So there's this kid in my daughter's class, and he was in her class last year, too, and how to put this... he's sort of a jerk. And I base this not on secondhand info from my kid, I base this on my own observations because I'm lucky enough to have weekdays off and go on many field trips so I've seen for myself, the kid is kind of a jerk. Now, I can remember last year thinking that, in very general terms, second graders can be assholes. I remember this because I remember talking about this with a friend who has taught second grade and who I believe straight up said, "Second graders are assholes." If your kid was not an asshole in second grade, or if you're thinking, well, mine will NOT be one of those in second grade, more power to you. That's awesome. But I'm just saying they can be. Third grade doesn't seem to be that way so much but you know, they're kids, and I know my own kid has hormonal changes going on, the type of changes that I didn't see until I was like twelve and she's nine, so I'm sure that's a factor with some of the boys, too. That being said, I stand by my opinion that this kid, we'll call him Jerry (because Jerkface Jerry), is a bit of a jerk. A troublemaker. A pain in the butt. The kid you see on the field trip and think wow, I'm glad that I have MY kid.
So for whatever reason, Jerry has got MY kid on his radar. There have been a couple of little incidents I've heard about where he's being a jerk to her and at least one time where he was encouraging some of the other boys in the class to also be jerky. And I'm like well, he's a boy, they can be so dumb (because really, is it ever too early to let your daughter know this?), just ignore him. Which reminds me of my dearly departed mom telling me this when I was a kid and my little brother was driving me up the wall and I was like well, how about he not be a jerk and then I have nothing to ignore? But her advice was golden: If you want to tease someone and you don't get a reaction, then you're going to stop teasing that person because how fucking boring is that? So this is what I'm going for with the kid.
Yesterday she comes out of class, and I can tell she's been crying, and she says that Jerry said she was "ugly and pitiful." So my first reaction was an honest one. I said, "Wow, that was really jerky of him." Some of her friends appear to check on her and I was like look, do these guys think that about you? No, they don't. And whose opinion matters, theirs or Jerry's? Oh, and I'm not sure if it was yesterday or another time but it came up that Jerry also called her fat. First of all, she's not fat. Second of all, even if she were overweight, eff you, Jerry, for calling her fat. And apparently he started in on his jerkiness by calling attention to the fact that she is not a fan of elevators or heights, because on the last field trip she mentioned this (I was with her in the elevator) and the field trip before that it involved sitting in a balcony.
Anyway, we came home and spent some time cuddling because no matter how much you know some jerk's opinion doesn't matter, it still hurts. Especially when we're super sensitive and my poor kid has my genes so she is SUPER sensitive, which is another reason why she's a great target for Jerry, because he figures he can make her cry. She's not even crying when we're cuddling, but she's bummed. So this makes the mama bear in me want to go to the school, pick up Jerry by the scruff of the neck, drag him over to some bushes, and just leave him there. Because this is my baby and he's hurting her with his words. I said maybe I should say something to him. And she says, "Yeah, Mom, and use your STERN voice." Which cracked me up because apparently I have a stern voice that comes out on the 4th time I'm telling my kid to do something, and I love that she picked that adjective because it sounds so parental. But then I thought you know what, I'd like to give my kid the tools to deal with this. So here is what we came up with for now: Should Jerry decide to drop a jerk bomb on her, she will just look at him for a minute, and then in the most uninterested voice she can muster, with a blank look on her face, she can say, "Huh. That's interesting." Nothing more. I am hoping her lack of reaction coupled with this condescension that even a nine year old boy should be able to comprehend, that she completely fries his circuits and he deems teasing and/or bullying her to be boring, an exercise in futility because there are no tears and impassioned insults from her (because yes, she is sensitive, but she will also express her feelings and tell you EXACTLY what she thinks of you).
This morning we're in front of her class and I see Jerry and I swear to goodness that I had this visceral longing to go upside this kid's head. I don't even believe in corporal punishment and I certainly don't believe in handling conflicts with physicality (which is obviously different if someone were in a position being forced to defend themselves which I suppose is a whole other can of worms), but I'm just admitting to all of you that I wanted to clobber this kid. Instead I said, Jerry, have a great day. I know he heard me, but he didn't even meet my gaze. So I said, and this time louder, Jerry. He looks at me. Have a great day. He mumbles, okay. But I'm thinking yes, you little jerk, have a great day so you don't decide to fuck with MY kid because you have your own set of issues. Do I have compassion for Jerry because I'm sure his jerkiness is stemming from stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with my kid? Yes. Do I still think he is a jerk who better leave my kid alone? Yes.
We're in third grade. When I was in a third grade boys didn't even know I was alive to tease me. I was as quiet as a little mouse and flew under the radar for most of my academic life. But my kid (and yes, I'm biased) is beautiful, she's smart and sassy, and she speaks her mind. She has moments of shyness and moments of extreme sensitivity, but she will not be able to fly under the radar the way her mother did, and frankly, I'm glad about that, even if it means dealing with another Jerry here and there. Or this particular Jerry from now through junior high because at least in high school boys might not be as much into name calling, right? I mean I'm forty-five in June and I know boys still bug me. They still make my heart hurt, they still do stuff or don't do stuff that drives me nuts. But obviously I've got a bigger tool box with which to deal with boynanigans than my nine year old. So I'll continue to be there for hugs and support and advice and encouragement (when she was less than enthusiastic about going to school this morning I played Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off" while she was in the shower), and I will not pick up boys bear-style and drag them away from the classroom and throw them into a ditch made just for jerks.
Being a kid can be tough. Being a mom can be tough. But I know we'll get through it.