pink balloons

Last week I read a story about a 12 year old girl in America – another victim of bullying – who took her own life. Perhaps it was as a result of casual cruelty, or more likely a reaction to deliberate and sustained meanness.

Years in the classroom and playground have allowed me to witness kids being casually mean. Someone coined this behavior, “the casualty brutality of youth”. But it’s not exclusive to the young – adults too can be casually cruel – a throwaway comment or thoughtless remark – sometimes it’s too easy to inflict pain.

Social media facilities this sort of meanness but you can’t blame social media, at least not entirely. Sometimes cruelty comes in the form of exclusion: bullying by omission.

My daughter, (I’ll call her Poppet here) wasn’t invited to a party. This mightn’t sound very bad. You can’t be invited to everything and coping with disappointment is part of life, it’s good for you – character building and all that. But this was different. Everyone was invited to this party, well, everyone she knew. Party Girl was part of the wider group of friends, Poppet’s friends were Party Girl’s friends…everyone, every girl her year was invited as well as girls from other schools, friends of friends, acquaintances yet pointedly, deliberately, Poppet wasn’t. All her friends were going, not one refused – Poppet didn’t expect them to – A party’s a party who could resist?

It was a sixteenth with the theme Neon and it was held in a fancy mansion, with catered food and a DJ. Fluorescent paint and glow sticks were dispensed at the door on arrival.

Poppet was inconsolable…she cried a lot and couldn’t sleep. She looked too pale and I was worried. I tried to help but couldn’t. I wanted to ring the Principal, to alert her to this suffering. I wanted to ring Party Girl; I wanted to call her mother, drop into her house and beg her to reconsider. But I didn’t. Besides, I hated this girl for the pain she inflicted.

There were weeks of pre-party talk at school – excited lunches and recesses filled with descriptions of neon outfits and fluoro dresses; shopping expeditions to buy the right outfits and shoes. All the while Poppet smiled, pretending she didn’t care.

The party came and went and still it wasn’t over – “The best party all year!” Post-party talk dominated and two more weeks of Facebook posts, hundreds of photos watching friends having the time of their lives. I told her not to look at them, that it was silly to torture herself, but she looked at every photo on friends’ phones, on Facebook and Instagram, on Tumblr. She couldn’t stay away.

As a parent I felt completely ineffectual during this time and realised that there is a limit to how much power a parent has in erasing the pain caused by exclusion and rejection. We found out the reason for the lack of invitation when it was all over. Party Girl wasn’t a very bad, mean girl after all…just a normal, regular girl who felt jealous, who found out a boy she liked preferred someone else.

Has your child ever been excluded from a party or invitation to play? Was it difficult to deal with for you and your child?


16 thoughts on “THE PARTY

  1. While something like this seems trivial – its crushing to a teenager who just wants to fit in. I hope your daughter has been able to put the whole sorry episode into perspective and get on with enjoying her social life. I also think the way you handled the situation was completely appropriate. Calling the parents would have only inflamed matters.

  2. I agree – as much as we as parents want to intervene, sometimes it’s better to ride it out. She did get over it and although she won’t ever really forget the experience (nor will I!), there will be more parties 🙂

  3. How sad for your little girl – kids are cruel sometimes. I agree that exclusion is possibly just as bad as direct cruel behaviour and I’m so glad she found out why she wasn’t invited, and it wasn’t all that personal after all.

    Lovely post.

  4. Thanks, Kat! Agree the effect of being left out can be almost as damaging as nasty taunts. As a parent, you just have to navigate them through the school years…it seems to ease of in uni (too busy doing assignments then!)

  5. Great post! Social slights, for whatever reason, are so crushingly public now. I’ve listened to Dannielle Miller, from Enlighten Education, give ‘parent talks’ at two of my daughters’ high schools now. My youngest said Dannielle’s inspiring and empowering messages to young girls in her school made some weep openly. Teenage girls are under so much pressure from so many sources. I hope Poppet is over the whole, sorry episode. 🙂

  6. Yes, Poppet recovered, and you are right, everything is so on display nowadays, it exacerbates the pain. Danielle Miller’s philosophy for girl-empowerment is wonderful 🙂

  7. I suspect that Poppet is now a stronger person for having gone through the ordeal, unpleasant as it was. As parents, we can’t shield our children from life’s vicissitudes. We can only love them and help them learn to weather it.

    It helps having a caring mum, which you surely are. Looking forward to the mutual follow.

    • You’ve no idea how much I wanted to but Poppet forbade me, she was hysterical at the thought. And she was right as it blew over and do you know, that girl is lovely to her now. But I haven’t forgotten. A mother never does. We relive the pain.
      (Sorry to be so heavy!)

  8. Pingback: Teens are Mean… | Is it just me?

    • Thank you for your lovely, heartfelt comment, H.W. and sorry I’ve taken so long to reply (have been in an editing bubble and neglecting the Blogosphere entirely!) Yes I am pleased to say Poppet has moved on since this awful time and is okay now. Thanks so much for caring. 🙂

      • I did see some of the comments after I wrote, L. It still hurts us as moms but at least she’s moved on. Perhaps she will look back on her “friend’s” action with deeper understanding and compassion in the future, seeing how people act out of their own filters, insecurities, and fears and that it’s often not personal.

      • Yes, very perceptive, H.W. While it doesn’t justify meanness, insecurity accounts for much of it. It’s hard when you’re embroiled in it but definitely worth remembering! 🙂

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