Little girl lost

By Mir
August 31, 2007

The children are BOTH having friends over after school today, and this is VERY! EXCITING! and despite my grumpiness in the wee hours I’ll confess that waking up Monkey and having him spring upright and declare “Today’s the day!” and then going into Chickadee’s room and watching her yawn, stretch, and then pop up and exclaim “Today’s the day!” as well (she hadn’t heard her brother) was pretty funny.

As for me, I am pleased that my babies have friends. Moreover, Monkey was kind enough to become infatuated with a boy whose mom I really like, so he may have done me a big favor, there. I knew I liked her when Monkey went over to their house and when I came to pick up she asked me if I wanted to hang out for a bit; and when I said sure, asked me if I wanted a glass of wine. (I declined, for various reasons, but I like her style.)

Chickadee’s new bestest buddy is a darling little imp whose mother doesn’t speak much English. When we met at a school function we conducted a brief conversation mostly in gestures, both pleased that our girls have found each other and offering our praise on the other’s child.

The plan this afternoon is to throw everyone in the pool, weather permitting. If it insists on raining, I’ll have to let the kids play inside. And then probably burn the house down afterwards rather than try to clean up the damage.


Remember the whole Mean Girls thing? Well, Chickadee continued to come home with tales about one of them in particular. Let’s call her Xtina.

Xtina got in trouble for this. Xtina got in trouble for that. Xtina didn’t do her homework. Xtina stole a pencil. Xtina kicked my chair. Every day there was a new litany of offenses, reported with a mixture of fear and satisfaction.

Xtina’s most frequent partner in crime apparently had a change of heart; Chickadee came home one day to report that she was NICE! And she played with Chickadee and her friends, and it was REALLY FUN! But the reports about Xtina’s antics continued.

We had a meeting with the teacher, my Chickie and me. Just so that I could get a sense of what’s REALLY happening in the class. Just so that the teacher and I could make it clear to her that we’re working together (much to her benefit AND her detriment, depending on her behavior). Chickadee, of course, wanted to talk about Xtina.

“She’s really MEAN,” she said to the teacher. “I wish she would just leave me ALONE.”

The teacher leaned in very close, and told Chickadee that she wanted to take her into her confidence about something. (Then we had a brief interlude for a vocabulary lesson.) Still leaning in close, the teacher started to talk about how some kids don’t have the same advantages as others. That sometimes kids who don’t get a lot of attention seek whatever attention they can get, whether it be good or bad—and bad attention is usually easier to obtain.

“Yeah, well, what doesn’t she have that makes her so mean?”

The teacher thought for a moment, clearly weighing her response. “Well, Chickadee,” she said, “let’s just say that you probably don’t realize what an ADVANTAGE you have in the kind of mom who comes to school for meetings and open houses and who checks your homework and packs your lunch.” Chickadee’s face was blank; of course this isn’t an advantage, I could almost hear her thinking. That’s just MOM. “And all I’m going to say is that not everyone has a mom like that.”

Now, this is not to toot my own horn, as I happen to have it on good authority that Chickadee’s mom also yells too often and too loudly, has all the patience of a fruit fly, and often packs THE WRONG KIND OF FRUIT CUP in her lunch. I’m just sayin’. But it was really interesting to watch her consider all of this. Both that maybe she has it pretty good and that maybe Xtina doesn’t.

In talking with Chickadee about Xtina, myself, I had mentioned that I suspected Xtina wasn’t very happy or she wouldn’t behave the way she does. But to hear this—in such a concrete way—from her TEACHER (not from dumb ol’ MOM), seemed to make an impression. We three talked about how it’s an explanation, though not an excuse, and how it needs a bit of compassion. Ultimately, of course, the teacher’s advice was the same as mine: Stay away from her.

Last night the phone rang about fifteen minutes before bedtime. I didn’t recognize the name on the caller ID.


“Um, hi, is Chickadee there?”

“Yessss… who’s calling, please?”

“It’s, um, Xtina. Her FRIEND Xtina.”

“Just a minute, please, I’ll get her.”

I put the phone down and mouthed “Xtina!” to Otto, and we exchanged a confused look. I ran upstairs to get Chickadee.

“Xtina’s on the phone for you, Chickie.”


It was an effort not to laugh. She looked panic-stricken. “I don’t know, sweetie, but I think you should talk to her.”

“Do I HAVE to?”

“Yeah, I think you do. Find out what she wants.”

She followed me back downstairs and picked up the phone.

“Hello? Yes, this is Chickadee. … I know. … I know who this is, it’s Xtina, my mom told me. … Yes. … Oh. I’m, uh, getting ready for bed. What are YOU doing? … Oh. I dunno, about eight, I gues. … Yeah. It’s Mir. … MIR. Yeah. Uh huh….”

Otto and I hovered nearby in the kitchen. What should we do? Her voice conveyed all the excitement of a dead fish. Meanwhile, we puzzled primarily over how Xtina had gotten our number. Chickadee and I have different last names. There’s been no class contact list. Where did she get our number?

“Yeah. … I guess. … Oh. PSSST! HELP! Yeah.” I peeked around the doorway. Chickadee was waving me over along with her plea for help. I found myself frozen on the spot. Otto to the rescue!

“CHICKADEE! TIME FOR BED!” he boomed, although we were only standing about 10 feet away from her.

She heaved a sigh of relief. “I have to go,” she said (with the most animation of the entire call). “What? Sure, here’s my mom.” She fairly threw the phone at me and ran back upstairs.


“Hi!” said Xtina.

“Chickadee has to finish getting ready for bed now, Xtina.”

“Okay! I’ll call her again tomorrow.”

“Ooooo… kay…. Good night.”


I hung up and went upstairs to find Chickadee.

“What did she want?” I asked.

“I have no idea!” she exploded. “She just kept saying that she was tired! And watching the Disney Channel! She said she was tired about five times!”

“She, uh, said she’s going to call you tomorrow,” I ventured. She blanched.

“MOM! No! I don’t WANT her to call me again!”

And it was right about there that I started to feel truly sorry for Xtina. Not the “oh she’s probably disadvantaged” sort of theoretical sorry, but the “I don’t think that poor child has a single person who loves her” sort of sorry.

So Chickadee and I sat down to have a talk. I fumbled and stumbled as I tried to explain that she needs to be as kind as she can, and that I know that’s going to be really hard, and I’m not sure what the right thing to do here is. Certainly she’s not obligated to field nightly phone calls about nothing with a child she doesn’t really like, but neither is it okay for her to go to school and say “Don’t call me!”

(We may have come up with a solution for that one, actually. I told her to tell Xtina she’s not allowed to take phone calls past 7 on school nights. Between extra-curriculars, homework, and dinner we can probably cover the rest of the hours in-between school and bedtime, anyway.)

And it was with a heavy heart that I told Chickadee that Xtina might be back to her horrible ways, today, or maybe today she’ll be really nice to her and try to win her over. That we can’t possibly predict. And that I want her to remember that she can’t control Xtina’s behavior but she CAN control her own, so I expect her to be kind. “Be as nice as you can,” I said, “even though it’s hard. Maybe no one’s ever been nice to her. That doesn’t mean don’t protect yourself from her if you need to, but remember to be gentle. She needs it.”

I wonder what tales she’ll come home with today, and whether Xtina continued trying to woo her or whether she was back to her old tricks. I felt like a traitor to my own child, trying to encourage her to be friendly, even as I know how much grief this child has caused her.

But mostly I wonder if anyone tucked Xtina in last night.


  1. Mel

    We’ve always tried to teach our kids to be nice to people, even the ones that are hard to like, that it doesn’t take a lot to smile and maybe someday that person will see that not everyone is mean and they don’t have to be mean either. This is a hard situation for you, Chickadee and Xtina and I wish you all the best.

  2. Pam

    We have an Xtina in our son’s kindergarten class, Xzachery. Xzachery though, hits and scratches and trips my son and his best friend and laughs about it all. The teachers say that it’s because he’s new and wants to fit in with the “cool kids”. We’re trying to instill patience and forgiveness but that’s hard when you’re 5. Xzachery’s Mom reached out to us for a playdate to try and bridge their differences. Clearly she’s trying to be a good Mom so I can’t figure out why this kid is being so mean to the boys he so wants to be friends with. I guess maybe it’s the old pull the pigtails of the the little girl you have a crush on thing.
    Being little is hard!

  3. Leandra

    That story brought tears to my eyes. I know it’s been really hard on Chickie, but Xtina obviously needs a friend. Maybe all along she secretly wanted to be Chickie’s friend and she just didn’t know how. I can’t wait to hear the end of this story. Maybe this is the beginning of a bee-yoo-tiful friendship.

  4. birchsprite

    Oh that made me feel so sad. Poor Xtina. And good on you for being so understanding.

  5. Jessica

    You really are a great inspiration–I hope when my kids are older, I can handle these types of situations with the same kind of grace and compassion. And your example will help Chickadee, I’m sure. And who knows, maybe Chickadee’s friendliness will help Xtina be a better person, too! Here’s hoping!

  6. liz

    Oh my goodness…so go the days of our lives. I can’t believe you posted this on the Friday of a long weekend and we’ll have to wait until NEXT TUESDAY to find out what happens at school. Is she mean? Is she nice? In the meantime, Xtina will be in my prayers.

  7. daisy

    To give you an example of how on the money you are…

    My daughter was very “popular” all thru school. Very pretty, athletic, cheerleader, etc. Unlike a lot of other “popular” kids throughout school she always tried to be kind to all and speak to all that were in her classes or that would talk to her in the halls (being a cheerleader all thru school meant a lot of people knew her name but she didn’t always know theirs (HUGE school system). We had tried to instill the same principles you are now trying to instill in Chickadee.

    One day, this was in high school after Columbine had occurred, a young man was expelled from school for leaving a death list on a school computer. Police were called, a judge ordered counseling and an alternative school. The kids listed were the “popular kids” in the school. What were considered the leaders, jocks, cheerleaders, etc. However, missing from that list was my daughter’s name. I wondered about that for a time. Granted I was grateful, but I wondered since a lot of people she knew and were on teams with, etc. were on the list.

    A year or so later we ran into this young man at a store (she had graduated from high school by then). He approached her and said hello and she asked him how he was doing now and had a conversation. As she said goodbye he asked her if she knew why her name wasn’t on the list. She said no. He said…because you always spoke to me in the hall and in class and were kind to me when others teased me. You even made others stop if you were there when they did. I’m sure, like Xtina, this boy at times probably didn’t have anyone to tuck him in at night or show him love.

    My daughter wasn’t “friends” with this boy. They didn’t hang out or call each other on the phone. But she stuck up for him when she could and she was polite and kind to him when she saw him.

    You are doing the right thing with Chickadee. I can guarantee it.

  8. Stephanie Chance

    I am reminded of Bart Simpson’s short-lived friendship with Nelson, the bully. “Ha! Ha! I touched your heart!”

  9. Crisanne

    Oh my heavens! I am learning so much from you and your fantastic mothering! I pray that I remember it when my little girls need this info. Also, what a great service Chick’s teacher did. Helping her understand by giving just the right amount of info. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  10. MommasWorld

    It is sad to think a child is not receiving the love and attention they need. We have a Mean Girl at my daughter’s school and daycare (same girl). Her buddy changed from mean to nice a few months back.

    I know how you feel you have betrayed your own child by trying to get them to be nice to the Mean Girl. This isn’t my first Mean Girl experience. My son had a Mean Boy in his class. They finally became friends and then we found out he was really an evil little boy.

    His mother would come to our house looking for him saying he took $20 or $100 out of her purse. She called the police on him a few times and this boy was only in 4th grade! When the police brought my son and this little boy home from riding bikes in the neighborhood (also causing a public disturbance) that was the end. I told that little boy they could no longer play together. The boy was arrested a few times the next year for shoplifting and other small theft charges.

    I still believe most Mean Girls/Boys will change but there are some that wont.

  11. Annie

    You’re the best mom !

  12. Ei.

    That just made me cry.

  13. hollygee

    Has Chikadee found the Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor? Some of these situations are addressed in the series which start with Alice in 3rd grade, Starting With Alice.

  14. marlen

    Me, too.

  15. Ree

    clap, clap, clap.

  16. ScottsdaleGirl

    The girls I hated the most at first? Became some of my bestest friends.

  17. Divrchk

    It sounds like Chickadee’s teacher is doing a great job. She’s the young teacher you were worried about her age, right? It seems that she’s handling things beautifully. You’re not doing too bad yourself :-)

  18. MomCat

    My daughter had a friend like that in fourth grade, I’ll call her T. She was a perplexing child, always in trouble — having tantrums, biting, hitting, and seemingly unable to carry on a conversation with anyone, especially an adult. Her parents never brought her to parties or extracurricular activities, nor would they let anyone take her. My daughter was the only one who was nice to T.

    On the last day of school that year, at the reading awards, everyone’s parents were present but T’s. She sat by me. As the kids went up to get their certificates, she edged closer and closer to me. All the kids had gotten an award – all but T. Then she dropped her head on my shoulder and cried. I just held and patted her, let her cry it out. Then I got permission to take her to Baskin Robbins with us, instead of going to after-school care right away. Many of the other girls were there. She was so happy to be included.

    The next year T was diagnosed with autism and a slew of other problems and went to a magnet school. She continued to call my daughter nearly every day for about six months. I sure hope she has made some good friends at the new school.

  19. Jessica

    That’s so heartbreaking. That poor child who has no clue about how to reach out to people.

  20. Sophie

    Yahoo! Both of your children have found friends. I can’t wait to hear how the afternoon goes. I’m so happy for them!

    Regarding your own horn, please. Toot away. You’ve earned it.

    Xtina is breaking my heart, poor kid. Please give updates as they come in.

  21. jp

    I would ask Chickie why she thought Xtina would call her at home? It wasn’t a mean prank call, so maybe she is trying to be friendly? Do you suppose the teacher also had a chat w/ Xtina???
    For the most part girls are the meanest little things who grow up to be nice woman or continue to be mean big things.

    I never ‘hated’ anyone in school, but there were 2 girls who always had something mean & nasty to say about me behind my back. At our 25 HS reunion they both apologized and we laughed about it, but then I asked them why they wanted to torture me so much, their answer was because I never cared enough to fight back w/ them!!!

    Some people just s%ck! And really thats a hard lesson for all of us to learn!


  22. Vanda

    Greetings from across the pond.

    This reminds me of a child when my son was the new kid in class and the smalest but one. The smallest was Karl. Every kid was scard of Karl. He kept picking on my son so I told him to tell him that my mum wants you to come to tea. After meeting his mum and getting her permission Karl came for tea. I made it a bit special one with what I gave them to eat. He was pleasant, polite and played nice. I asked him if he would like to come back and of course he did. I told my son that he should try and make frieds as well. “Ok mum, I’ll try” sighed my son

    They ended up the best of friends and both of them were so upset when Karl moved.

    My son has used this lesson over the years and ended up the guys who worked for him giving him their all.

  23. arduous

    I know a million other commenters have said it, but you really are the BEST MOM.

  24. Melisa

    Ooohh! A cliffhanger! Can’t wait to hear how it all turns out.

    So sad to think about what that poor girl’s home life must be like.

    I plan to have my 12 year-old read this – especially what daisy said. I want her to have that same kind of compassion for ALL people.

  25. Dawn

    First, what a great teacher. Validating you as a mom in front of your kid *and* being willing to talk honestly with Chickadee about her fears. Second, you rock.

  26. Marie

    Bravo Mir !!! you are doing a wonderful job !

  27. Amy-Go

    Mean parents suck. I have the most overwhelming desire to smack Xtina’s upside the head. Good on you for taking the high road!

  28. saucygrrl

    Well, because I don’t have kids, I’ll have to relate through movies (which is basically how I relate to EVERYTHING)… Have you ever watched About A Boy with Hugh Grant? There’s a similar situation in that movie between the two younger boys. I don’t know, I just thought it might be appropriate to mention it. :)

    I think you gave good advice, despite your inability to give her the right fruit cup. And kudos on the fruit cup anyway. I was more of a Snickers girl and I think I would have fainted dead away if I found a fruit cup in my lunch box.

  29. mama speak

    Kudos to you Mir! And to Chickadee’s teacher. It sounds like Xtina needs some extra attention and with you and her teacher seeing through her tactics she might turn out to be a nice kid.

    IMO, Xtina probably got your number from her friend who has become friends w/Chickadee. I think she probably realized from the getgo that Chickadee was smart & would do well socially, thus was jealous and decided to target her. Now that her other friends have decided Chickadee is cool she might be testing the water so she doesn’t lose the friends she has. I sincerely hope she becomes one of your daughter’s circle of friends so that some of your influence will end up directed her way.
    My BFF in school came from a home where her parents would leave her for the weekend while they went sailing when she was 10 YEARS OLD!!! Even then I knew something was wrong w/them to do that. She called me to do something one weekend & when my mom found out she was home alone we went over and got her. From then on she spent most weekend at my house. Kids like that can go either way cause no one’s paying attention. Xtina might be ok, because obviously there’s some adults who have noticed her.

  30. Jennifer

    Mir – As everyone else already stated, you’re the best. But I also want to give two thumbs up to Otto for stepping in to help Chickadee out of her sticky situation.

    Is Chickadee ready for some Judy Blume books yet? I swear this sound like one of the books I read in about 4th or 5th grade!

  31. Cele

    wow, you are a darn good, even if you yell loud sometimes, person and mom.

  32. Fiona

    There used to be a girl at my school like Xtina, she was hard as nails, and I was terrified of her. She was overdeveloped for her age and a red head. Two things I remember about her, she wore high wedged heels even though she was only 8 and she didn’t know when her own birthday was. One day she dragged me all the way from school nearly to her own home, I was digging in my heels all the way and petrified, before I eventually escaped and ran. Years later I realise that may have been her clumsy way of trying to *make* me be her friend

  33. Susan

    I know this is a weird thing to say to a “stranger” (more or less, though I don’t FEEL like you’re a stranger to me) — but — I’m very proud of you.

    Few parents, it seems, teach The Golden Rule anymore. Few children are taught to have compassion, to be considerate, to put themselves in others’ shoes.

    I am just really proud of you, Mir. You are fantastic. Chickadee could actually change Xtina’s self-esteem, her path in life–anything or everything. She may be the one person who cares enough; the one person who makes a difference.

  34. Anony-Mousie

    One of my most vivid memories of childhood is when a friend confided in her mom as she was hanging up the phone from a nothing-call I’d made to her after school. “I have to go eat dinner,” she told me, but as she moved the phone from her ear to the handset to hang up, I overheard her say to her mom, “I feel so sorry for Mousie. She must have no one to talk to.” I never called her again, though 28 years later, I still remember her phone number.

  35. Terri

    Back when my oldest was in preschool (4-y-o) he used to come home with these stories about a little boy who was SO MEAN to him. He’d push him and hit him and laugh at him, etc. I was pregnant and on partial bed-rest at the time, so I wasn’t in the class much, and he had a bigger class than usual, so there were a bunch of kids I didn’t even know. Well. After about a week of hearing all these stories, I called his teacher to hear her “take” on the situation. Turns out that he was from Germany and knew very little English. He didn’t know how to express himself verbally, so he was very physical, and a lot of the kids were a bit wary of him. It probably didn’t help that he was very active and naturally rough.

    So I sat down with Josh and we talked about how hard it must be to move across the world and not know anyone or the language. I told him that even if he seemed mean, he needed to treat him with kindness and be his friend, because that’s how I’d hope people would treat him. Not to mention it’s the right thing to do, anyway. Well, from December on, they became the best of friends, and were devastated when they had to go to kindergarten at different schools. Last summer they moved back to Germany, and the kids email back and forth with each other, and talk about visiting each other in a few years. His parents are lovely people, and their two younger kids are the same ages as mine, so the girls became good friends as well.

    It was a great lesson for Josh, and it has made him more patient and understanding with kids who are “different.” Not that there aren’t children who are just plain mean for no real reason. ;)

  36. Lydia

    Good on ya. Where I fall down on these tasks is in the “modelling correct behavior” department. You, child, must share your toys on the playground, but if some stranger comes up to me and asks to use my camera… er… well… maybe not. If the adult edition of Xtina calls me, am I able to rein in my wicked tongue and be kind?

  37. Mary Ann

    You are awesome.

  38. carrien

    I found myself in Chickie’s shoes a lot in school. I remember awkward visits to the houses of kids after school who I thought hated me, and no one being there (I walked, my mom didn’t know)and parents coming in so coldly when they did get home, and yelling that the table wasn’t set.

    MY mom would literally quote to me, “Love your enemies, pray for those who spitefully use you…”

    Even at that age I could see the wisdom in it as the girls that I was afraid of became my friends and confided in me and I finally understood them.

    She told me years later that those few years she was afraid for me, and how hard it was to let me go to school every day because she was worried. But nothing but good came from it in my experience.

  39. Daisy

    You, Mir, are an amazing mom. Really. And Otto? He’s just a darn cool stepdad, helping Chickie out when she needed it!!

  40. Jenifer

    That’s so sad…

    Keep us informed though, you have me wondering what Xtina will do next… sounds like she doesn’t have many friendss, and doesn’t know how to make them.

    Good luck to chickie…. she’s so luckynto have you!

  41. ri

    I remember my aunt talking to my mum about how sad it was with some some kids living in the same street as them always running out late at night. At that point I thought those kids were lucky, now I see that I and my cousins really were the lucky once, having mums that made sure we where safe inside at night.

  42. Angel

    Oh this makes my heart hurt.

    I hope that someday (very very soon) Chickadee realizes how BLESSED she is to have you for a mom. You are *awesome*.

    And I hope that Xtina can come to realize what a good friend your daughter can be to her and is nice to her.

  43. Delton

    Once again, wonderfully handled! :)

  44. MsRebecca

    Any mom offering a glass of wine is cool in my book ;)

  45. Lulu

    My kid got in trouble for being mean to kids he didn’t like, when he was in, oh, second grade? (I forget, it’s been a few years.)

    We had a frank discussion about how to treat people the way you would want to be treated. And how you can’t just treat someone badly because you don’t like them — that’s just mean. He had thought I meant he had to LIKE everyone when I was saying he had to be friendly. He was so relieved when I told him, Heck no, he didn’t have to LIKE everyone, but he had to be nice to people. (You don’t have to let them know you don’t like them, because that’s just mean too.)

    15 years later, he uses that philosophy at work (we’ve talked about it recently) to amazing ends (promotions! people want to work for him! positive customer feedback!).

    This is one of those difficult but life-shaping lessons, and yeah, it’s a hard one to comprehend & master. Rock on, Mir — you’re doing just fine with the parenting!

  46. prophet

    looking forward to hearing the follow-up. . . . Chickadee’s adventures in converting mean girls to people!

    Sounds like a real calling.

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