Teaching Your Child To Not Be The Victim

by admin on November 6, 2013

My daughter Em is in 5th grade at a fairly small private school. We moved to the area three years ago, and quickly realized that the girls in her class are exceptionally clique-y. She has done a good job of making friends since second grade, and feels comfortable with her classmates, but the dynamic hasn’t changed much, especially for new students.

Last year, a new little girl came to the school and apparently had a very hard time making friends. We will call her Lizzie. I encouraged Em to try and be friendly with Lizzie, knowing that it can be hard for ‘the new kid.’ Em would routinely come home with stories of Lizzie getting into loud, vicious arguments with basically everyone in the class, and said she wasn’t comfortable pursuing a friendship with her because she wasn’t nice. I let it go, and told Em that as long as she wasn’t actively being mean to anyone, she didn’t have to hang out with Lizzie.

At the beginning of this year, I was at Back to School Night and met a woman who turned out to be Lizzie’s mom. She launched into long, complicated tale of how she moved here to escape Lizzie’s abusive father and to get medical treatment for Lizzie’s rare cancer at the children’s hospital in the city. She told me that Lizzie had a hard time in fourth grade but all she really wanted was a friend, and that she was really very sweet but scared and sick and that manifested itself as her being aggressive. She gave me her phone number and asked if we could try to get the girls together.

I went home and had a long talk with Em about Lizzie, and we suggested that maybe she would be nicer if she had some close friends to spend time with, that she probably felt like an outsider and was just hostile because she had a hard life. Em resolved to try to be her friend, and I was privately very proud that she had decided to show compassion and kindness to someone who was not particularly nice to her without my prompting.

Well, that was two months ago, and I cannot even begin to describe what an absolute disaster it’s been. Lizzie is by turns outright cruel to Em, ignores her, obsessively calls her and follows her around, and then the cycle begins again. She will send her a nasty text messages saying that Em is a stupid loser and that she is embarrassed to be seen with her, and then she will call her an hour later and invite her stay the night. The next week at school, Em will say hi to her, and she will tell her that in school they shouldn’t speak because she only wants to talk to ‘popular’ kids. She has pulled her chair out from under Em at lunch, and accused her of stealing from her desk, and been generally terrible. Em has decided that she is just going to ignore her, and I agree.

Unfortunately, Lizzie’s mom still texts or calls frequently to get the girls together, and I am torn whether to just sort of give her the brush off, or to actually tell her how Lizzie is acting and because of that, Em doesn’t wish to be her friend.

I have contacted the school, and they are no help, they ‘make it their policy not to get involved in playground disputes.’ So it’s basically up to me to either ignore this woman, which I don’t feel is right, or to add to her already significant burden by telling her that her sick daughter is acting improperly. It’s my opinion that those who seem the least lovable are the most in need of love, but I don’t want to teach my daughter to be a doormat. Help! 1103-13

I know some parents will try to use other children to address behavioral issues with their own….BTDT.   Years ago a mother told me how much she loved when our DSs got together because mine was such a good influence on hers and she proceeded to tell me of her son’s problems.    Hmmmm……  I wasn’t aware there were behavior issues with the other boy and subsequently began to scale back the amount of time the boys were together in the belief that it is not my pre-teen kid’s job to be a supervisor, cop, teacher or in any way responsible for training another person’s child.

Lizzie needs professional counseling because she is profoundly angry at the world for dealing her a harsh hand.    Her father is abusive and she must deal with the stress of cancer which is hard enough as an adult, let alone by a child. Lizzie cannot control much about her life so she is being manipulative to control other people’s emotions and lives.   It’s sad and she needs help.*   Lizzie’s mother needs to be made aware of what it looks like from the “friend of my daughter” perspective and why her daughter is having such a hard time making friends.  You are not doing Lizzie or her mother any favors by being discreet regarding Lizzie’s behavior.

Train your daughter to recognize the source of certain behaviors and how to confront bad behavior from alleged “friends” because Lizzie will not be the last manipulative person Em will encounter in her life.   Lizzie is the type of manipulative person who tells two different narratives which confuses the intended victim.   Lizzie is exercising power over Em by jerking her back and forth emotionally.     Em needs to learn to recognize when this happens and basically call the manipulative bluff by forcing Lizzie to be honest to one narrative only.  For example,  being invited for a stay over hours after receiving a nasty text message….Em can respond as follows, “Lizzie, you are being manipulative and I am not playing this game.   I won’t be jerked around by you this way.  You texted me that you were embarrassed to be seen with me and I am taking you at your word that this is how you view our relationship so I am declining your insincere offer to stay over tonight.”   Ditto for the “shouldn’t speak (to me)  because she only wants to talk to ‘popular’ kids” scenario.   Once Lizzie has played this manipulative card, Em can rebuff future friendly overtures as both insincere and yet another avenue to manipulate her emotionally.   Em takes control of her life back and learns how to be the one who determines the outcome of a difficult manipulation attempt.

*Suggest to Lizzie’s mom that she look into a therapeutic horseback riding program.   It’s not just for people with physical disabilities.   There is something about handling a 1000+pound animal that is good for the soul of a troubled child.  It is a large, powerful creature that can be controlled  when everything else feels out of control.   Horses are very honest and will give you exactly what you input into them, i.e. try to be manipulative by asking the horse to go forward with the legs but not go forward with the reins and you’ll likely get bucked off because that is exactly what you told the horse to do.   You’ve commanded it to move in the only direction it can…up.    Kids learn to respect the horse as a partner and that partnership can yield wonderful results.

{ 119 comments… read them below or add one }

Rap November 6, 2013 at 3:18 pm

“I think somebody once said that when dealing wirh schools that refuse to protect your child, the appropriate phrase is, “My child is being harrassed by _____, and if you don’t take proper action to protect her, I will take legal action against you.”

This is exactly what I am talking about. Do you honestly think that a parent, hearing from a school official, that another parent is accusing their child of harassing and demanding their child be punished or else legal action will be taken, won’t *demand* evidence of the harassment. And won’t make the point that threatening a ten year old (for example) with legal action/the police because she said “don’t talk to me when popular kids can see me” becomes excessive?

And have the teacher step in? Using the “don’t talk to me when popular kids can see me” comment – if Teacher punishes the kid who said it – she’s punishing a child for not liking some other kid and the parents will rip into her. Meanwhile, the Liz in this version tells all the other kids what a tattle tale the Em kid is, and then Teacher has to police everyone’s hurt feelings and every single parent involved will note that their child comes first, and is only X years of age, and punishment X is way too excessive if it’s their kid being punished, and not excessive enough if its *someone else’s kid*.

If the school can’t discipline your child without the threat of lawsuits – and they can’t, because parents these days are all on the “It’s MY child! I’m fighting for MY child! If I don’t get my way and if every day isn’t peaches and cream for MY child, its time for legal action!” train – then guess what? Parents have tied the hands of the schools. They don’t trust the teachers, and they don’t believe their kids can lie, and calling for legal action is just escalating.

Look at this situation. The OP hasn’t even told Liz’s mom that there is a problem… But the school administration is supposed to step in and manage Em and Liz’s behavior?

Has it crossed anyone’s mind that Em might be part of the problem?I mean, I was a little girl once myself…. is it possible that there’s more than one side to this other than “My child is having difficulty with a classmate and the only explanation is that other kid is awful”?

Here’s my advice, OP. Tell Liz’s mom you don’t think the girls should be friends any more. Stop the playdates. Block Liz’s texts. Ask the school to put your kid in a class different than Liz’s if problems persist. Don’t expect the school to assign a guard to your child because it’s just not going to happen. Consider changing schools. Have the realistic expectation that if you won’t allow the school to discipline your child without a full on trial, that other parents will also insist on that full on trial when you say their kid is harassing yours.

But *start* by talking to Liz’s mom, who at this point apparently has no idea her kid is a problem.

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Marozia November 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm

I like the idea of the therapeutic riding program for Lizzie. However, if this is the way that she treats people, I wonder how she would treat an animal?
I am also inclined to say ‘get a life’ to Lizzie, BUT, she has already gotten a second chance at life with her cancer treatment. Maybe Lizzie knows she isn’t invincible and is unknowingly pushing people away and not getting close because of her cancer battle. Counselling is usually provided by the hospital in cases like this, but maybe some hypnosis would help.

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Library Diva November 6, 2013 at 3:34 pm

While the school may have legal responsibilities, I always think it’s best for the parties directly involved to attempt to work things out before appealing to the higher authority. This is a situation the parents essentially created, by encouraging a friendship that Em wasn’t really interested in, and it’s one that the OP can help resolve herself without the school getting involved.

OP, you owe it to Lizzie, to Em, to Lizzie’s mom, and to all of Lizzie’s future classmates, co-workers and neighbors to level with Lizzie’s mom about what’s going on. There are no signs in the post that Lizzie’s mom is aggressive or nasty. It can’t hurt to sit down with her and show her what’s been going on. Gather any evidence you have — text messages, nasty notes, whatever, and present it. Tell her that Em isn’t comfortable being around Lizzie because of this, and you’re showing her these things because you’re concerned for Lizzie and you think she needs help. The mother may or may not accept this, but attempting to open her eyes is the compassionate thing to do. You’re not adding to her burden. This issue is already part of her burden, and if intervention doesn’t happen soon, it could become a permanent part of her burden.

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Tanya November 6, 2013 at 3:39 pm

In someways, we teach people how to treat us. And you are teaching your daughter how to teach people to treat her. Don’t teach her that it’s okay to let people treat her like this! I know that sounds as confusing as all get out, but I can’t word it any better at the moment.

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wren November 6, 2013 at 3:41 pm

When the mom texts and wants the girls to get together, ignore her. If you must reply, “I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” or a variation thereof, is called for. If she presses you to explain why you keep declining her invitations, say “I don’t think the girls were getting along well.”

Keep your answers short and to the point.

My gut reaction to this is that your daughter needs you to shield her from this girl. I hope you do it.

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AIP November 6, 2013 at 3:49 pm

My heart breaks for that poor girl, she has such a hard life ahead of her as that level of rage and self-loathing leaves a mark on you, especially if you can’t get help early enough. The suggestion for non-theraputic therapy is a nice one. Plenty of activities that she can interact with lots of other children for much shorter periods of time would be ideal – so long as the mother can afford it.

With regard to the issue at hand there is no need to go into “your child is a demon”, especially as there is two of them in it. I was a rage-monster when I was a kid, but frankly the other “nice” little girls could be thundering b*tches out to get a reaction and naturally enough I was always in the wrong. But having said that, both mothers have a desire and a duty to protect their children from unnecessary hurt. The next time she calls you could try to say that you really don’t think they get on and variations of that theme.

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LizaJane November 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm

There are many, many good posts here. I especially like Rap’s. I also wondered if the cancer and abuse stories were true.
I’ve had some very tragic things happen in my life, starting in my 5th grade year (the death of a sibling). I didn’t get to be mean to people because of it, it never occurred to me that I could use that as a pass. And for anyone who doesn’t think thank ranks with this girl’s problems, imagine being 10 years old and witnessing your parents experiencing the worst that can happen; and being powerless to do anything to help them.
Life deals us crap sometimes. We don’t get to be crappy people because of it.
Life deals us crap. We don’t get to be crappy because of it.

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Mer November 6, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Rap: The legal action is not against the child but against the school that is unwilling to do their duty. Of course laws vary, but around here the law states that school MUST provide every student inviolability and peace to work. That also means that school has the duty to look into bullying matters. They don’t need to punish/discipline pupils without proof, they need to find out what’s happening and if there is reason to act, they need to act.

And the kid would not be punished for not liking someone. Nobody must like anyone. You need still be civil about it, and that is the problem here. School is like workplace. Don’t like the secretary? Tough luck, because you must treat him/her just like any other coworker. It is like that with students too. When you are in school, you should treat everybody with same respect. Who you socialize after school and who are your friends, that is different matter, but it should not affect how you treat your co-students.

I also have to admit that I kind of loathe the course of action you suggest. It is reasonable, yes, and easy to follow, I agree to that. In that way it is sensible. BUT, for some reason this is always the case. People suggest that the victim should move and bend around the bully. Change class or school etc. That is how it often works, but that is not how it should work. It’s kind of double punishment for the victim. First s/he is bullied and then s/he is ripped from the familiar environment and some friends s/he might actually have and thrown into new one.

The rest of it is good advice though, OP should start by talking to Liz’s mom.

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Asharah November 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm

@Rap, did you read the part about Lizzy pulling Em’s chair out from under her at lunch? An act that could potentially cause her injury? What if her next act is pushing her down on the playground? My niece wound up with a broken arm because she was knocked down by a bully who was harrassing her. Excuse me if I don’t have much sympathy with children who think violent behavior is the way to express themselves.
I never said OP shouldn’t try to talk to Lizzie’s mother first, or suggest Lizzie might need counseling. I also was not suggesting that Lizzie be arrested. Although if Lizzie’s mother won’t listen or get the girl help, calling in the authorities might not be such a bad idea.
What I said about “taking legal action” means putting the school on notice that their is a situation here that needs to be addressed and excuses about “not getting involved in playground disputes” are not going to cut it if the situation continues to escalate. Not doing anything when one student is behaving violently to another is child endangerment and no parent should tolerate that.

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Library Diva November 6, 2013 at 4:52 pm

OP, in response to your comment, I think that perhaps the best thing to do is gather as much evidence of Lizzie’s behavior as you can, and the next time her mother approaches you, tell her that you have some concerns about the relationship and you’d like to discuss them with her. Be compassionate and gentle. Maybe offer to meet her for coffee somewhere and talk to her about your specific concerns. Tell her that you’re sorry to have to share these things, but you think that Lizzie needs some help and that her behavior towards Em worries you. Tell her also that while you encouraged the friendship, it doesn’t seem to have worked out and you don’t think that pushing it any further is a good idea for either girl.

I applaud your stance of wanting to work this out without the school’s involvement, and I don’t understand the posters that suggest otherwise. It sounds like you’ve given your daughter the tools she needs to resolve this on her own. I think just being up-front with the mother is your best policy, and really your only option. If she is texting you on a regular basis, she’s not getting the hint on her own that this isn’t a friendship you want to pursue on your daughter’s behalf.

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jd November 6, 2013 at 5:09 pm

OP, I had an issue with a good friend of many years, whose daughter had practically grown up with mine. When the time came for them to leave for college, they happily roomed together — and discovered they were anything but a good match when living together. Their relationship was destroyed, and it was very awkward, because our families had been so close, spent holidays and birthdays together, etc. It was very difficult to have that discussion with my long-time friend about how we were going to handle this — the girls had already moved to separate places and no longer really spoke to each other. My idea at this conversation was that both girls were at fault (as I’m sure they were) and that we should not let it get between our own friendship. I was surprised to find that my friend, who’d known my daughter all my daughter’s life, held instead that my daughter was the only one at fault. It basically ended our friendship, although we still speak when we run into each other, which is rare, and have shared in a few of each other’s special moments, like weddings and showers. My advice is to be as calm and factual as can be, but if she refuses to accept her child’s bad behavior, you have done what you could, and you and your daughter withdraw. Then your daughter has the unpleasant task of getting this through to the other little girl politely, but it has to be done. This will pass!

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Ergala November 6, 2013 at 5:22 pm

When it comes to bullying on school property it is a very slippery slope. First off the school will not disclose the name of the other child. The OP is lucky because she KNOWS who it is and is on speaking terms with the child’s mother. She has a huge leg up in dealing with this. When my oldest was punched on the school bus and then had his wrist broken on the playground I was never given a name. I was told it was handled and that was it. I asked my son who it was and he pointed the kid out at the bus stop who was standing there with his mother making faces at my son. His mother was well aware of the situation and was doing nothing to stop her child and instead was smirking. My son has Asperger’s so you can imagine how his social skills are. I told him right then and there loud enough for both the mother and son to hear that if a child EVER puts their hands on him again he is to tell me as soon as possible because mom isn’t afraid of ANYONE and will absolutely deal with it. I saw the color drain from the mother’s face….haven’t had an issue with that kid since. We did pull him off the school bus however and I now drop him off and pick him up.

Now the admin’s response. This bothered me “I know some parents will try to use other children to address behavioral issues with their own….BTDT. Years ago a mother told me how much she loved when our DSs got together because mine was such a good influence on hers and she proceeded to tell me of her son’s problems. Hmmmm…… I wasn’t aware there were behavior issues with the other boy and subsequently began to scale back the amount of time the boys were together in the belief that it is not my pre-teen kid’s job to be a supervisor, cop, teacher or in any way responsible for training another person’s child.”

My son has asperger’s as I already stated. I absolutely depend on his peers to help him learn how to socialize. In fact that is what the school does as well. How else will he learn how to properly behave around other kids his age if parents pull their children away? They aren’t “policing” him….instead he is seeing consequences for his behavior (such as not listening when it is a friend’s turn to talk….not wanting to do what the other kids want to do….). Because of this he has grown incredibly and has FINALLY made a friend. I don’t know how I’d react if I found out a parent didn’t want their child playing with mine because their child was a good role model. I’d probably thank my lucky stars that my child wasn’t going to be judged by someone they thought was their friend anymore. If someone told me my child was a good role model for theirs I’d be incredibly flattered, not horrified and then not allow my child to play with theirs. That makes me sad, very sad.

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Allie November 6, 2013 at 5:25 pm

OP, I have read your follow up comment and I think perhaps people were confused about what you were actually asking because you mentioned going to the school and also added that it is your belief “those who seem the least lovable are the most in need of love, but I don’t want to teach my daughter to be a doormat.” That makes it seem like you are looking for help for both your daughter and yourself, although you also said that your daughter wants to ignore Lizzie from now on and you agree. However, somewhat confusingly, you say in your follow up comment that running to Lizzie’s mom, or to the school isn’t the answer (although you already went to the school for help and you are asking what to do vis-à-vis Lizzie’s mom). With all that said, my advice has not changed. I don’t think having an honest chat with Lizzie’s mom will avail you anything. You have said how proud you are of how mature and compassionate your daughter is. Well, then, I would trust her judgment. She has decided it would be best to ignore Lizzie. I suggest you do the same with Lizzie’s mother. She’ll get the hint and you and Em will present a united front to these two individuals. Lizzie will have to figure out for herself that she lost your daughter’s friendship because of her poor conduct.

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CherylC November 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm

I am on the board of a therapeutic riding program and also a volunteer in the program who either leads the horse or walks beside the rider to help steady them if they need it. If one of our horses bucked someone off, we would eliminate that horse from the program. Riders, even those who don’t have physical problems, aren’t just put in the saddle, given the reins and told to ride. They are carefully evaluated by the instructor before they are considered to be independent enough to ride by themselves, and that usually takes place over several classes at the least. I won’t elaborate further on all we do and how we do it, but the other side of the coin is the horses are trained as well and if someone were to give the horse conflicting signals such as you describe, the horse might sidestep or most likely would toss it’s head and just not move. And if a rider abuses the horse, they are taken out of the program.

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chechina November 6, 2013 at 6:34 pm

OP, you can start the conversation with the mom by saying how moved you were when the mom reached out to you, and how you cannot possibly understand how much she might be going through. (Don’t say you understand.) Focus on how great it was that she was able to reach how to someone and how she obviously wants the best for her daughter. You might then want to move into stating some of the things that your daughter has shared that leave you concerned. State only the facts, no opinions of conclusions or armchair diagnosis.

If the mom makes any overtures about getting help, empathize again how hard it must be and how she could probably use someone else to help her come up with a plan. Suggest a low-cost family agency in your area (there must be at least one; you can google) and that she call them or stop by. Do not suggest any particular therapy or approach as you don’t really know what happened and you are not their doctor or therapist. If you feel inclined, offer to go with her (but don’t take it on yourself if it’s too much).

Again, please remember that you do not know exactly what happened and you are not their doctor or therapist.

(And yes, I do assessments and interviews at a family counselling agency. These are only general tips you might helpful.)

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Kimberly November 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Step One OP you owe your daughter an apology. She told you what Lizzie was like. I get that you wanted to help this girl, but you inadvertently taught your daughter that her feelings/instincts were not as important as helping Lizzie. I remember my Mom made a similar apology to my sister about inviting a classmate to an event. That apology and the fact Mom paid more attention to our feelings had a very positive impact on both sis and I.

Step Two – Tell Lizzie’s Mom what lizzie has done and that there will no longer be play dates. I would give her a copy of the text messages.

Step Three – Request a copy of the school’s bullying policy including cyberbullying. Go over it with a fine tooth comb and from this point forward report all bullying in writing and include the relevant part of the policy. If the principal refuses to act – go to the next step in power.

Step Four – find out what the age of reason is in your jurisdiction. (Texas is 10) Decide as a family what you are going do if Lizzie crosses the line into criminal behavior (the chair pulling thing might be that in some places, but probably not). Are you going to give Mom 1 chance to make sure Lizzie never has the opportunity to do it again (withdraws her from the school, gets her into therapy)? Or are you going to press criminal charges. I was your daughter’s age when my parents threatened to charge my bully with assult. The whole thing stopped on a dime, it was the language the parents and school understood. A while back a poster posted a serious incident involving her daughter and a boy behaving in a scary manner that threatened the daughter’s safety. They had to get the cops involved to stop the problem.

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Cathy November 6, 2013 at 7:35 pm

I can’t tell you how many times I dealt with similar issues when my son was a youngster…it’s so disheartening to have to tell another parent their child has a problem and it’s not your or your child’s responsibility to civilize, teach, be an example to, etc., the other child. When I came across people like this, I cut off contact. It may be against the grain for you, but it’s in your child’s best interests in the long run. Yes, it can be valuable as a teaching tool – “here’s the type to avoid” as well as learning to be compassionate with the less fortunate, but your child is going to be happier without this kid in her life. The parent and child both need therapy. (I like the idea of the horse-related therapy.) In a way it’s good to deal with this type of situation, because Em will continue running into these types in the future, and the sooner she’s armed against them, the better.

As for the school, I also found them to be completely useless unless there was physical harm done.

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Rosie November 6, 2013 at 7:38 pm

As a grandmother of two young grandchildren who actually HAVE been treated for a rare form of cancer, I too question how Lizzie has the energy to do all she’s doing. Cancer treatments knock the crap out of anyone, especially children. Lengthy absences from school are the norm. How Lizzie is attending, apparently with regularity, and also has the energy to engage in these extra-curricular bullying activities makes me question this a bit. I wonder if her mom has made this up for attention.

While I think it’s clear that there are issues with Lizzie that should be addressed, the OP’s daughter is in fifth grade! Yes, she should be taught to be kind to others; I began teaching my own two children that at an early age. But the daughter has tried, and has told her mom she can’t do it. At that point, you step up to protect your child and be her/his advocate. OP must communicate clearly to Lizzie’s mom that her daughter can no longer be friends with Lizzie and stick with it.

Oh, and one more point that struck me: Lizzie is sending texts and calling her daughter? In fifth grade?? Really? I realize that kids are using cell phones at a younger age these days, but no fifth-grader should be. That’s ridiculous. Mom, start interceding on your daughter’s behalf and stop this nonsense before it gets out of hand. Be a grown-up person and make some grown-up decisions, for heaven’s sake.

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Rosie November 6, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Sorry, still trying to wrap my head around the cancer thing. I will give OP the benefit of the doubt and assume that she lives in or near a hospital that specializes in rare pediatric cancer treatments. My grandchildren are in Illinois, and about an hour away from Children’s Memorial (now Lurie Children’s Hospital.) I can’t tell you how many, many, many trips these kids made to that hospital. The stays were weeks at a time. Their poor little bodies were wrecked from these treatments (they are doing well now, thank God.) Not sure how Lizzie is managing to attend school and have the energy to do what she’s doing. Having witnessed cancer pediatric cancer treatments first-hand, I’m beginning to think I smell a rat.

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denise miller November 6, 2013 at 7:58 pm

I am the OP, and I thank you all for the comments, but I feel as though a lot of you are missing the point. My first paragraph, which has been edited out (with good reason, the post is long), asked for the classiest way to handle the situation with regards to the mother. I understand that things need to change, but I don’t think that flying off the handle and running to Lizzie’s mom, or to the school and demanding justice is a good example to set for my daughter either.

What would you like to see done? Do you think it is just going magically stop?

You have options: 1. continue brushing off the mother and teach your daughter that avoiding confrontation at all costs is the best solution; or 2. politely and simply inform the mother why you are no longer forcing your daughter to play with her outside of school.

If your daughter is being injured by the girl physically, the school needs to step in. Otherwise, to be honest, chances are they are going to fight and make-up and fight and make-up all year. It’s what 5th grade girls do. Do not allow your 5th grader to text if you are concerned about what Lizzie is sending her. And stop making excuses or avoiding Lizzie’s mother.

It really isn’t that difficult of a situation. I’m not sure where the confusion lays. You are the one that obligated your daughter to being friends with the girl, you should at least stand up for her and the fact that she doesn’t want to be friends with her outside of school. In my opinion, you should also refrain from being your daughter’s social calender. She’s at an age where she does not need mommy to organize play dates.

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Rosie November 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm

*I meant in or near a city that specializes in pediatric cancer treatment.*

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hakayama November 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Please count me as another vote for Allie’s position/suggestion being on target. One needs to accept and act on the principle that neither age (short or long), handicap or illness entitles people to act out their anger, frustrations, unhappiness…
As for number of “strikes” allowed in this scenario: they have been all used up. Any behavior that potentially leads to physical injury is THE END. Pulling a chair from under another is the fourth and final strike, and points to complete disregard for others.
Lizzie’s behavior patterns appear very close to a condition that might require chemical controls.
If OP is bent on meeting with the child’s mother to “settle” the issues, I strongly recommend a totally neutral setting AND an impartial witness. Maybe recording too, as the lady strikes me as someone likely to distort the entire exchange. Beware!

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L.J. November 6, 2013 at 9:50 pm

OP, after reading your post (#41), I am even more concerned for your daughter. You are STILL focusing on helping Lizzie. You are talking about how your daughter’s actions make YOU feel, rather than how your actions make your daughter feel.

As many have said, your priority should be helping your daughter, not helping Lizzie. You put your daughter into this situation. If you want to do good deeds, do them yourself, don’t try to do them vicariously through your child. That’s like donating someone else’s money.

Tell your daughter you are sorry. Then tell Lizzie’s mom that you have forbidden Em to be friends with Lizzie anymore. Don’t say anything further to Lizzie’s mom, just leave it at that. Making yourself the bad guy in the end of the friendship is how you can fix the problem you created. Stop worrying about how you can help Lizzie, start helping your own daughter.

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LizaJane November 6, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Go L.J.

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Fiona November 6, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Count me among those who are suspicious of the stories of cancer and abuse. Both Lizzie and her mother sound toxic and manipulative.

Please stop trying to help Lizzie. You can’t. Focus your energy on keeping yourself and your daughter away from these people.

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Rap November 6, 2013 at 11:53 pm

“@Rap, did you read the part about Lizzy pulling Em’s chair out from under her at lunch? An act that could potentially cause her injury? ”

Yes, I did. Now, here’s the school’s problem. Em says this happened. Did she get hurt? Or are we talking about “potential hurt”? Did an adult catch it? Because if Lizzie denies it and no one saw it, and the school punishes Lizzie – guess what Lizzie’s mom does? She fights for her child and threatens legal action because her kid has issues and the school is against her and punishes a poor kid with cancer for some jumped up charge made by another kid with no witnesses.

Heck, lets say the fifth grader did pull a chair out and actually injure another kid. Then what? Call the cops? Because when the schools *do that* they get ripped into for being ridiculous for having an eleven year old arrested for assault and reviled for not handling discipline in a reasonable way. but if the school doesn’t react hard and firm, then the victim’s parents start crying how their child is being victimized and the school refuses to do anything that the victim’s parents find acceptable.

As I said every parent expects their child to be given every chance and exception and consideration and also expect the bullying child to be punished as harshly as possible, when it’s their kid who is victimized. All this threatening of legal action at schools – seriously a kid in fifth pulling a chair out from another is a legal action now ? – is part of why people are so strung out and frustrated by the bullying campaigns. Any move the school makes is too harsh or not enough.

Mer – I do understand your point. And everyone should be civil and teachers should be able to say to little Johnny or Lizzie to be polite even if you don’t like someone and not be cruel… and do you know how many parents complain about THAT? Because they do, because a teacher correcting their child’s behavior is *bullying*. Yes, I’ve seen that arguement play out.

And I agree, in a perfect world, it should be the problem child to need to bend, but I point you back to the parent demanding evidence of wrong doing and crying legal action because the school has labled their kid a problem and ripped him from his classroom all on the word of another kid.

I’m actually most bothered by the OP seeming to not want to address any of this directly with Lizzie’s mom when she’s allowing play dates and texts (all things the school can’t control) but the school is on the hook. I just don’t think the schools have the money to give every kid a personal body guard.

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psammead November 7, 2013 at 1:06 am

OP, I don’t know why you’re talking about your reluctance to “fly off the handle and run to Lizzie’s mom,” because by your own account, you won’t have to run to her at all–Lizzie’s mom is the one who keeps approaching you and asking to get the girls together. I get your scruples about “adding to this mother’s burden” but your first duty is to stick up for your daughter. Tell Lizzie’s mother, the next time she approaches you, that there won’t be any more play dates because Em is tired of being mistreated, and that she’s given Lizzie more than enough second chances. And since you’re clearly concerned to do the right thing, I agree with the person who said that you owe your daughter an apology.

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The TARDIS November 7, 2013 at 1:13 am

As a person who has been in an abusive friendship before, good on the OP. That is how the abuser keeps you loyal and close. They mistreat you and follow it up by either apologizing or by extending a friendly hand again. It’s a tug of war.

Drop the rope and don’t play. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel.

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Kate November 7, 2013 at 4:48 am

OP, I understand that you were trying to teach your daughter to be a compassionate person, and I see the value in that. However, I really believe that friendship isn’t something that can be forced. As is evident here, if the other kids all leave someone well alone, there could be a very good reason behind it. Note: I am absolutely not advocating bullying or exclusion, but if your child comes home and says “I don’t want to play with X because she’s mean to me”, the best solution is not “Oh, give it another try”.

Lizzie’s mother also needs to realise that the girls can make their own decisions regarding friendship. Perhaps that’s what you could say to her (politely of course) if she calls to schedule a play date? Clearly, Lizzie needs some behavioural intervention but it’s not your job or your daughter’s job to provide it.

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Margo November 7, 2013 at 5:43 am

I think you need to speak to Lizzie’s mother. Her behaviour goes well beyond what is reasonable and if her mother doesn’t know (which, given the school’s bizarre policy, is not out of the question) she needs to know.

I agree with Library Diva who suggested a very non-confrontational approach. You can explain the specifics of how Lizzie has been behaving, and that while you understand that it may well be a reaction to the issues she has had to cope with, the net effect is that Lizzie has hurt your daughter and you cannot allow your daughter to be subjected to that type of behaviour.

I also agree that it would be appropriate for you to speak to your daughter – acknowledge that you made a mistake, reinforce that, regardless of her history or background, Lizzie’s behaviour is not acceptable.

I personally would also be very concerned at a school which is not prepared to deal with serious bullying. our description of Lizzie’s behaviour goes well beyond ‘playground disputes’.

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krocki November 7, 2013 at 7:14 am

I really like how you’ve handled the situation so far. Your daughter is confronted with a pretty difficult conflict quite early in her life, learning to be loving and helpful to someone even if they don’t reciprocate, but also figuring out where to draw the line so she’s not enabling a bad attitude. My impression is that she has a good role model in you – you seem to be a warm and balanced person. The reason I’m even saying this is because I can’t help but wonder if Lizzie’s mom has that same impression of you. She might be very grateful for your and her daughters’ friendship, but she might also be seeking a friendship with you. You gotta wonder, when she says her daughter is angry and scared but really just wants a friend, she could be talking about herself as well. So if that’s the case she would probably prefer you had a few real talks with her, also about her daughter, but not exclusively, instead of polite distance so she won’t be burdened further. Could be way off here, but think about it.

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Barreleh November 7, 2013 at 7:43 am

Something about this smells fishy to me as well. Presumeably, if I child is being treated for a rare cancer, it should follow that the school would be aware of this, and likely treat that child with kid gloves, so they WOULD express some interest if something like this were going on.

I’m betting the mother lied about the cancer thing, and possibly about the abusive dad thing.

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joni November 7, 2013 at 8:50 am

In defense of fifth graders calling/texting each other: That is actually totally normal behavior. If you think back to fourth or fifth grade, that is when children, especially girls, start to get REALLY social. It’s an important part of their development, but by that age, their parents are less likely to be arranging “play dates” for them, so girls will call each other on the phone because they crave that social contact. My fifth-grade daughter has a very basic cell phone, partly for emergencies, but also partly so she can call or text her friends without tying up MY phone, as I remember doing to my parents when I was a kid.

I’m with Allie and others, my kneejerk reaction was that the cancer story sounds fishy. People do fake cancer. The fact that we are more willing to excuse bad and downright nasty behavior from someone claiming to have cancer, or even laud them as heroic, goes a long way in explaining why.

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Dust Bunny November 7, 2013 at 9:01 am

So, Lizzie’s mother acknowledges that her daughter manifests stress and fear as aggression . . . now what is she going to do about it? It’s lovely of Em and Em’s mom to try to be understanding, but the outcome is still that Lizzie is manipulative and abusive. She needs help no matter what the cause is of her behavior. Furthermore, this is way more than the LW, and definitely more than Em, should expect to be able to influence very much on their own. Dealing with this is the mother’s responsibility; friends can help, but there is a big difference between supporting someone through a rough time, and coming back for more when you’re just the whipping post (as Lizzie’s mother should understand if she escaped an abusive relationship).

Tell Lizzie’s mother about the behavior and encourage her to get her daughter help with her anger. If that doesn’t pan out, don’t encourage the friendship. It’s not fair to Em.

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Wolf Chick November 7, 2013 at 10:57 am

OP, after reading your submission and then your follow-up comment, I don’t think you realize how confusing your post is. Some of my comment may come across as harsh, but having been in Em’s position- being told to be nice & friends with the new girl who turned out to be Satan’s spawn- I speak from experience.

You basically forced your child to be friends with this child. The first time, when Em told you how she was behaving and you told her that she didn’t have to be friends with her, that should have been *the end* of it.

Then you met Lizzie’s mom and she told you her sad tale. You let your empathy and wanting to help to overrule your child’s best interest- to not to be friends with someone who, by your own description, is not a very nice person. You stated that it has been a “disaster”, that Lizzie is “cruel” and “nasty” when interacting with your daughter, doesn’t want the popular kids to see her talking to Em, has accused Em of stealing AND pulled Em’s chair out from under her at lunch.

OP, time to wake up! Lizzie IS a bully. If her life is really as hard as her mom makes out, then I am very sad and sorry for her but ** it is not Em’s place to fix it/make it better, nor is it yours.** I agree with other posters who think the cancer story is fake and Lizzie’s mom is using the cancer story to garner sympathy for her daughter. If she really wants to help her daughter make friends, she needs to accept that her daughter needs help, then get that help. Especially if there is a history of abuse from the father.

These are the parts of your story that are confusing:
1. “I went home and had a long talk with Em about Lizzie, and we suggested that maybe she would be nicer if she had some close friends to spend time with, that she probably felt like an outsider and was just hostile because she had a hard life. Em resolved to try to be her friend, and I was privately very proud that she had decided to show compassion and kindness to someone who was not particularly nice to her without my prompting.” You *did* prompt her, twice.
2. In your follow-up comment you said ” I understand that things need to change, but I don’t think … running to the school and demanding justice is a good example to set for my daughter either.” You did go to the school and they said they don’t get involved in “playground disputes”. I think bullying, lying and trying to cause injury are more than a “playground dispute”. If the school has you believing they cannot intervene, then they are WRONG. When a child is at school, the school absolutely *by law* have the responsibility to try to protect your child from injury (pulling the chair out from under Em) and provide a safe environment for your child to learn.
3. “I understand that things need to change, but I don’t think flying off the handle and running to Lizzie’s mom…” , “Asked the classiest way to handle the situation in regards to the mother” Although some of the suggestions differ in how to approach Lizzie’s mom, the common theme is you need to talk to this woman. Lizzie may be going home telling her mom that all is great and mom is buying it. Since YOU encouraged this friendship, I think it is on YOU to tell the mom that it is not working. If the situation was reversed, would Lizzie’s mom hesitate to contact you or worry about the classiest way to handle the situation?
4. “It’s my opinion that those who seem the least lovable are the most in need of love, but I don’t want to teach my daughter to be a doormat. Help!” By letting Lizzie continue her pattern of bullying and harassing Em, you are not teaching Em this. My opinion is that you are teaching Em to avoid confrontation until you can find a nice way to dump Lizzie & her mom so their feelings aren’t hurt. If you think Lizzie is “most in need of love”, maybe you could offer to tutor her instead of expecting Em to put up with crap so Lizzie can feel “loved”.
5. “I want to address the issues in a way that’s conducive the kids learning, growing, and Lizzie getting help, not in a way that’s embarrassing or punitive to anyone.” Sadly, that time has passed. It’s time to stand up for your daughter and stop being Lizzie’s savior.

I think you are probably a very nice person who wants to be helpful to Lizzie & her mom because you feel they have been dealt a bad hand in life. I think you are also trying to teach your daughter to be a good person, have empathy for others and try to help when someone is having a hard time. You tried to help, Em tried to help and Lizzie has rebuffed that help by being mean and cruel to your daughter. It’s time to say enough, talk to the mom and create distance so that your daughter can be happy and not worry about what Lizzie is going to do next.

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acr November 7, 2013 at 11:38 am

I totally agree with LJ. You need to make yourself the “bad guy” to Lizzie’s mom and you need to allow your daughter to use you as the “bad guy.” She’s 10. She shouldn’t have to say, “I don’t want to be friends because you are mean to me” to Lizzie if she doesn’t feel able to. She should be able to say, “My mom says I can’t hang out with you after school.”

If you feel up to have a gentle conversation with Lizzie’s mom, go for it. I am skeptical that it will yield anything positive for you. But your primary focus needs to be protecting Em.

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Javin November 7, 2013 at 11:39 am

Rap (Comment 51): This website definitely needs some sort of comment scoring system. I wish I could “like” your comment a few dozen times.

I come from a family of teachers, and I hear stories like this from my siblings all the time. It very well could be that the OP’s child is as much of the issue here as “Em” is. The OP doesn’t seem to be taking into account that she’s hearing all of this from her child’s mouth, a mouth that is going to have a bias and a slant no matter what, because that’s what we all do, even as adults.

I have to wonder why “Lizzie,” who apparently didn’t want to even befriend Em in the first place, would continue to tolerate being treated like this at all? Perhaps there’s two sides to this coin?

A candid conversation between the mothers WITH the daughters in the room is the first step here.

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Wendy B. November 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm

I guess my first reaction was: how do we even know that Lizzie actually has cancer? Or she had an abusive father?

My second reaction was: save those mean texts, call a lawyer and put him/her on notice you might need their services, then meet with the principal and explain what you’ve stated here, adding, “If something isn’t done, I am prepared to get my lawyer involved.”

third: keep your child away from Lizzie at all costs. there is something very wrong with her, and I don’t think it’s “cancer.”

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Stacey Frith-Smith November 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm

A parent doesn’t have the right to “gift” or “borrow” their child’s time, possessions, emotional resources, attachments, and talents. Even with the best of intentions- it’s abusive, manipulative, and victimizes the child whose self has been misappropriated. It’s shocking how often this happens and I think adults need to be vigilant in allowing the attachments that their children form to occur naturally and mutually and acting merely to prune unhealthy ones as needed. When the child or teen decides of their own accord to extend grace or friendship then the parent can offer help as needed. I liken it to Admin’s remarks about charity- people “pulling” friendship or support from your child is causing them to “give” under duress. A child motivated by compassion and intelligence may “push” companionship and support onto another person at their own discretion and that is an exercise in empowerment and maturity.

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Wolf Chick November 7, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I guess my earlier comment was not approved because it was long but I was so mad when I read the original post.

OP (Em’s mom)- this is going to come off as harsh but I have been in Em’s position – told to be nice and make friends with a new child and that child turned out to be …well let’s just say she was not a nice person- but this entire situation is YOUR fault. Em tried to be friends with Lizzie and it didn’t work out. She told you that she didn’t want to be friends with her and why, you agreed. That should have been the end of it. Along comes Lizzie’s mom with her sad tale, then you go back to your child and urge her to give it another try. What happens? “Absolute disaster”, your words. Lizzie is “cruel & nasty” to Em and is “embarrassed to be seen with her/talking to her”.

Something that caught my eye- you say Em gave it another try after the long talk “without my prompting”. Um, no. You did prompt her *twice* to friends with this child. Also, your follow up statement conflicts with your original post. One of the conflicts- you went to the school, they wouldn’t help and your follow says you don’t want to get the school involved.

There is a lot that I would to tell you about my experience but that would make this way too long and is probably why my original comment was not approved. So, I’ll just say this: Stop worrying about handling this in the “classiest” way because that time has passed. I suspect Lizzie’s mom knows what her child is like and is counting on your good manners and wanting to avoid conflict to continue your daughter’s association with Lizzie. I get it- you are nice person, trying to teach your child to have empathy for other going through a hard time and to try to help – but you are worrying too much about Lizzie- evidenced by your follow up post. It is not your job or Em’s too make Lizzie feel better/fix her issues. Talk to the mom, in a non-confrontial way, in a neutral location.

Stand up for your daughter and stop trying to be Lizzie’s savior. It’s only going to cause Em and you more grief.

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Shoebox November 8, 2013 at 9:45 am

OP, like some others here I’m frankly a bit baffled: *why* are you so invested in trying to help Lizzie, apparently at your own young daughter’s expense?

Do you even know for sure whether Lizzie needs the help – do you have independent confirmation that her mother’s story is true? Yes, I know, you want to believe the best of everyone and I can understand that, but – speaking from experience with a young family member who does have rare cancer – on the evidence as presented Lizzie and her mom just aren’t very credible.

Regardless, it’s time to recognise that they are broken beyond your ability to fix, and certainly beyond your preteen’s. Have a quiet talk with Mom, explaining what’s going on as neutrally and with as much concrete evidence as you can muster; then do all you can to empower Em to deflect any further advances of Lizzie’s – a toxic friendship she’s made clear she doesn’t want. You have evidently done a great job of teaching her compassion; now you need to demonstrate that it has limits, beyond which no-one is benefiting. :)

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Rap November 8, 2013 at 10:57 am

“My second reaction was: save those mean texts, call a lawyer and put him/her on notice you might need their services, then meet with the principal and explain what you’ve stated here, adding, “If something isn’t done, I am prepared to get my lawyer involved.”

I’m going to ask this in all seriousness.

What do you think the school can do to stop one child from using a cell phone and texting another child?

When you answer – please remember that forcing one child to not have a cell phone at school will cause the parents of that child to also threaten legal action as their child is being stripped of a priveledge on the word of another child or over something that didn’t happen in school, ie the school disciplining a child over texts sent from home to another child. If you insist no cell phones for any kids in school, then MANY parents will threaten legal action because they feel safer with their kids having phones and who is the school to tell them what their kids can and cant have due to one kid misbehaving.

And also remember, parents hate zero tolerance and anything that smacks of th eir child being treated like a criminal so when the school starts searching kids and taking cell phones and suspending kids for violating the zero tolerance on cell phones.

And remember, the school has absolutely no control over what happens off school property and there are parents out there who will pitch a fit over how their child is not the school’s child and if they want to let their kid text off school property, the school is not the parent and has no say in what the parents allow.

Now tell me – what do you expect the school to do that will satisfy you, but also won’t lead to other parents threatening legal action for their child? And that would actually stop one child from sending yours mean texts?

Personally, I would like to see laws on the books that if a parent gives a child a cell phone then the parent is accountable for what the child does with the cell phone. I think getting charged for harassment would stop a lot of parents from blithly handing kids cell phones, but thats just me.

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acr November 8, 2013 at 1:21 pm

@ Rap – I am not the person you are quoting, but here are my thoughts. I would show the school the texts, not because I am expecting them to control Lizzie’s texting, but because they are evidence of Lizzie’s bad behavior. They are proof that there is a problem.

What would I expect the school to do – instruct Lizzie and Em to leave each other alone. I would support the school’s effort by telling Em to leave Lizzie alone, not speak to her beyond courtesy, don’t sit by her at lunch, etc. Seat them on opposite sides of the classroom. I would expect the teachers to have eyes on the situation. If Lizzie is caught touching Em’s things or pulling Em’s chair out from under her, it needs to be dealt swiftly and firmly. I think some people are reacting so strongly and suggesting calling a lawyer because the school’s response of “we don’t get involved in playground disputes” is not a good sign that they will be proactive in this situation. The school didn’t need to instantly jump on Lizzie with both feet, but they should not have shut down and ignored the OP in that way.

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Rap November 8, 2013 at 5:56 pm

acr – I appreciate your response.

I think the part I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around is that the situation is so severe that its time to call a lawyer and threaten legal action at the school but…. OP still hasn’t even told Lizzie’s mom that there’s a problem with Lizzie’s behavior. (And I wonder if when displaying the mean texts if OP is also obligated to tell the school she continues to force her child to have playdates with the kid she wants them to keep away from her kid)

The school should step in and is wrong to not have done anything – and yes, as described, we are talking about the school needing to police the playground for two little girls and make sure Lizzie isn’t touching Em – but OP still doesn’t have to do anything and Lizzie’s mom still doesn’t even know OP and Em can’t stand her kid.

Btw the school, in enforcing a stern talking to to Lizzie about how she has to keep herself seperate from Em, be put on the opposite side of the classroom etc, is something Lizzie’s mom would have to be informed of and allowed to protest. I really don’t think people understand how the school’s hands are tied on stuff like this.

But like I said, still wrapping my head around how the school should have done more and should be threatened with legal action when Op hasn’t even talked to Lizzie’s mom and hasn’t stopped the *after school* playdates

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Marian Perera November 9, 2013 at 7:20 am

If a girl is taught that she should try to be friends with people whom she doesn’t like and gentle with the feelings of those who treat her poorly…

…what’s to stop her from becoming a young woman who ignores her intuition and believes she should accept dates from men who make her feel uncomfortable? Because, after all, people should be given a chance, rather than her being firm and direct and possibly hurting the men’s feelings. Maybe those men have just had hard lives and are in need of love, has she thought about that?

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Stella November 9, 2013 at 8:32 am

I’d take your daughter’s phone, go visit Lizzie and her mother, sit them down and talk to them about the texts in a calm manner. If Lizzie’s mother has an ounce of sense, she’ll be able to turn to Lizzie and confront her about her behaviour. Maybe she hasn’t even realised how badly her daughter is coping with the issues in their life.

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Lily November 9, 2013 at 11:05 am

OP, I have a mother just like you.
While I love her dearly, what you are doing to your Daughter is horrible.
Quit simpering online about what a good compassionate person you are, go out there and protect your Daughter.
What you have done, and are doing is wrong, please understand that now before it too late.
Your emotional blackmail of your Daughter is far, far worse than what Lizzy is doing to her.

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Elizabeth November 10, 2013 at 12:07 pm

While I agree that you are correct in encouragaing Em to be nice to everyone, I feel that you are WAY TOO involved in your child’s friendships. She needs to pursue and build these on her own. Stop this now and trust Em’s judgement … she wanted to avoid this drama that you somehow guilted her into tolerating.

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Angel November 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm

I would just tell the mom you don’t want your daughter and hers to see each other anymore. If the mom questions it, all you have to do is show her the mean texts. I would also tell her if the harassment doesn’t stop, that you have no problem going to the administration with the texts. Also were there any witnesses who saw Lizzie pull the chair out from under your daughter? Maybe see if one of them will step forward. Perhaps there are other kids Lizzie is bullying as well.

I agree that the OP is definitely way too invested in Lizzie and getting her help. This is a kid you really barely know. Who knows if half what the mom told you is even true? I don’t know I guess I just don’t have a heck of a lot of sympathy for bullies in general. It would be one thing if it was one or two times–but the OP states that the mistreatment seems to be continuous. I wouldn’t put my kid in this position for ANYONE, I don’t care how rough life is for them.

I think there’s a point where you need to stand up for your daughter and not worry so much about offending others–especially someone who, by your own admission you haven’t known all that long. And give your daughter the benefit of the doubt that the vast majority of the things she is reporting to you are true–if that is the case, you are doing her a great disservice by not standing up for her!

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Rachel November 13, 2013 at 11:48 am

Lizzie sounds like she has some psychiatric problems, this sounds like a lot more than anger.

I knew a girl in school who was borderline personality. My mom wanted me to be friends with her, and I wanted to be friends with her too. I never held it against my mom for trying to get me to be compassionate to a girl who had a lot of problems, even though the girl bullied me sometimes. I think a lot of commentors are in the wrong here..and wayyyyy overreacting.

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