I have occasionally remarked how glad I am that, as a kid, I didn’t realize how many adults behave just as badly as kids. I mistakenly trusted that the unkind and exclusionary behavior that is the hallmark of childhood would ultimately be vanquished by adulthood.
Fortunately, adulthood grants us a perspective on petty bullshit that kids simply don’t yet have. Even if those around us haven’t yet learned to behave like adults, the rest of us are now better equipped to deal with them than we were as kids.
While mulling over PTO officer and self-proclaimed Mean Mom Allena Tapia’s self-congratulatory piece at the Huffington Post, as well as educator and Mean Girl Wrangler Kelly Wickham’s no-nonsense response at Babble, I began to entertain a sort of chicken-and-egg question: Where do Mean Girls and Mean Moms come from?
Are Mean Moms simply Mean Girls who grew up (physically, perhaps not emotionally) and had babies? Or are they moms who were incorporated into a pack and found that being a Mean Mom satisfied some sort of insecurity or desire to belong? Are the daughters of Mean Moms destined to be Mean Girls? How much do our daughters learn from our own relationships with other women?
This past summer, I was watching Oliver playing in the baby pool at our neighborhood complex. Something had happened with CJ in one of the bigger pools, and she came over to me in tears. Another girl CJ’s age was playing in the baby pool too. She saw CJ crying and spat “Crybaby!” at her.
Later, I related the story to Kyle. He mused that such name-calling was interesting, because it was highly likely that this girl had first heard the insult “Crybaby!” at home. “I’m guessing that she’s been called ‘crybaby’ herself, and that’s why she did the same to another child,” he theorized.
I don’t presume to know what goes on in other families’ homes; I only know what we teach, which is kindness. We have drilled into our kids that they do not have to like everyone, they do not have to be friends with everyone, but they must be kind to everyone. Kindness is not an option. I believe this emphasis on kindness will go a long way toward tamping down the temptation to join a pack of Mean Girls.
I do not run in a pack myself, of Mean Moms or otherwise. Such packs do exist in our neighborhood, and they are as impenetrable now as they were when I was a kid. I am fortunate to have a great number of individual friends whom I’ve met through a variety of channels, reflecting the diversity of my interests and activities. Not only are my friendships important to me personally, I believe they also serve as an example for my daughters.
Ultimately, I pity Mean Moms like Allena and Mean Girls like the one who has been unkind to CJ. While they do occasionally make life difficult for the rest of us, I suspect that being mean is one of the few pleasures in their lives.