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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Prelude to Mean Girls

My better half has suggested she might write a piece on modern day bullying, or as women might call it, "mean girl syndrome."  Every school has them and maybe you were one of them.  Perhaps it was the cheerleading captain and her posse?  The punk rocker and all her Joan Jett looking besties.  Maybe even the stage star, soprano and valedictorian.   The do-it-all girl who had offers from Princeton when she was in grade school.  Oh, and she was a 3 sport athlete for good measure.  Hey, if that girl exists maybe she is allowed to bully.

The thing is, like everything else today, the "mean girls" aren't waiting for middle or high school.  Kids keep score at age 8 and 9 anymore.   "Their family vacations in Florida every break" they say.  

"Don't talk to her she isn't playing lacrosse this season."  

"She plays soccer, but only rec."  

"Did you see what she wore the other day?"  

"How about that hair?"  "

She only has a first generation Ipad."  

What, you think that is an exaggeration?  That stuff doesn't happen in the Heartland?  Or in urban places like Philly or New York?

Think again.  And if it isn't yet, it will be, and soon.   Let's say Minnesota is Beta to New Jersey's VHS.  It gets there, but it takes a little while to make that trip.

You could argue 9 year olds shouldn't have phones yet.  But in 2012 it is merely the equivalent of kids owning Colecovision or the Atari 2600 back in the 80s.  Kids, and more to the point their parents, NEED to keep up with their peers.  And if they are not doing it themselves you better believe they will do all they can to make sure their kids are.

And so the cycle begins, because mainly there will still be folks who either cannot afford to, or better, ignore these superficial trappings and opt to keep their kids socially behind (see: this author.)  That assumes that to fit in socially you have to show economic upward mobility (even if it is a lie- appearance is everything.)

Sleepovers at age 9 should be easy going expressions of friendship without the slightest bit of pretense and angst.

Why then do they challenge the very essence of the 4th grade system of mores?  Why is it girls cannot have more than 1 go to friend?  Why can they not root for each other when faced with adversity?  Why is every decision so critical?  When do they have time to just be children???  

Do we do enough to nurture their imaginations?  Is everything too literal??  When we take them to an inappropriate movie about children killing children should they be able to tell it is fantasy?  Is it fantasy?

Wait, now I'm confused.  Because more than anything the grossly overrated "The Hunger Games" is, at  best, a nice metaphor for today's youth.

They are paraded around for all the world to see.  They are expected to achieve greatness, so much so that they will rescue our sorry asses from the mess we find ourselves in.  Then, supposing they fail to meet our lofty expectations, we turn the channel as they die and wait for the next hero to come through the door.

Not quite.  We need to engage our children more and make them understand treating others poorly is not how things get done.  Rather, it continues a trend that we have all seen happen far too often.  

There new film Bully, reviewed last week: Bully Film Review @ GTS, fails to demonstrate how we can reverse this disturbing human tendency.  

It's so easy it hurts.  Lead by example.  Golden Rule s*&% folks.  

And listen (and/or make an attempt) to listen to what your kid is saying.  Cause at 9 it is far more complicated and nuanced than you could have ever imagined.

This guide needs a freaking guide.  What on Earth can adolescence bring??? 

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