The Lost Wheel

– Posted in: Bullying, Cancer Sucks, Crazy Tammy, Elfie, Grown-up Friends, Kid Friends, Mean Girls, Personal Insanity, Sappy Tammy, School

So I had a small nervous breakdown the other morning. As I mentioned in my holiday letter, Elfie has been getting “mean girled” at school recently. She’s in first grade, and even though I know kids are capable of this type of thing starting at birth, it’s been depressing because her school really focuses on tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion.  That and, apparently, the caste system (they take multicultural studies pretty seriously).

The back story on this is that Elfie is part of a threesome — which we all know is the worst type of relationship unless you’re a guy having a fantasy. She’s become the girl who is dissed whenever the other two are together and the girl who is sought out whenever one of the other two is absent. The situation, in a word, sucks.

Anyway, we’re sitting at breakfast, and suddenly Elfie starts talking about how she doesn’t have any friends at all in her class. How everyone’s paired up, and no one plays with her. That she’s actually being picked on. And then we get the topper. Her big brother, who’s in the neighboring class (they’re all first/second/third grade combo’s), looks down somberly at his waffle and says, “Yeah, nobody in your class is nice to you. You should move into my class.”

At least it’s good to know that they’re keeping tabs on each other.

So my husband takes them off to school, and I proceed to. . . ponder. Then I start reading about bullying experiences on other people’s blogs. Then I start to fume. Then I start to do this thing where I imagine various crazy scenarios taking place and how I’d react to them. Like some kid cutting her hair and how I’d demand that the little bitch not only pay to have Elfie’s hair professionally cut, but work to earn the money by doing chores at my house and allow Elfie to cut her hair off as short as she’d like to. Because suddenly I’ve gone all “eye for an eye” psycho-biblical. And then I try to get a grip and imagine how Michelle Obama would react and try to bring myself back down.

I went through all of this in the course of about 30 minutes (I’m getting faster — when you freak out as often as I do, it’s important to be efficient). Unfortunately, I ended up sitting on the bathroom floor, in my robe, crying. Not because my kid has no friends. Not because my over-active imagination is clearly not a plus in these situations. I was crying because I couldn’t talk to my mom.

My mom, for those of you who don’t know, died from cancer about a year and a half ago. About two weeks before she passed away, I distinctly remember my dad saying to my brother and me, “If there’s anything you want to ask her, you should do it now.” At the time, I couldn’t think of a thing. My mom and I were incredibly close. She’d told me her life stories. We talked every day. So after she died, I was caught off guard the first time a question came into my mind that I wanted to ask her — wished I could ask her — because I didn’t know the answer.

This bullying mess wasn’t the first time I’d wanted to ask her something. But it was the first time it mattered. It was the first time I really, really wished I could hear what she had to say. See, the thing is, I was in almost the exact same situation in third grade. I have my memories of it, but I wanted to hear what she remembered. I wanted to hear how she handled it. And even though I know we’re going to get through this, I wanted to hear that everything’s going to be okay.

For me, and I think a lot of women, your mom is so much like that third, dissed girlfriend. She may not be your best friend or your favorite person to be around, but you invariably default to her when you need her. She’s always there, especially in a pinch. And there’s really no one else inside your circle quite like her.

Maybe that’s why those of us who’ve lost out moms feel so alone. Mothers are the third-wheel friends who don’t leave even when it’s clear that they’re “second choice.” Without them we lose our safety net. We lose our history. And worst of all, we lose them.

And that, in a word, sucks.

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17 Comments… add one

WitWitWoo January 16, 2011, 11:33 am

From one suckee to another … IT SUCKS!!! Sorry to hear bout Elfie, poor thing, and also that you're naturally feeling that type of 'aloneness' that comes with bereavement like that … but one thing's for sure, your daughter is so very lucky to have you. Big cyber hugs x

Alysia January 16, 2011, 11:58 am

aigh. you've made me teary today…and given me a lot to think about. I always think of this in the reverse (about my dad) but I've never thought of my mom in the way that you described. sigh again…
I hope things change up for Elfie. It's not right and I'm sad for her and you.

Janis Meredith January 16, 2011, 12:36 pm

There are so many times I wish I could ask my mom questions too. She died when my now 20-yr-old son was 8 weeks old. But it gives me strength to know that she went through a ton raising 6 kids and she survived, not just survived but amazingly raised 6 great kids with my dad. If she can do that….well I figure there's hope for me with 3!

Alex January 16, 2011, 2:21 pm

Oh sweetie. That sucks. But was beautifully written.

If it helps with the bullying issue, talking to the teacher can help feel like your daughter has an ally.

traceelements January 16, 2011, 2:36 pm

It's probably no help, but take some small comfort from the fact that you at least had that close relationship with your mum when she was alive. I have finally learnt not to talk to my mother about any parenting issues I might be having, because she will always turn it into some sort of criticism. (Even as I type this I can feel my blood pressure going up…)

I hope things work out for Elfie.. there is nothing more heart wrenching than seeing your kid going through this mean girl shit.

MultipleMum January 16, 2011, 3:27 pm

I love that you managed humour in this post (loved your self-commentary of efficient freak-outs!). It is such a terrible situation for your little girl to be in. The third wheel. I reckon your description of the mother-daughter relationship is spot on too. I wish you still had your Mum. I am sure she would have had something wise to say to you in relation to this bitchy-girl thing. I, on the other hand, have nothing to say but try to guide little Elfie to a different group of girls. She hasn't found her people yet.

XLMIC January 16, 2011, 4:37 pm

Elfie is so very fortunate to have YOU for HER mom! You work so hard to help… even if it is mostly in your head and on the bathroom floor! (((hugs)))

I went through that crap all through my school years… and then some. And now I watch my oldest (he is 11) go through it, too. I don't always handle it as gracefully as I might ;-) A moment in pre-K comes to mind… But what I did worked! lol More often than not, those kids who do the “mean girl” or other bullying crap are just playing out what they are feeling from somewhere else (usually home).

That last paragraph about what it is to lose a mom really resonated with me. My mom is still alive, but I 'lost' her emotionally when I was about 5 yrs old.

Maeve's Momma January 16, 2011, 6:34 pm

Sorry for Elfie and for your loss … I hate that being the grownups means we're supposed to know what to do now.

VM Sehy Photography January 16, 2011, 10:44 pm

I understand exactly where you're coming from. I just lost my mom in August. Already I have about a gazillion things I want to ask her. Should have done that more when she was alive. The good news is when I told my mother-in-law that, she said give me a call with your mommy questions. I think I'll take her up on that.

Getrealmommy January 16, 2011, 10:47 pm

I cannot imagine. I have often thought about that with my mom. How she is really the only person who actually wants to hear all the details of my day to day life. She WANTS to hear, not to be nice, not because she wants something in return, but because I am very interesting to her. It is a good feeling, and one that I know someday I will miss very much. My mom lost her father when he was in his 90's, she said she was surprised by how much it still hurt, but said, he was my daddy, no matter how old. I am guessing it is a lonely feeling. I am glad that your wrote about it. I know that your daughter is lucky to have you, even if you don't have all the answers, none of us do!

PartlySunny January 17, 2011, 12:01 pm

Thanks everybody. I honestly feel a little weird getting all this sympathy from you guys because I truly don't set out to write something that's going to produce some sort of pity party. I'm mainly just getting stuff of my chest. Anyway, thanks for all the support. You all kick arse.

And I was going to remove this crazy comment about boycotting American women, but it's so funny that I just can't. I don't suggest clicking on it and increasing this guy's page views, especially since this provides a little amusement all on it's own. I feel a little sorry for him because he's clearly been through some terrible relationship difficulties (I'm assuming a nasty divorce that involved an affair). But I'm also going to venture a guess that he can be described by at least five out of seven of the adjectives he uses for all of us in the second paragraph. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go eat my 5th doughnut in my cockroach infested kitchen before I sit the kids down on some piles of dirty laundry to watch porn so they don't bug me while I'm banging my boyfriend. My husband's going to be home in half an hour.

Verity January 17, 2011, 11:42 pm

Ok – this is hysterical (your comment on the comment)! I don't know which is better the using dirty laundry to sit on or….you know….

But back to Elfie. I'm so sorry we couldn't get together this weekend. My girls also need a dose of “real friends” right now. Not sure if I should feel good they made such good friends in their preschool years that the ones they are meeting in school now pale by comparison. I mean, I guess we made good choices for them and all. But is this kind of like the people in their 40's who say their best years were in high school?

The Empress January 18, 2011, 4:55 pm

Well, I' m not boycotting American women, so I'll talk to you.

Ooph did a week long series on bloggers bullying stories. Mine ran. She ran 20 stories that week, and still had more at her website.

We had to homeschool b/c of bullying. We went to the principal five times.

And nothing happened.

It sucks, and I never saw such BS in my life. It's gotten so much worse than I remember it.

I am so sorry for this s**t in your lives.

Kimberly April 12, 2013, 12:33 pm

I never even considered my mom as my third wheel friend. But I think you’re right in a lot of ways. I’m going to make more of an effort to reach out to her. Thank you for that.

I’m really sorry this is happening. Bullying is such BS. I went to this awesome little Catholic K-8 school, where everyone was friends with everyone. I’ve heard so many stories like this lately that I’m terrified of my kids going off to school- clearly, I was lucky with my own education, because that’s not the norm, but I agree with the Empress in that it’s getting worse. That scares me, and depresses me.
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LW April 12, 2013, 5:54 pm

My mother is still alive and the last time I spoke with her, it was pretty artificial. The other day I sat out on a blanket on the lawn on a beautiful day and had a talk with my inner girl…the one that wishes she had a mother she could even feel safe enough to talk to…and realized that my inner mom needed to finally step up to the plate to be with her. It’s a hard thing to describe, but it made perfect sense to me and a shift took place…I think it was a letting go of sorts. And grabbing hold and taking charge about how I was going to feel about it all and live my life. Having a narcissistic mother – well, it’s not a pretty thing. Kind of like growing up with a zombie perhaps – with someone who just can’t be present for you. Perhaps I’m rambling…but I can sense that loss for you. And I’m incredibly happy you had her in your life. (Please understand, I’m personally not feeling sorry for myself…but am curious what it would have been like to be on the other side of the fence. As it is, there are many good things that have come of it, as it’s made me who I am today, and I’m good with that.). Thank you so much for your incredible sharing. :)

Polly April 12, 2013, 6:21 pm

Oh, what you said about threesomes being awful is so, so true. My mom would always warn me about it when I was a kid. Poor E.
I can so relate because I was always the unpopular kid. It was probably years before I realized I was not the ONLY unpopular kid.
I miss your mom, too.

Kathy April 15, 2013, 4:22 am

Had this bookmarked as I was busy the day you posted it and just read it now. Still wiping tears away as I write this.
First of all, I know you & the tall one are smart, sensitive parents who will enable your daughter through this and many other trials into a confident, well-rounded and capable young woman.
Now, as to the tears of sympathy you brought forth that was all about missing your Mom and understanding that desire to still talk to her. Tempted to elaborate, but then I’ll drone on.
Wish I had brilliant advice for you about dealing with bullies, but all that comes to mind is one thing my Mom used to tell me was to get to understand the person and try to understand why they acted the way they did. We’d delve into their insecurities and their lack of information. Now unfortunately there’s more, but that falls into the category of “what not to do”, so we won’t go there.
Wonderful submission as it moved your readers and we felt and understood what you were feeling. You are a wonderful writer.

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