SNAP! Goes The Relationship!

by admin on July 26, 2011

Well, unfortunately this is about an etiquette breach of my own that still haunts me to this day, and I need some advice on how to handle it properly without creating another one.

The story takes place when my two best friends (one male who I’ll call K, and one female who I’ll call M) and I were in first grade. I used to wear long, rather flowy dresses, and we used to make a game out of lifting the skirt part up and letting it float back down slowly (no idea why we thought this was fun, we were six). We liked to get each other in trouble as well, nothing serious, but we liked to tattle on each other for stupid reasons.

Anyway, though my memory is a bit fuzzy, one day K, M, and I were playing our usual game. At some point I guess M got bored of it and suggested that K snap my underwear as well (we were six so this didn’t seem that inappropriate). He did, and M thought it was hilarious, so she told him to do it again. I was getting a bit annoyed by this point and told M to stop laughing so hard or I would tell the teacher (I don’t remember exactly why I was annoyed, but for the record it wasn’t because I felt violated). She just started laughing harder so I marched over to the teacher to tell on them.

I was totally unprepared for the seriousness with which my claim that K, “Pulled up my dress and messed with my underwear” would be taken by the teacher (though I can obviously see why it was now). I expected her to tell K to stop it as she usually did whenever we tattled, but this was a whole new level. My parents were called, his parents were called, I think he was suspended, he had to handwrite me a two-page note about how sorry he was, and his parents called my parents to apologize. I was horrified at the time because he was my best friend (and my first and still only real crush), and I definitely did not mean to bring this upon him.

We stayed best friends up until fifth grade when he moved away. He would sometimes joke about the incident, but I felt so bad about it that I never really joined in. I’d since told my parents that it really wasn’t that big of a deal, and to definitely not be angry at K or his parents, but nothing was really done to make amends.

So, here I am, eleven years after the incident (seven years of which I haven’t been in contact with him), and he friends me on Facebook (wow, really showing my seventeen here, aren’t I?). I still feel really horribly about this incident, and kind of want to grovel at his feet and apologize profusely, but I’m not sure whether that would be good to do or if it would dredge up something that maybe he would rather forget about? This is where I’m asking for advice. What should I do? 0713-11

He’s made the effort to seek you out and befriend you again after a long hiatus.  I’d say that indicates he has gotten past the incident and bears you no ill will.  Accept his friendship request, begin to build a nice, new foundation of friendship with him and later down the road, if the timing is right, you can bring up the incident like this, “Remember the time I got you in a boatload of trouble when we were six?  I still feel awkward about what I did.”  It might open a nice discussion and if he laughs it off , accept his rather informal manner of expressing forgiveness, forgive yourself and move on.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Kali Ravel July 26, 2011 at 8:13 am

It sounds like a totally innocent mistake to me, and I’m sure he sees it that way too, based on his behaviour.

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Xtina July 26, 2011 at 8:18 am

He has obviously “gotten over it” since he reached out to you on FB, so I wouldn’t let it worry me too much. However, if it bothers you still, then after some chatting with him to establish how he’s been and what he’s been up to and a little reminiscing about old times, just tell him you’re sorry about that and it’s always bothered you. Likely, he’ll tell you not to worry about it or you might have a good laugh about it. Done–move on. Mission accomplished!

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ellesee July 26, 2011 at 8:28 am

I agree with the admin. This is something you need to move on at as well. Don’t grovel. As kids, we all do stupid yet innocent things and are not aware of the consequences.

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josie July 26, 2011 at 8:40 am

A simple, sincere “sorry” should be sufficient….you were 6 and at the time, it was innocent, not perverted. Be friends.

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LilyG July 26, 2011 at 9:06 am

Admin is right-he’s over it and now you can be, too. Acknowledge it later for peace of mind, but I don’t think he bears you any ill will.

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Pam B July 26, 2011 at 9:15 am

Let go of the guilt. Every single person has done something they regret; you are in good company : )

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Wendy July 26, 2011 at 9:26 am

I agree with admin as well…he apparently realized that it was a stupid incident that got blown out of proportion. You feel bad, especially because you, being six, had no idea what was going to happen when you told. I think adults forget that kids don’t quite see the world the same way they do, and don’t always have the language skills to completely express what is going on…to you it made perfect sense to say what you said. Maybe a lot of similar incidents when things are blown out of proportion wouldn’t happen if adults would take a few moments to question a child about what they mean before creating a federal case out of it.

Anyhow, getting off of my soap box…why not message him and say that you just want to clear things once and for all for your own peace of mind, apologize for what happened and say you really want to be friends again. If he’s the person he sounds like he is, he’ll say no harm was done, he doesn’t hold anything against you and friends it is. :o)

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gramma dishes July 26, 2011 at 9:32 am

The OP is correct though. They were six. Things seem a lot different when you’re that little. Kids that age have no real concept of sexuality and most of what they do is indeed quite innocent, even though it would be extremely serious if they were older.

I do get why the school reacted so strongly. In today’s world they almost have to. Yet, it’s really a shame when things like this are so blown out of proportion that kids are left with one kind of guilt or another (or a notorious reputation) to carry with them seemingly forever.

It sounds from the letter like the boy has moved on and realizes that the whole incident was much-ado-about-nothing, and though he probably still remembers it [it must have been traumatic to be in that much trouble as a little boy and not really have the capability at that age to even begin to comprehend WHY he was in so much trouble] he seems to have gotten past it and has rightfully placed it into the “almost amusing” stories of his youth.

The OP is the one left feeling guilty about having gotten her friend into so much trouble over what both of them at the time considered to be no big deal. It’s sad that we in today’s society have reached a point where we tend to overlook the innocence of youth and apply our ‘grown up’ judgements to the playful, not criminal, activities that children have been participating in since basically the beginning of time.

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Twik July 26, 2011 at 9:40 am

I think honestly would be the best policy here. “You know, Friend, I’m still embarrassed thinking about the trouble I got you into when we were six. I always wanted to tell you how sorry I was about that.”

He’ll likely respond that it was no big deal, but he’ll probably appreciate that you apologized.

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Cat July 26, 2011 at 9:43 am

I still regret yelling at my cousin, who was nine years my senior, for coloring Tonto’s horse the “wrong” color in my coloring book when I was five. I apologized as an adult and she officially forgave me.

I am turning 62 next month and I still remember that. Youth is wasted on the young. If we could go back and correct things we did back then, we would feel better about ourselves now.

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Hemi Halliwell July 26, 2011 at 9:48 am

Go with admin’s advice. If he wants to be friends now, he’s gotten over it.

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SHOEGAL July 26, 2011 at 9:51 am

I know it is hard to just “get over” something when it truly bothers you – time usually tends to soften all of the emotions but when you revisit it – the same feelings pop up again. Not right away – but after some time mention it to him – if you get it all out in the open it helps immensely and clears the air. You’ll be able to move on once you address it.

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J's Mama July 26, 2011 at 10:10 am

I say just move on and let it go. You were six, not sixteen. Kudos to your teacher for taking it seriously, even though the incident was harmless.

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Elle July 26, 2011 at 10:20 am

Honestly, while you still feel bad about it, I would say that it was an apropriate amount of trouble for him to get into. I’m sure it impressed on him that messing with other kids’ underwear is a Bad Thing and he never did it again (I presume). And you learned that other people messing with your underwear is a Big Deal. This hasn’t broken his heart, hurt his career opportunities, or cost him money.

And you stayed best friends for a long while afterwords. At this point (more than a decade later) you have reached the point where it’s not a thing anymore. If, and only if, he brings it up – then you can say how bad you feel about it and apologize for the untintended poopstorm. If this is the worst thing that happens to someone because of something you didn’t intend, then you are living a blessed life.

Part of this is speaking from experience. My best friend and I (when we were about your age) had an awful falling out that traumatized us both a bit. (We were both at fault). We didn’t talk for close to fifteen years and just caught up recently on Facebook. We picked up our friendship pretty naturally and her father recently officiated my wedding less than a year after that. Neither one of us has felt the need to go back and grovel for what we did wrong. It was one of those youthful indiscretion things (yes OP, you can still have them even at the ripe age of 17 :) ).

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AS July 26, 2011 at 10:40 am

OP, I think lots of us have been in similar situations like you, where we inadvertently landed someone into trouble without meaning to, because we were young and didn’t know better. When I was in middle school, I had once by mistake “complained” about my then crush’s best friend (let’s call crush ‘C’ and best friend B) to one of my teachers. I didn’t meant to complain, but B teased me about something (don’t remember what it was, but it was nothing bad) which I thought was hilarious, and shared with my one of my favorite teachers who was like a mother to me (my mother would have laughed at the joke, so I thought the teacher would too). But she thought it was serious, and scolded B. I burnt a lot of bridges, and B never spoke to me again (5 more years in school). Though, C had befriended me on facebook about 6-7 years after I graduated from high school, and we tried to date again (but that didn’t work out because I did not find him to be compatible anymore and had nothing to do with the complaining).

I liked what the admin said. You were six when the incident happened! And given that K voluntarily added you as friend means that he is probably willing to forgive you. Maybe you can bring it up with him sometime later and you could share a laugh; or if you do it right and have a bit of luck, it might even be a bonding experience.
BTW, you mentioned that he’d sometimes joke about the incident when he was still around, but you were the one feeling awful about it “He would sometimes joke about the incident, but I felt so bad about it that I never really joined in”.. Chances are that he had already gotten over it, and all the negative feelings of guilt are totally in your head. So, if he jokes with you again, grab the opportunity to apologize. It will make you feel better. Otherwise, find the right time to bring it up and apologize. But don’t let your guilt affect your relationship.

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Micha July 26, 2011 at 11:03 am

Frankly, I think it was a good lesson for him. He learned actions have consequences, and ignoring someone in regards to her body and clothes is not going to end well.

I don’t think the 6 year old letter writer did anything wrong.

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Ashley July 26, 2011 at 11:04 am

If he wants to be friends, he is obviously over it. If he joked about it in the past, I don’t think he ever really cared too much about it to begin with. You were six when it happened, it’s not like it was last week and the cops got involved.

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Louise July 26, 2011 at 11:19 am

I agree with everyone else that it’s time to leave this incident in the past. You were 6, and none of you meant any of it to happen. K wouldn’t have reached out to you on Facebook if that incident still bothered him, so I’m sure he’s forgiven you.

If you want to apologize again, do it, but I advise you against bringing it up immediately. Chat with K a bit, get to know each other again as friends, and then, if it seems right, bring up the incident and apologize. And then put it out of your mind and be happy. :-)

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David July 26, 2011 at 11:55 am

I agree with the admin. Accept the friend request, build anew and when the time seems right – apologise. The apology will help you forgive yourself for not realizing what would happen (how could you have, you were 6) and let you see it for what it was, an unfortunate incident that luckily had no lasting consequences for your friend.

And thank you for writing about it, OP – I have an incident from around the same age I still beat myself up for, you’ve helped me gain some perspective.

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claire delune July 26, 2011 at 12:44 pm

I agree with Elle and Micha…it doesn’t matter so much if the writer “didn’t feel violated,” or if K wasn’t intentionally violating her privacy. K *did* do something wrong and disrespectful, and it’s good that he learned when he did that there are consequences to violating someone else’s bodily autonomy. The writer did absolutely nothing wrong by reporting this, and (I might be getting a little worked up, here, but just thinking about the principle involved), it’s a little disturbing that she feels like she needs to grovel and make amends for something–it brings up a lot of uncomfortable ideas about how women are expected to respond to men’s advances, and how they feel they’re doing something wrong by saying “enough.” Again, I realize we’re talking about children, but she’s an adult now, and still viewing this as a situation in which SHE did something wrong to HIM.

At any rate–yeah, everyone needs to let it go. They were only 6, he’s obviously over it, the school responded appropriately, he learned a good lesson without sustaining any lifelong trauma from it, so really it sounds like everyone’s good.

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Enna July 26, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I agree with Admin, he wants to be firends. It can’t have left him scared for life. It’s not like it was done with nasty motives, purely innocnet ones. I don’t think if he was 6 it would have an impact on his job in life.

Shappi Korsandi the Iranian commeidian recalls in her autobigoraphy that there was one girl at her school who did have her knickers taken off by a boy who was being nasty – as in he pinned her down.

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SV July 26, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I think you should apologise, but only because you still feel so guilty about this. Facebook is a great two dimensional medium for connecting with old friends, and that can sometimes make it easier to put the past behind us and move on. I would do it soon, so you can do just that- put this incident behind you. A sincere, ” This has always bothered me- I had no idea the trouble it would cause you and I am so sorry, ” is all you need to do. And then you can relax and get to know him again. I would be very suprised if he hasn’t put this behind him long since. And everyone has their own personal case of “foot in mouth disease” where they are mortified by what they did or said- cut yourself some slack :)

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Chocobo July 26, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I get where the OP is coming from — I have incidents like this that occasionally bubble to the surface from the deep, dark recesses where I have repressed them and flush spontaneously from embarrassment or shame. But there’s no reason to feel terribly about it. If a renewed friendship should occur, after some time and you are once again truly friends, laugh it off one day in the same way the Admin has recommended: “Oh boy, I know it was stupid, but I still feel bad about that day I got you in trouble!”

Manners are about making people feel comfortable. If you don’t know him well enough, do the mannerly thing — pretend it never happened. Never bring up something awkward just because it would make you feel better at the expense of your acquaintance’s comfort.

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DeeTee July 26, 2011 at 2:04 pm

I’m not sure why it would be a big deal now.
The incident happened in first grade
You stayed best friends until fifth grade
Then he moved. Now he’s back in touch.

So it’s not like the incident in grade 1 severed the relationship in the first place.

Also while he didn’t mean any harm, it is important to learn you don’t mess with kids underwear and bodies and “No” means “No”. He got spoken too and wrote a letter and maybe? a few days off school.

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lkb July 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm

I like what Twik and Shoegal said best.

Even though K sent a friend request, we don’t really know what he feels about that incident. Maybe he remembers. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he felt bad. Maybe he thought it was a tempest in a teapot.

All we know is the OP felt badly. If she felt badly, then it is perfectly acceptable to say, as Twik suggested, “You know, Friend, I’m still embarrassed thinking about the trouble I got you into when we were six. I always wanted to tell you how sorry I was about that.” It’s not groveling. I think K would respect that and perhaps even admire the OP for saying it. (I would.)

I’ve recently cleared the air with a school friend whom I’d hurt all those years ago. I’m glad I did so. I’m finally able to move on — and the friend and I are better friends than we were.

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tkarsjens July 26, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Just a bit of perspective – you stayed friends with him for years afterwards and you call him your only true crush and this is the thing that sticks with you? Surely you must have other memories of him and the time you spent together as kids? I completely understand being embarassed about something and dwelling on it, but I think it’s a shame that this overshadows all your (hopefully) nice memories of your childhood friendship.

I think it’s sad (and you’re not alone!) that we often hold onto the bad memories and not to the good ones. I would put this aside, focus on your positive memories, and get to know him as he is now.

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MDS July 26, 2011 at 4:47 pm

27 years ago, when I was 8 (possibly 9) there was girl in my grade (let’s call her N) who was the least popular kid for reasons I doubt anyone even knows or remembers why. I was the second or third least popular. This could be why at Girl Scout camp when the other girls were being mean to N and I had the opportunity to show I was cool I went along. I don’t know what we said or did but I do know N cried, the counselors came over and we got a stern talking to. We might have also had to apologize to N. I don’t remember if there were any other consequences (I know our parents were not called) but I do remember how incredibly bad I felt. That night I cried about how wrongly I acted.

I moved the year or two afterwards but the guilt lingered. Whenever I thought about summer camp that incident came to mind. On a whim, I once looked her up on classmates.com but was to chicken too make contact. Then Facebook came along and lo and behold she sent me a friend request. She emailed to ask how I was and I answered her, briefed her about my life and then I apologized for that incident. I acknowledged that I succumbed to peer pressure and that although the details are hazy I wanted to apologize. She wrote back to say she forgot about that and that although grade school was torture, high school was much better.

It may sound cheesy but I feel thankful and relieved that I got to tell her. She was my biggest regret from my childhood. You were 6, you definitely didn’t mean for it to blow up the way it did, and although he may be over it, you still haven’t had the chance to say that you’re sorry. The worst thing that can happen is for him to say that he is still deeply offended and can’t believe what you did. Rationally that is probably not the case. You stayed friends, he joked about it, and he reached out to you via Facebook. I say send him a message while you still can. People can quit Facebook and you don’t know if you’ll ever have this chance to clear your conscience.

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Jillybean July 26, 2011 at 5:23 pm

I think if I friended someone on FB and they apologized for something they did 11 years ago that clearly hadn’t caused any issue between us at the time, I’d be dumbfounded.

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--Lia July 26, 2011 at 7:26 pm

I agree with the others who have said that he must have no hard feelings or he wouldn’t have reached out to you. You don’t have to bring it up, but if you feel you want to, you might open a conversation about how the adults handled the incident, what they might have done differently, what you wish they’d done differently, how it felt at the time, and how it feels looking back as adults.

I had an experience like MDS. In 5th grade, there was one boy who was at the bottom of the pecking order. I was probably 2nd to the bottom. The other kids made fun of him all the time. I joined in once time in particular that I remember. As an adult in my 40s, I looked him up online (as I did others in our elementary school). I learned that he’s a terrific person now, successful, with a good marriage and nice kids. He has some perspective on that hierarchy in elementary school. I was able to apologize quite formally. Getting his forgiveness (something he gave freely) was incredibly meaningful.

Now my story on unintended consequences and adult reactions. When I was in 1st grade, my brother, 2.5 years older, did the old trick of pulling out the chair from under me just as I sat down. I hit the floor, laughed, and swore I’d get him back. My parents laughed too. I wasn’t hurt, and it was funny. I couldn’t wait to try it on the boy who sat next to me in school the next day. I did. He hit the floor and cried. The student teacher, a young sweet woman, came over to ask why I did such a thing. I had no words to explain that it was supposed to be funny. I started crying too. The teacher was baffled. I guess she understood that I wasn’t starting a new bad habit and left the whole thing alone. I’m glad she did.

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Sarah Jane July 26, 2011 at 7:34 pm

I’ve worked in the elementary school…parents tend to get pretty upset if they get the story from someone other than us. The school had no choice but to contact the parents of everyone involved.

You guys were six. Surely he wouldn’t still hold you accountable.

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Jennifer July 26, 2011 at 9:05 pm

I agree with other posters. You were six. It certainly wasn’t your fault. The parents should have figured out what actually happened knowing how small children see the world. They have psychologists who specialize in interviewing children for trials and such for this very reason.

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sj July 26, 2011 at 9:46 pm

I wonder if I’d even mention it at this point, unless it will just finally get it off your mind. Go ahead and be friends.

Also, although you did not feel violated, I think K certainly had to learn at some point that it wasn’t okay to do. Imagine if he’d done that to a girl who had some sort of history that DID make her feel violated! His innocent intention could have really hurt someone else who wasn’t as easy-going about it as you. Not the best way to learn, but a necessary lesson, right?

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wolfgirl July 27, 2011 at 4:09 am

Hey, I’d just like to point out that a few posts seem to portray poor K as a budding mini-sex-pest who had to be given a sharp lessen to stop him developing perverted tendencies. Whereas the OP clearly says that girl frind M told K to snap her underwear initially,
“At some point I guess M got bored of it and suggested that K snap my underwear as well ….He did, and M thought it was hilarious, so she told him to do it again. I was getting a bit annoyed by this point and told M to stop laughing so hard or I would tell the teacher …..She just started laughing harder so I marched over to the teacher to tell on them”
so sounds like he would not have done so otherwise, and it was M’s laughter that annoyed the OP to the extent that she went to “tell” – but she was trying to get M in trouble not K. So totally M’s fault IMHO! So sounds like if anyone owes 6-year-old K an apology its little M for egging him on, then getting off scott free! :D
And either way everyone is right with their advice about how to deal with it now, if he was traumatised its prob by a sense of techers reactions and unfair punishment, not at OPs “betrayal”. All good! :D

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Tarina July 27, 2011 at 4:47 am

I agree with the other posters – it wasn’t your fault, and he’s moved on.

What I can’t understand is the behaviour of the adults. If snapping your undergarment was bad enough to be reported to your parents, why didn’t the teacher stop your initial play of lifting and dropping dresses? You used to play like that everyday, not just once or twice – didn’t any of the adults notice it? If they did and dismissed it as innocent fun (which it was) then why did they make a big fuss for something really similar?

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Mojo July 27, 2011 at 8:22 am

How times have changed! When I was seven, a boy tore my knickers off in the playground. Literally pulled so hard they ripped in two. He was scolded for being a bully, I was scolded for crying about nothing, and that was the end of it.

Let it go. You and the boy were innocent. In these modern times we tend to blow incidents like this out of all proportion. Think back thirty years, when we’d laugh about something like this, and move on.

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claire delune July 27, 2011 at 10:48 am

@wolfgirl–I agree with you that M sounds like the real culprit here, but it’s also important for kids to learn that they don’t HAVE to do things just because their friends are egging them on. I don’t think that K’s behavior is a sign of something deeper and more dangerous going on–he was only 6, he was just playing–it’s just that 6 is a great time to learn what kinds of play are OK and what kinds aren’t, and that’s what happened. What bothers me is that even now, at age 17, the OP still thinks of this as a story about how she got K in trouble, when it’s actually a story about how K got himself in trouble, with a little childish misbehavior.

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Enna July 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I agree with the poster who has mentioned how it was handled at the time by the adults. It comes across that the OP is guility about the extent of the punichsment when a simple “talk” from teacher would have done, maybe a word over the phone with the parents but it does seem to have gone a bit far. If the right time comes to discuss it then I think you could bring it up. If the school is still around why not right to them? ABC happened and the school did XYZ which even though they meant well left you feeling guilty when it was something done innconetly not pervertly. It might help them deal with the issue should it happen again with a 6 year old – they ask “why you do that?” first then go on from there.

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Asharah July 27, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Mojo, you should not have been scolded for “crying at nothing”, because it wasn’t “nothing” for 7-year-old you to have a bully rip your knickers off. Irritates the heck out of me when a bully pulls a stunt like that and the victim gets told it’s “nothing” when they get upset.

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Enna July 28, 2011 at 11:55 am

@ Mojo – how can you be crying over nothing if they scolded the boy for being a bully? That is shcoking. He ripped your knickers in two. I hope that boy learnt his lesson, either though the teacher or by karma. Although I think lack of awareness at the time and training such things were brushed under the carpet: hopefully things have changed for the better.

@ Asharah, it is a complete different kettle of fish if a bully does it.

Mum told me once that when my little sister was a small child a bigger boy pushed her over and she got up forwned then twisted his nipple sending him into orbit. Sometimes children retaliate/stand up for themselves.

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Allie July 28, 2011 at 3:14 pm

You didn’t do anything wrong. This is perfectly normal behaviour for 6 year olds, and it’s the teachers and parents who overreacted in this situation. I’d put it out of my mind and move on if I were you, unless your new-found old friend brings it up, in which case you can let him know that you are sorry for the consequences that ensued (although they don’t sound all that dire ).

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