fun of or have something mean said to me. Hell, adults aren’t any better than kids…we just [usually] develop a better vocabulary.

But there was something about watching that little episode that made me want to snatch Ollie up under one arm and grab Cara up under the other and go home. I didn’t since that would have made me look crazy but I still wanted to and I might have planned out how I was going to manage said feat without breaking Tucker’s iPad and/or one of my ankles as I barreled down the stairs to the gym.

Since it was Ollie’s birthday, he got to chose where we were going to eat and as Cara and Ollie were arguing the finer points of McDonald’s and Hardee’s, I heard one of the girls from Cara’s class tell her mom, “He said he loves me!” Cara didn’t hear and I’m glad for that.

As they finished up the last of Ollie’s birthday cake, I asked Cara how her class had gone and if she learned anything new. “Alex says that Ms. Meg is too old to be her son’s mother and that she’s his grandma instead.” She gave me the start of a sly grin and I guess my look must have told her I didn’t think Alex was too funny. He’s made fun of Ms. Meg in the past: “Alex says that since Meg rhymes with Egg that we should call her Ms. Egg instead.”

I asked her how she thought Ms. Meg would feel if Ms. Meg had heard Alex. “She did hear him. She was standing right next to Alex when he said it.”

“Well what did she say?” I asked.

“She didn’t say anything.” Cara said.

Ms. Meg has been teaching this age group for far longer than she’ll admit but I know there are teachers at the gym who are close to my age and they were taught by Ms. Meg so I know the woman has been doing this for a while. This can’t be the first time one of those kids has acted like a little kid. I just don’t want CARA to be that kid.

And look, Cara’s a good kid. I know every parent says their kid is a good kid but I know that if Cara was a brat, I’d call a spade a spade and then work like hell to get that spade to act like a good kid. Cara’s a kind kid–except to her brother when he’s acting like a brother and she’s acting like a sister–and though she’s made observations about how people look–including me–she’s never said something with the intent of hurting another person’s feelings. I get the feeling there’s something “mean” going on with this stuff about Ms. Meg. Or, maybe it’s just a little boy trying to impress a bunch of little girls.

The flip of that is a certain little girl trying like hell to make a certain little boy notice her and I’m afraid said girl will act like said boy since that’s how he’s been acting. I just confused myself with that sentence.

I’m pretty much stuck as to what I’m supposed to do.

Do I do nothing and randomly mention to Cara that it hurts people’s feelings when we say mean things about them? Do I talk to Ms. Meg about my concerns? Do I move Cara to another class slot? Do I just let nature take its course? All of the above? None of the above?

I know I can’t save Cara from the world–and I don’t want to–but what exactly do I do?

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