The last few days have been challenging. Em has been struggling with some issues and trying very hard to figure out the right way to move forward. Honestly, I’m struggling with it too. We are watching her and trying to gently guide her. Never easy when navigating the social areas of middle school.
Being a middle schooler alone is tough. Being an almost 13 year old girl is tougher.Then if you are a child who can’t read social cues perfectly, it’s a trying time all around. Add to that drama and lack of understanding and things can seem almost impossible for her to work through.
This week we dealt with something almost bullying. It’s on that border of it could go either way. It doesn’t matter. It caused Em some pain and distress. Tears and anger too.
Issue one stems from her friend, whom we’ll call Kelly. Kelly hasn’t always been a good friend to Emelie. She tends to manipulate situations so that Em will feel guilty if she stands up for herself and yet this girl will tease and make fun of Em.
At one point it looked like their so called friendship was over. Emelie being who she is though, she forgave her for the teasing and “mean girl” ways and the year ended on a fairly good note. They hadn’t seen each other much this summer. She came to see Em this week.
When she was hanging out with Em, she told Em that every time Em stormed out of the classroom the class would laugh at Em. It broke Em’s heart. It makes her more anxious for a new school year. Em didn’t even tell us that it was the girl who told her. Matt asked her 3 times and she just hung her head, big tears ready to fall. I got some idea something was going on and talked with Matt while the girls were watching TV.
I went into the room and I asked 3 times until Kelly confessed that she had been the one to tell her. I told her it didn’t happen in every class. And Kelly piped up. It was math class. Matt and I let it drop. Kelly went home and Em hasn’t been the same since.
Today we decided we needed to address it with her. I know of one time in the entire year that the kids laughed. It was math class and the teacher put a stop to it and explained some things to them. I also know that when Em huffs off it can be funny to watch. It’s not funny she’s upset, just how she storms out.
So we sat her down. We asked her if she realized that Kelly wasn’t honest with her. She asked us why she would lie to her. I tried as gently as I could to point out reasons that she could see and maybe understand. We reminded her how Kelly likes to control her friends and if Emelie thought her classmates laughed at her, all the time, how would she feel about her classmates. She told us she wouldn’t trust them. She’d be afraid of them.
I told her I knew better. I reminded her of all the emails between teachers. I reminded her how her teachers fought FOR her this year. I asked her if she thought her teachers would allow that to happen and continue if it happened even one time. She answered no to both those questions.
We then talked about her book. We asked what happened when she took her book to school. She told us that everyone wanted to see it and read it. We asked what the kids said about her book. She told us that they liked the book and thought it was cool. I asked did they laugh about the book. She responded with a no. I reminded her how J, her one friend from school, told us that she loves how literal and honest Em is as you ALWAYS know where you stand with her or if she’s having a good day. She’s weird but in a good way.
Em laughed about that. We then asked her about the teachers. We asked if she thought they fought for her. She told us yes. We asked her if her math teacher pushed her hard and worked with her on things. She told us yes. We asked her what. She told us that she pushed Em to stay in the classroom. We asked if she thought that teacher would allow the class to laugh at her all the time. She told us no.
We then asked her a question that made her burst into a giant smile. We asked her if she thought it was funny how she left the room sometimes, not why she left the room, but how. We then continued this thought since we took the smile as an answer and asked her, would you think it’s funny. She told us, yeah kind of. So we asked her if the kids DID laugh could it be just maybe that they were laughing about that and not her. She told us that was more the likely the case.
All that work to help her work through a situation that was meant to manipulate her, in my opinion based on history and knowledge of the situation. We talked about how the kids worried about her. How several of them would make sure she was back in class for things she loved, like reading time with the teacher, and it was sometimes a class effort. Example was one girl would remind the teacher that they couldn’t start the book without Emelie. She would ask to go get her. The teacher would let her and the class agreed that they should wait for Em. And very few times did Em not come back with this other girl.
If that were the only situation this week to disrupt Em, it’d be daunting and draining. There was another situation that dragged her down further. I almost think this one is worse. It involves people we will call Sally and Bernice. Sally is Bernice’s daughter. She also is a sometimes friend to Em. She struggles with a relationship with Em. I’ve written about Bernice before. See the blog: Open Letter To All The Outsiders Looking In
Since that time, Em has kept a distance from Sally. This week she was walking around town, just walking, and ran into Sally. Sally gave Em her phone number. Em came home and was happy. And then she misplaced it. She thought she’d find it eventually.
The next day she was out again. She was just walking again. That’s when Sally saw her walking by her house. Sally yelled for Em so Em walked over to her house. Sally was having problems setting up Minecraft and knew Em was big into it so she was asking for help. Em was trying to help her when Bernice noticed Em. Now Em says Bernice yelled at her which to me says that she was extra firm and blunt. Bernice told Emelie she really needs to call before she comes over. She also told Emelie she needed to leave. Sally said NOTHING to Bernice about her part in Em being there.
Emelie came home in tears, again. She can’t understand why Bernice cannot understand that Emelie doesn’t want her angry at her. Nor can she understand why her friend wouldn’t tell her mom that “hey, I saw her walking and yelled for her.”
We gave Em the only advice we could. This isn’t going to stop. It isn’t going away. So maybe it’s best you just don’t hang out with Sally and avoid things by Sally’s house. Sad that she has to go through this but what else can you do. Some people just aren’t going to listen or hear you.
So next time you see someone struggling with social cues, gently guide them. Bluntly guiding them makes them feel stupid and embarrassed. They know they are struggling and they don’t need to be reminded or manipulated. What they need is patience, love, and kindness.