So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

When I was in middle school, the popularity board of directors chose me as their new target. They created an online poll and sent it around to everyone in our school. The poll was titled, “Who’s Uglier, Lilly Holland or Sarah Johnson’s Leg Hair?”

Poor Sarah Johnson, who was endlessly mocked because she wasn’t allowed to shave her legs. As I sobbed into my mom’s lap, she stroked my hair and assured me that the girls who created that poll were mean girls, and mean girls are not people you want to be friends with, now or ever. Of course, she ended up being right. One of the girls ended up being a teen mom, and the other continued being malicious right through college. I’m sure to this day she’s still a mean girl.

Mean girls aren’t born, they’re created. They’re empowered by other kids and their parents, often inadvertently. As a teacher, I watched this happen in my classroom every year. There was always a mean girl. The girl who put others down to make herself feel better, because she lacked confidence and control in her life. She had her band of loyal followers, and would gain power every time she did something unkind. Every year there was a different version of the same girl. And every year, the old adage would ring true: the apple never falls far from the tree.

Nine times out of then, the mean girl had a mean-girl mom. The mean-girl mom disguised it better than her second-grade daughter, but it was still obvious from her interactions with others. The power structure doesn’t really change from elementary school, it just becomes more complex.

Today at our library, I saw exactly how mean girls are made. My daughter, who is 18-months-old, was enamored by two five-year-olds who were playing with LEGOs. The two girls and their mothers were the only other people in the library. My daughter inched closer and closer until she was within reach of the girls. Not yet able to really communicate, she gave her own kind of greeting. Beaming, she reached out to give one of the girls a pat on the arm.

The girl pushed my daughter’s hand away, stomped over to her mom, and loudly complained right in front of me, “There’s a baby over there, and I do not like it!” If my child had said that, I would have been mortified. This mother rolled her eyes and suggested her daughter ignore “the baby”. My baby, whose mother was sitting ten feet away from this dynamic duo.

I gave the mom the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she was embarrassed, and didn’t know how to handle it. Clearly, the girls were not going to give my daughter the time of day. Knowing how tough it can be for older kids to play with younger kids, I took Penny’s hand and led her to play in another area. The little girl came back, unprovoked, and said, “You can’t stand up like we can,” jabbing her finger in the air, “because you are a baby.”

The mother was nowhere to be found, so in my best teacher voice I said, “You know, kiddo, you were exactly the same age and size not too long ago.” She ran away.

We play a huge role in our children’s lives. The mother was probably tired of hearing her daughter’s complaints. Since she was enjoying having a conversation with her friend, she told her daughter to ignore the baby who was “bothering” her. What about explaining to her that little kids look up to big kids? Or asking her how the baby was “bothering” her and then trying to figure out a solution?

Every decision we make sends a message to our children. That little girl learned that it’s OK to act unkindly toward another child just because she’s younger. If Penny had come up to me and complained about a smaller child annoying her, I would have explained to her that in our family we are friendly to everyone, and that she should be especially friendly to younger kids who admire her.

When I walked into the play area initially, I sat by the two moms because they were the only other adults in the library. I thought it was odd that neither acknowledged me. Of course, I didn’t expect to be brought into a private conversation, but a simple hello would have been nice. It was inconvenient for those moms to say hi to another mom, just like it was inconvenient for one of their daughters to be kind to another child. It was inconvenient for the mom to take advantage of a simple teachable moment. 

I’d like to think this was an isolated incident. I know through many interactions with children that this is not the norm. Most kids see babies toddling around the library, remark how cute they are, and bring them into their game—at least temporarily. Obviously, we can’t—and shouldn’t— monitor everything our children say and do. However, it seemed this child has already learned, whether through inconvenience or blissful ignorance, that it’s OK to be unkind to someone else.

I wish I’d had the courage to speak with the mother myself, to try to figure out why she responded this way. Instead, I’m writing about it now. Hopefully someone can learn from it, no matter which mother you are in this story.

You might also like:

To the Tired Mom in the Middle of the Night

I’ll Hold You Instead

But Mommy, You Were Too Busy

Want more stories of love, family, and faith from the heart of every home, delivered straight to you? Sign up here! 

Mean girls aren’t born, they’re created. #girls #motherhood #meangirls #raisinggirls

Lilly Holland

I'm a writer and stay-at-home mom to Penny, 15 months. Prior to spending my days with my daughter I was an elementary school teacher. After teaching, writing and being a mother became my full-time job and I haven't looked back since. Follow me on my website or Twitter

My Little Girl Has Big, Brave Dreams

In: Kids, Motherhood
School paper with little girl's handwriting, color photo

My 6-year-old daughter wants to be a soldier.   When we heard from the ultrasound tech that we were having another girl, that was not exactly the career path that popped into our heads.   There’s something absolutely terrifying knowing your child wants to do something big like this. I’m sure I’d be petrified if I had a son with the same ambition, but there’s something extra scary about it being your little girl. There’s something weighty about raising a daughter who wants to be a soldier. But honestly, it’s not a surprise at all. RELATED: God Has Filled Your...

Keep Reading

As My Children Grow, I Miss It All—Even the Sick Days

In: Kids, Motherhood
Toddler on mom's shoulder

I whisk my daughter through the doors of urgent care and cradle her head as I stand behind three other mamas clinging to their babies. We’re each rocking in different ways but moving nonetheless. The silent, comforting rhythm of motherhood. I see sad, sick eyes from the babies with their heads nestled into the necks of their mama. I’m tired from the sleepless night, and I shift from foot to foot. There is hushing and humming and back-patting. A pacifier drops to the floor. All of a sudden my daughter feels heavy. A vague sinking feeling comes over me, like...

Keep Reading

Life with Autism Is Full of Ticking Time Bombs

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother, father, teen daughter, color photo

Many of us who live with autism are familiar with the comings and goings of the ticking time bomb—one that disappears for periods of time, so much so that we might forget about it. Then, suddenly, this bomb drops at our doorstep in the form of a returning or new obstacle, so intense that it causes us to pause our lives, alter our plans, maybe even change our current paths. For our family, the new challenge has been sudden, piercing, sporadic screams. Not constant, not even often, thankfully, but jolting nonetheless. So here we were, in the midst of our...

Keep Reading

Youth Sports Build Strong Kids

In: Kids
Young girl with gymnastics medal, color photo

My kids are heavily involved in sports. My son plays for an elite basketball team and my daughter competes on an Xcel gymnastics team. It takes up a lot of our time and a lot of our money. Even though prioritizing youth sports seems to be an American norm, we still sometimes receive criticism and judgment as to why we would spend so much of our time and resources on it. (“Don’t you know the chances of your child going pro is less than 1%?”) As I sat at my daughter’s gymnastics meet, listening to the parents cheer so excitedly...

Keep Reading

Don’t Let Anyone Rush You, Mama

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother with two kids at home relaxing

From the moment our children are born, other people make it challenging to stay in the present moment—they start asking questions that look forward instead of at the now we are in. Can you believe how big she’s getting, where did your newborn go? Oh my goodness, he’ll be walking any day now! Are you thinking about preschool? What will you do when they’re both in school? What will you do when your baby goes to college? While these questions may come with good intentions, they’re not helpful at all. We moms need to be allowed to be fully in...

Keep Reading

Dear Child, God Sees All of You—And So Do I

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Mom and young son painting together

Math has always come easily to him. Even from the beginning stages when we counted wooden blocks on the living room floor, the numbers just came to him. “How many blocks are there?” I asked him, pointing to the scattered row of blocks. I expected him to count them. He was only three or four years old. “Six,” he answered promptly. “Yes . . . but how did you know that?” I asked hesitantly. He had not taken the time necessary to have counted them. “Three and three are six,” he replied. And on it went. The math came easily,...

Keep Reading

Kids Crave Your Time, Not Fancy Things

In: Kids, Motherhood
Dad and daughter with basketball smiling

I have four kids, and like most parents, I’m doing my best to give them a happy childhood, but we’re not really an activity family. Don’t get me wrong, we love a good day trip to the local water park or a night out at the movies, but with several different ages and a tight budget, activities or outings are rare for us. Sometimes I end up feeling bad about it, like our kids are missing out, but then I take a deep breath and realize that some of the best moments come from the simplest of things. Lucky for...

Keep Reading

Dear Kindergarten Graduate—Wherever Life Takes You, I’ll Always Be Your Safe Place To Land

In: Kids, Motherhood

I cried on your first day of kindergarten. Did you know that? I held it together through the getting ready and the goodbyes—but once I had waved one last time and was pulling out of the parking lot, the lump in my throat poured out as hot tears down my cheeks.  How could you be starting kindergarten? You, my precious firstborn baby. We had some growing pains as we adjusted to a new routine. The school days were so long. I spent my days missing you and you spent yours missing me. We were apart from each other more than...

Keep Reading

The Secret to Slowing Down Time Is to Notice the Moments You’re Living In

In: Kids, Motherhood

Dear current self, You’ve heard a lot of mothers admonish you to slow down and enjoy every moment with your children. They’ve warned you with phrases like “before you know it,”  “in the blink of an eye,” and other cliché’s that haven’t really hit you, but they will. Soon, they will. I am writing you now because I’ve seen you trying to wrap your mind around the how-to—as if holding time in your hand is a skill anyone has successfully mastered. I’ll save you the suspense. It can’t be done. It is inevitable. Your kids are going to grow up....

Keep Reading

You Don’t Have to Celebrate a Holiday Just Because It’s On the Calendar

In: Kids, Living

I switched on the computer, adjusted my chair, then quickly swiveled back around again toward my husband, “Are you sure? You don’t mind?” “Me?” he made a swift waving motion as if swatting a fly. “Psht. Yeah, I’m fine with it. You?” He lifted his head and locked our eyes a little more securely, “Are you sure?” “Yes,” I said firmly, without hesitation. “OK, good,” my man turned back to his phone, “Love you.” “Good,” I confirmed. A rush of relief swept through me as muscles I didn’t even know were tense suddenly relaxed. A bubbling surge of energy had...

Keep Reading

 5 Secrets to Connect with Your Kids

FREE EMAIL BONUS

Proven techniques to build REAL connections