Posted by: heartfull | July 1, 2008


How, as a mother, do you juggle the need to allow your child to work out her own problems and learn life’s lessons with the incredible urge to march out on the mat and kick some little brat’s ass?

That is the question I struggled with last night.

Mare is a great kid. Moms love having her over for play dates because they always go well. She is a fun friend and super easy for the parent. She is compliant and pretty much willing to do what her friends want to do in order to have fun with them.

Ok, so truth be told, that last sentence has always worried me (middle school isn’t that far off…) And we have already had instances where her willingness to go along with a friend has gotten her in trouble. What I have come to realize, though, is this quality is what is going to play a roll in determining her future friends. There are girls she wants to be friends with but who are just too strong-willed for her. They need a friend who can stand up to them, and Mare doesn’t. On the other hand, Mare has never been drawn to meek girls. In any situation, she spends a lot of time observing the other girls and determining who she wants to befriend – and it is usually the most vibrant one in the room. And then? She walks right over does it. She has confidence out the wazoo.

So I’m sitting in the stands last night at gymnastics, watching Mare go through the drills. She is loving it, as always, though she tends to spend a little too much time looking around at the other gymnasts (there are lots of vibrant gymnasts.) Another girl (Gigi) in her group is obviously a little better than the rest. But man is she pushy, I notice. If she isn’t first in line, she cuts and makes herself first. Ok, whatever. I’m just glad mine doesn’t act like that. But then Gigi realizes that Mare is a bit of a pushover. That Mare is looking around and not carefully guarding her place in line. That she had an opportunity to get a few extra vaults in. And so, after doing her vault, she comes around to the line and gets in front of Mare. Mare tries to reclaim her spot but is pushed out of the way. And then the girl who had been behind Gigi cuts in front of Mare because she had been behind Gigi and she was staying behind Gigi. And this continued with the rest of the girls and when Gigi came around again? She pushed Mare out of the way once again. Mare wasn’t able to do another vault. I seriously thought my head was going to explode as I watched this. The vapid coach didn’t notice. The other parents weren’t concerned. And I was almost in tears due to the injustice of it all. Not because I cared how many vaults Mare got to do, but because she was getting pushed around and I couldn’t do anything to help her.

Or could I have? Should I have marched out there and had a talk with the coach? I knew this wasn’t the right thing to do but it hurt not to. After the vault they went over to get a drink and Gigi pushed Mare out of the way and I watched as four more little girls did the same thing. Mare finally walked to the back of the line and was last to get her drink and her mother almost started crying watching it all.

Can I just say right here that I would have been on that mat in a heartbeat if it were my daughter that was doing the bullying? I knew who Gigi’s mother was because Gigi kept looking at her. She was there. Watching the whole thing. And? She didn’t care. Shudder.

After class we went out for dinner and I talked to Mare about it a little. I told her that it wasn’t right what those girls were doing but I was proud of the way she handled it (no whining, no tattling.) And I was also proud of her cartwheels and beam work and blah blah blah.

Should I have told Mare to push back? Obviously no, but was there a solution? I don’t want her to get bullied, but I also don’t want her to get into a tattling habit.

What I did do, though, was imprint Gigi’s cute little face into my mind. Mare will never be in a gymnastics class with her again.



  1. Well…It’s always easy to say this is what you should have done after the fact when you’re not the one there. So don’t take this a criticism. I’m not sure if I could have made myself do it if I were there, but I think it would have been perfectly acceptable for you to tell the instructor. If Gigi’s mIother was too stupid, arrogant, inattentive or whatever to teach her child fair play with other kids, then we have the right to intervene on our kid’s behalf. It actually pisses me off that the instructors let it happen. MG should know its okay to stand up for herself and that if she can’t we will.

  2. I would have talked to the coach after the class, except this was a makeup class. Not her normal coach, not her normal team mates. More than likely, she will never be in class again with Gigi because this class was composed only of girls making up classes missed.

    Just the other day I called one of Bird’s dance instructors for camp because the other girls were being cruel. But in that case, I knew Bird would be seeing those girls again.

  3. I had my comment all lined up and then I read your additional comment here.

    In the situation you were in with the makeup coach and kids etc…. I think I would have done the same thing. Kids, especially getting close to middle school, especially girls, really need to learn to handle tyhings on their own. They need to know that they are capable and how to figure out the right hting to do. You allowing her to handle it is the same as telling her that you have faith in her and confidence in her ability to take care of herself.

    There is a fine line there, however. When to step in and when to hang back. I’d like to say it gets easier as they get older but it doesn’t. Hang in there! She sounds like a great kid, you are doing a good job.

  4. We all need someone to stand up for us and help us be strong when we can’t be. When kids are older, sometimes all you need to do is stand with them while they do the talking. When kids are younger, depending on the kid, we must stand up to the bully for them. You know your child best. How much they can handle.
    I believe kids feel more secure in the world when their parents are always backing them up, rather than making them more dependent, it gives them a place of security from which to confront the bad in our world.

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