She was pale.
That was the first thing I noticed about her. Honestly, she was so thin and pale and drawn that she always looked just on the edge of being ill to me, but she wasn’t. It was just her natural build and coloring. That gaunt face was surrounded by pale brown curls and it felt like her emotions never really reached her eyes.
She was the only child in the second grade class I struggled to connect with.
I spent lots of time volunteering in my middle child’s classroom last year. Lots. I would go there at least two mornings a week to do book check-in with the kids and, honestly, I loved it. It was a wonderful chance to get to know all these little people and I found them endlessly amusing.
There was the little girl with a keen mind and an obsession with Greek mythology.
The boy who had just gotten a cocker spaniel puppy and loved to tell me stories about her.
The girl who was so bossy and so talkative and so rudely interuptive that she could drive you crazy, but, at the core, she had a kind heart and just needed affirmation.
There was the boy who was nearly silent, but, when I could crack him, had an ice-sharp wit that delighted me.
There was the boy who had a heartbreaking homelife and was so desperate for attention that he managed to annoy all his classmates but, though he never had his work done, I couldn’t help but want to stand up for him every chance I got.
Those kids? I just loved them. I loved their sweet seven-year-old innocence paired with a growing awareness about the world. I loved that they were incredibly competent, yet still cared what I thought.
All those little ones, with all their many facets, enchanted me. I can honestly say that, by the end of the year, I truly enjoyed them all…
The pale little girl I described above didn’t talk to me– not because she was shy, not because she had special needs, not even because she just had a quiet personality. No, she didn’t talk to me because she didn’t feel I was worth talking to. I would greet her, talk to her, ask her a question, and she would stare, vacant-eyed, over my left shoulder and blatantly ignore me.
It was maddening.
I went through a week or two of not talking to her much either, though that probably sounds petty. I just didn’t have the energy, really. But I got over myself and resumed my usual conversation, even if it was one-sided.
I could have tolerated her rudeness toward me, if that were the only unpleasant thing about her. But, you see, it wasnt.
This little girl liked to play games like this–
She would tell three or four other little girls in the class to all wear a certain article of clothing, say, a purple skirt. They would. Then, the next day, she’d toss her hair and eye the other (non-purple-skirt-wearing) girls with disdain and pick on them for not fitting in. The other girls who WERE wearing the “right thing” would all look uncomfortable and unsure what to do, but she would encourage them, too, to look down on their peers.
It infuriated me.
I’m coming to realize that I truly do enjoy a whole wide array of children–
I love the chatterbox, the genius, the dingbat, the lost cause. I love the flighty, the silly, the stoic, and even the naughty. I enjoy their antics, their jokes, their laughs, their stories, their struggles.
But I really, really struggled to love the bully.
There’s got to be more to her backstory, I’m sure. If I were able to really dig deep, I’d probably be able to untangle some of the dark roots that led to her mean-girl behavior.
But I couldn’t do it in two and a half hours a week.
And the bully is the hardest kid for me to love.