Last week 11 year old comes in with a face like fizz. After much persuading I get the story out of her that her "friends" have been calling her names, pushing her, telling others not to play with her. The core of this is one girl. Her angry face quickly disolves into one trying hard to hold back the tears.
My face changes from concerned Mother to angry Lioness...as it does when one of your cubs is upset or hurting.
"I'm not going to school on Monday" she whispers. "It's too hard trying to ignore them".
Nope. Nope. Nope. I'm not having that. No first instinct is to go and find the buggers who have made my daughter cry, who have told her she is ugly, who have told her her hair is the wrong colour, who have called her names she (and they) don't really know the meaning of and grab their little necks and wring them but a) that's not allowed and b) that's not teaching my daughter how to deal with this properly.
So I ponder for a minute or two. I face this test of parenthood and consider my move.
I am always teaching my kids that the only weapon you will ever need in this world is a smart mouth and the ability to use it properly.
It's something I believe in. Know how to use your mouth and you can achieve all sorts.
So I gather 11 year old and we get in the car. 11 year old wants to know where we're going. I tell 11 year old that I will explain it all when we get back.
We pull up outside the local shop. There "Friend 1" is standing. We walk past and go into the shop. No sign of the rest of them. I purchase what I need and head back out the shop. "Friend 1" is still outside.
"Hiya Toots, have you seen Emily*?" I ask her. She answers no. "Ok babes well if you do can you tell her I was looking for her please? I'd like to speak to her about something" and we walk away.
We get back to the house and 11 year old is looking a bit panicked. "Mum why did you do that? Emily will know I've told you now". I agree and say yes she will but let's just wait and see.
A few minutes later another "friend" appears alone in the street. I open the door and go out. "Hey Hun, have you seen Emily?" I ask her. Again the answer is no. I move into second gear. "Oh ok Hun. I'll catch up with her later because I want to talk to her about something. I also want to talk to you but since you're here I won't need to look for you"
"Friend 2 " looks at me. The expression of smart ass 11 year old instantly changed to worried 11 year old.
"Ok babes, Belle has told me what happened tonight and what's been happening all week. I'm really disappointed that you have been part of that and I just wanted to let you know that I'm going to have to mention your name when I speak to the Head on Monday. I know your Mum will be annoyed and I know you'll be worried now all weekend about getting into trouble on Monday but I am annoyed and Belle is going to be worried all weekend so we're all square now"
Friend 2 is quick to point out that it was Emily. Emily started it and Emily told them to do it and Emily said she wouldn't speak to them if they spoke to Belle.
By now Friend 3 has appeared and is listening closely. "Am I getting told on?" he asks.
"Where you there? Have you been involved?" I ask him back. He answers yes. "Then I'm sorry Toots but I'll need to mention you to0". Friend 3 is quick to point out Emily started it as well!
I move up a notch. "Ok guys look, I know you're good kids, I've known you both since you were 3 years old but you know Belle is upset and she's frightened and that is not good. I know Emily can be a little sod but when did you guys decide that she was the boss? Who told her she could make the rules and the decisions for you all? If she told you all to jump of a cliff would you do it?. I don't think so. It's a shame because now you're both going to get into trouble because you let someone else make a decision for you."
Friend 2 and 3 look to the ground. I sense victory and carry on. "You know guys, in a few months time you are all going to High School. On day one and for the first few weeks you will be really pleased to see faces and friends from your Primary class until you make new friends and settle in" They are now looking up at me listening intently looking very much like the wee 3 year olds I once knew! "Remember that you all have feelings and imagine how it might be if it was you no-one was speaking to or it was you people were being told to ignore. Imagine if that's you at High School."
"That would be crap" says Friend 3.
"Yes it would" I reply. "Ok guys I'll leave you to think about it and at least now you'll be prepared to speak to the Head on Monday. Have a nice weekend guys ok?"
"Yes Jenny" they reply and walk away.
11 year old looks perplexed when I go back in. "Mum what are you doing? I don't understand. They'll go and tell Emily and she'll be really angry that she's getting into trouble"
I sit her down and begin to try and explain. "Honey, imagine you are Emily. You've been told Belle's Mum is looking for you. That the Head is going to be told what you've been up to. Two of your friends are annoyed because they might now be in trouble becuase they did what you told them too. Belle's Mum knows your Mum. Your Mum is bound to find out. How are you feeling right now? I'll tell you how...you are panicking. You are about to start backtracking and trying to save your skin."
Belle looks puzzled and then nods "Emily is going to be worried"
I say that she will and that it's good if she is worried because now she is feeling exactly what Belle is feeling....worried, frightened and nervous.
I tell Belle to watch some tv and just give it some time.
30 minutes was all it took.
I tell Belle to answer the door. There on the doorstep are 8 "friends". I can hear the "I'm sorry's" from the lounge. I can hear the reasons why things were said and done. I can hear the excuses, the explanations, the regrets and the promises it won't happen again. They give her 2 packets of sweets they have clubbed together for and bought t the shop. I can't hear Emily though....and then..."I'm sorry Belle, I didn't mean it" and on and on it goes for several minutes as Emily finally finds her voice.
Belle turns to me and says "Mum can I go out?" I nod.
I go to the door while she is putting on her trainers. "Well look at this on my doorstep!" They all laugh. "Sorry for making you annoyed Jenny" says one voice from the back. "Yep so you should be you wee brat!" They laugh again. "I want you all to know I won't have bullying and that goes for any of you bullying each other not just Belle ok? It's not big and it's not clever. Try and remember that you've all been friends a long time. If you can't be nice to each other then stay away from each other. If you've nothing nice to say then keep it zipped ok?"
They all nod. "Good. See ya'll later"
Belle heads out.
She returns an hour or two later, soaked, bogging and beaming from ear to ear. Which is how it should be.
Later I put her to bed. "Thanks Mum. I get it now. Make the bullies feel how you feel and they are not so smart"
"Yep that's it" I say "and remember if that fails then just smack them one right in the mouth!" and I walk away and close the door leaving 11 year old in fits of laughter.
Obviously Emily is a made up name and I'm glad to say it seems to have settled down and things are back to normal. Peace has prevailed and the world is a happier place. I am going to apply for a UN Peacekeeping position in due course!