Quandary: The Follow-Up

To review: Kate was acting sick in the morning. I suspected it had something to do with Classmate. I didn’t know what to do. (And THANK YOU to everyone who weighed in on that post.)

This is what happened since I wrote that.

1. I emailed Kate’s teacher Mrs. M about the situation. She emailed back saying she had noticed Kate dragging herself into the school, but said once she got into the classroom, all was fine. She proposed we meet to talk about Kate.

2. I ran into Mrs. M at Flora’s violin concert. I will tell you right upfront: I did not want to drag Classmate’s name into it directly. Maybe see if she was having issues in general with her classmates or something like that. I had no intention of even mentioning Classmate if I didn’t have to.

3. Mrs. M mentioned Classmate right off the bat, and said she noticed the two girls were having conflict. So that was out in the open.

4. Mrs. M and I did finally get together this week to talk about this issue, and to talk about what we need to do moving forward.

Here’s the upshot:

(I’m paraphrasing Mrs. M here) Kate is a bright and social child. She gets along with everyone and is very well liked in her class. She gravitates toward Classmate because Classmate is also bright and well liked. However, Classmate is also melodramatic and knows the fine art of manipulation. She is mature beyond her years — she’s kind of had to grow up fast.

(To review, again, Classmate is the child of divorced parents who do NOT get along. Her father has remarried and has another child with Classmate’s stepmother. The women do not hide their antipathy toward each other, and the mother… when she talks about her ex-husband, I cringe. I wonder if she talks about him like that in front of Classmate, and I wonder how her current husband takes it. This sounds all gossipy, and I don’t mean to be gossipy, but this is all directly affecting my daughter, and this is my blog, so there ya go.)

(Paraphrasing, again) Mrs. M said she keeps a close eye on all the children in her classroom, and will be sure to watch interactions between Kate and Classmate. She says that when Classmate seems to be getting dramatic (in general), she tries to step in and stop it. She also has been working hard to keep the girls occupied in activities not with each other. If there’s group work, for example, she doesn’t put them in the same group. As a matter of fact, she told me about a time where she distinctly put Classmate and Kate in two different groups on purpose, and somehow they managed to team up anyway. So she’s going to watch out for that.

Here’s my take: Yes, Kate is bright, and Kate is social. Kate is also a little sister, and as such, I think she tends to take a follower role rather than a leader role. She’s not very alpha, in other words. Which is not to paint my Kate as a doormat or wallflower — oh, no. She is incredibly energetic and outgoing. I think I mentioned that recently. She likes to be with people, and she likes to be with people who attract other people. There’s also the dynamic between Flora and Kate that Kate is probably used to. You know, the bickering dynamic. While Flora and Kate *can* play very nicely together, they don’t *choose* to play nicely together all the time. Probably not even half the time, frankly. There is also the fact that Kate lives in a safe, stable, and loving home environment with little serious conflict. As such, she doesn’t have (or need yet) street smarts the way Classmate does.

While Mrs. M keeps an eye on things in the classroom, I will keep an eye on things at home. I plan to check in with Kate often. We have ground rules for going to school, even when Kate feels sick (in short, if she’s not running a temperature, she’s going).

For the record, I believe that Kate *is* sick, so to speak. I’m sure some mornings her stomach is churning and her head hurts. She’s having anxiety about going to school sometimes. It’s actually pretty normal, probably, to be anxious about going to school. She’s got to learn to deal with it, with support from me and her dad. And she has to know we’re on her side. I talked to her about my talk with Mrs. M. I talked to her about talking to Mrs. M and me if she has a problem with Classmate (or any classmate for that matter). At home, I try to treat the girls fairly, and I try to give each of the kids a little bit of individual attention. Even if it’s just five minutes a night, focused attention seems to help them.

I hope I handled everything okay, and I hope I continue to. What do you think, readers? Did I do all right? Anything else I should have my finger on going forward, so to speak?


Kate did not go to school on Friday.

She got up complaining of a stomach ache and a headache. While she felt somewhat warm to the touch, the ear thermometer showed her temperature was normal.

She broke down. “No! That just shows that my ears are normal! Maybe it needs new batteries!”

Now, mornings are already trying times in my household. We don’t do them well. With the #bathroomredo it’s a touch more chaotic, what with me running across the yard and all.

So: Friday. Kate is physically refusing to move. She is buried under her blanket, curled in a ball. She will not get dressed, and we lack the strength and the fortitude and *time* to pry her apart and get her out the door. We suspect we are being played (no temperature), but can’t be sure (she really does look bad, bags under eyes and all) and WE HAVE TO GO.

Fine. She’s off to Bella and Tadone’s. I’m off with Flora; Dan is off with Michael. I check in a couple of times throughout the day. She’s fine. She’s eating fine (and she PIGGED OUT at dinner), she isn’t warm, etc. etc.

I’m somewhat preoccupied with this situation on Friday. This is the second time of note that Kate has pleaded sick in the morning without actually being sick. The first time was because her class had a Thanksgiving program the day before Thanksgiving (that I didn’t even know about), and she was nervous.

So I suspect that something is happening at school.

And then I remember what she told me when I picked her up on Thursday. In short, a classmate of hers (whom she has complained about before) was all up in her face all day AND said classmate had pulled Kate’s jumper over her head. When I asked if she had told the teacher, she said she hadn’t because when she said she was going to CLASSMATE CRIED. And she felt bad Classmate was crying. So she didn’t tell the teacher.

I told Kate that the reason Classmate cried was because she knew that she was going to suffer the consequences of her actions. She knew she was doing something wrong, and that she was going to get in trouble if Kate told on her, and so she cried.

And Kate fell for it. (Empathy can suck it.)

Ironically, of course, Classmate harasses Kate the way Kate harasses other people (especially, let’s see, FLORA). Classmate wants to play all the time, Classmate gets too close to Kate, Classmate touches Kate A LOT, Classmate won’t accept it when Kate asks to be left alone, or play with someone else, Classmate gets very upset. The jumper incident is kind of an escalation.

I would prefer it not escalate further. Obviously.

I talked to Dan about it, and Dan and I talked to Kate about it, and I nailed it (Kate was “sick” because she doesn’t want to deal with Classmate), and we basically said she can’t pretend to be sick when she doesn’t want to go to school.

Here’s my pickle: Even though I am a bad helicopter, and part of me thinks that Kate and Classmate are going to have to work this out (and Kate is going to have to tell the teacher about Classmate if/when she is giving Kate problems, which happens a couple of times a week), let’s face it:


Should I go talk to the teacher? What should I say? Should I maybe call Classmate’s mom? We have chatted at school events. I also happen to know that Classmate’s parents are engaged in custody warfare over Classmate, so I’m guessing some of her issues come from her home lives. (It’s messy, people. MESSY.)

Or do I give Kate the tools she needs to deal with Classmate on almost-6-year-old terms?

What are those tools?