Their Social Lives Affect Us, Too
Years ago, when I was the new kid in school, I was the only girl in third grade who didn't get a party invitation, a snub that was perfectly apparent because the birthday girl handed out those little pink envelopes at school just before the last bell rang. Not only was I being excluded, but all the other kids in the class knew I wasn't invited. Mom was waiting for me in the pick-up line, and I barely made it to the car before I burst into tears. While I was telling the story, Mom teared up with me. Then she called the other girl a brat. Which, according to Hartley-Brewer, wasn't such an awful thing to say: "Children find it reassuring to have parents clearly assert, 'It's the mean kids who have the problem, not you.'?" (Though she cautions against trashing the mean kid if the two are still somewhat friendly.)
I remembered my mother's reaction the day Henry came home upset after his failed attempt to play football. My own impulse was to march down to that school and deliver a lecture on kindness and basic humanity to the entire third-grade class. But then I thought about how it had all turned out for me: I got over it. I was a happy kid, and before long, I made friends at my new school, and I was just fine. And I know Henry's going to get over any of his social setbacks, too. I'm just not totally sure I will.
Margaret Renkl is a contributing editor to Parenting.