After settling into her new school quickly and well, around about October 5-year-old Midi Minx had a big wobble. She suddenly didn’t want to go to school in the mornings, and clung pouting or sometimes sobbing to my leg. As Maxi generally clung to the other leg, wailing, this was not a good look. We did not look like a coping, happy Family Unit. I asked Midi what the problem was. Eventually she confessed:
“There’s this boy in my class called J…”, she wobbled.
Maintaining a Mummy Poker Face on the outside, I inwardly raged: I don’t need to hear anymore. He’d so dead. Whatever it is, how dare he hurt my baby?!
“Yes? What about J?” I asked lightly.
“He calls me a Poo-poo Head”. Sobs. “And everyone laughs!” Breaks her little heart.
I hugged her tighter still, kissed her wet eyes and thought for a second.
“Does he only say it in front of his friends?” Nods. “When he’s on his own?” Shakes head. “Well, Midi, what you have to know is that all little boys are stupid. And really easy to trick. Here’s what you need to do: when J calls you a Poo-poo Head, instead of feeling hurt and crying, you have to smile.” She looked up at me like I’d turned into Julie Andrews. On an acid trip. “Yep, smile. And say loudly, ‘It’s OK, J, I understand: secretly you really like me. But you call me horrible names so that no-one else guesses that you like me. I get it. It’s OK. I won’t tell anyone’, then wink, smile and walk away”. Midi looked thoughtful. “And it’s really important that when he protests and shouts that he really, really hates you, just smile wider and say, ‘You’re not fooling me. That actually means that you really love me lots. But I only like you a little bit, as a friend. Sorry’”. Midi started to smile.
I went through a little dialogue role-play, me playing the parts of Midi and J, along with comedy pirate and princess voices, so that Midi could see how it might play out. I showed her how to use words to put that little boy back in his box, but without being nasty or horrible, and how it might make everyone else laugh *with* her, which would make them like her more. And he’d get frustrated and stop, because his friends would take over and tease him every time he called Midi a bad name. She really got it. Her eyes lit up. She sniggered. I kissed her, then got on with making dinner and promptly forgot all about it.
A few days later Midi skipped out of school, and trilled, “Mummy, you’re really clever”.
What?! Oh-oh. My children think I’m stupid and old-fashioned and strict. This doesn’t bode well, whatever it is…
“I did what you said about J”, she smirked.
J? J…? Oh! That J! Oh hell… But she’s smiling? “Uh-huh? What happened?” I asked.
“Well, he called me a Poo-poo Head and I smiled and said everything you told me to. And all his friends laughed. And he got cross, like you said he would. And then…” she burbled. I winced. Oh no, what happened next? I’m too scared to listen. “And then he said ‘When we grow up I’m going to marry you!’ And I said ‘OK’”, she giggled.
What?! Oh no, this has totally back-fired! What have I done?
“Mummy, you are so smart and clever. J’s my best friend now”, she snuggled up to me. “Right, what’s for snack? I wanna biscuit. Or chocolate…”, and she scampered off.
Nice try, little daughter: it’ll be fruit as usual. You can’t swing your auld mother off-track that easily…