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Mean Girls

A few days ago I was walking home from school with Cora and asked, “Did you have a good day at school today?”

“Well,” Cora said matter-of-factly, “One kind of big thing happened. We were sitting on the rug for Circle Time and Sara started saying that I smelled like dog hair. She kept saying it over and over, getting really loud, and all the kids started laughing. And it really hurt my feelings. And so I went into the corner by myself to cry, and then the teacher told Sara to knock it off and then said I could come sit next to her. And mom,” she turned to me, bewildered, with a sad look on her face, “We don’t even have a dog! How can I smell like dog?”

Oh, my baby.

Cora’s a very happy-go-lucky kid, and is pretty darn fearless and pretty dang self-confident in a non-cocky way. But this one run-in – this ONE conversation – made a rather deep mark on her.

The rest of the day, Cora mused out loud as to how she could smell bad – just assuming there must be some truth to the girl’s statement, because otherwise why would she have said it? Cora can’t even fathom a world in which someone makes something up just to be mean.

“Maybe it’s because I played at Maddie’s two weeks ago, and petted her dog then,” she concluded.

And then asked if she could have a long bath that night, just in case.

Of course I followed up with the teacher, who said the whole thing came out of left field. Sara is usually quite a nice girl, no provocation seemed to be out there anywhere, and the teacher even did a surreptitious sniff to make sure Cora did not, indeed, smell like dog hair.

Did I file a bully report? No, not for a one-time thing. This was probably a one-off from a five-year-old having a bad morning. But I did have to have a long talk with Cora, explaining that sometimes people are mean for no reason, and it has nothing to do with who Cora is or what she did. And Cora did have nightmares that night, and has been a bit more in my shadow all week.

She’ll bounce back, I know it, but has taken her first steps into a jaded world with different rules. And I hate that she’s got a new measuring stick in her life now.

The next day I went to eat lunch with her just to love her up a little bit, and as we sat eating I said, “So how’s your day going so far?”

“Good,” she said, and thought about it before adding, “At least no one’s teased me or said mean things about me so far today. That makes it a good day.”

Oh, my baby.


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