I overheard my daughter talking to her friends one Friday night while we were hosting a sleepover. While I was climbing the stairs to go into her room to see what kind of pizza I should order for the night, I got a strange feeling as I overheard the conversation she was having with her friends.
Apparently, some of the girls (some of the very cool girls) in her class had made a list and they were passing it around English class.
As a mom of a teen, you quickly realize when your kids need some privacy but know when it’s too much. You notice it in the tone of their voice, how quickly they become agitated, how many times they try to sneak their phone into their room or drastic changes in their behavior. Your antenna is always up and you start to get really wise to their ways.
By the way my daughter and her friends were talking, I could tell I needed to listen a bit closer before asking about pizza toppings—as soon as I entered the room I knew they’d clam up and I’d get nothing more and this was one of those “this sounds serious” moments.
I fully expected this to be a list of “hot girls” or “ugly girls.” Maybe it was a list of people they’d thought were cool and my daughter and her friends weren’t on the list and it was bothering them. Whatever the case I could tell by the concern in their voices it wasn’t a pleasant list.
“Should we ask them if they’d keep us, or kill us?”
Without thinking, I burst in the room and demanded to know more about this list. I was told some kids on her class had curated a list of people they’d kill if they were to attack the school.
“So, are you going to tell the principal about this list or do you want me to do it?” I asked them.
“Don’t tell! They are our friends, it was a joke! They aren’t serious!”
They were mortified at the fact I suggested this. I was mortified by the fact they saw this as a joke; a non-issue.
My daughter did the right thing and told the vice-principal at school the following Monday after I told her I had to if she didn’t.
Of course the principal was thankful and reiterated the importance and urgency of this issue to my daughter. She had to confront the students and their parents and teachers and drastic measures were taken.
But because her friends put two and two together and realized just after they’d told my daughter and her friends they wouldn’t be harmed, but kept safe should they attack the school, then shortly after, they heard from the principal, they pegged my daughter as the one who told.
She was yelled at in the halls, they ganged up on her and then stopped talking to her making some of her other friends join in. Then they harassed her on social media and she blocked all of them.
It’s easy for me to see these are not the people I want in my daughter’s life. But she has been struggling ever since. In her eyes, they were her friends, they were making a joke, and it didn’t need to go to these measures.
I know this is an experience she will look back on when she’s an adult and realize the severity of it. She may even look back on it and wonder why she wanted to be friends with girls who treated her in this way.
That isn’t helping her now though. And it’s not helping me much either. Its excruciating to see our kids do the right thing, learn a hard lesson in the process, and be bullied (yes, we’ve addressed it with the school).
High school is hard enough without being harassed for doing the right thing and this is frustrating.
I’m hoping it hasn’t deterred her to do what is right.
I’m hoping it isn’t going to make her feel like she should keep certain things away from me and not let me in on what’s going on around her because of this experience.
I’m hoping the harassing will continue to be taken care of in the same manner it has been which gives me hope.
So, this is your Public Service Announcement to check in with your kids– not only when they do something wrong, but when they do something right. It might not always be the easy path we portray it to be and it’s our job to guide them through the struggles.
The author wishes to remain anonymous.