This won't be one of my ordinary posts. I apologise to readers if this seems boring, trivial or lacking in any humour but I need to get it out. Apologies also if the writing style has gone to pot. (anyone new to this blog - advise you skip it!)
I haven't been able to sleep for the past couple of days. Each morning I wake up, my head spinning, working and fretting endlessly, over the best way to resolve a problem which has haunted me most of this year. I know I'm stressed because my chest has gone tight and my breathing a bit laboured; I know I'm obsessed, because I can't stop mulling it over wherever I am and whoever I'm with. I just can't focus.
So I'm using the therapeutic power of my blog, to put the problem out there and maybe get some insight or idea as to what to do.
So here's the problem - deeeeep breath:
On and off all year, my daughter has been having difficulties at school with one particular child.
From my perspective, this child - call her Janet - has taken against mine (call her Chloe). Chloe and Janet used to be friends because I am friends with the other mother, but they never went to the same school. Last year they were starting seniors together and wanted to be in the same class. Within a month, Janet had started being a bit mean to Chloe, saying she was annoying, telling her to 'go away', criticising her.
Janet is popular and nice to most of the other girls in the class, but snide, critical and undermining to Chloe. She comments on her hair, the faces she pulls, tells her to 'be herself' and stop trying too hard, stop being overconfident, says Chloe cries too much, is too competitive. It goes on.
Chloe is a sensitive child, very self conscious but fun loving. Though she is naturally sociable and has made wonderful friends very easily in the past, she has found settling back into school friendships back in the UK difficult and she feels like an outsider. Chloe is very kind and compassionate, but is also emotional and on occasions can really 'lose control'. During that time she can say horrible things which she regrets later. However, she is a truthful child, she admits when she has done wrong and usually feels quite mortified about it.
It got to the stage when I thought I ought to have a word with the mother as she was a friend of mine. She came to my house with a pad and pencil and took notes on what I was saying. Intimidating to say the least. She suggested I start and I stated the case above.
Then it was her turn. Apparently, Chloe made a personal remark to Janet on several occasions about her appearance and that's why she didn't like her. 'My friend' then went on to list all the ways in which my child was irritating (i.e. tries too hard etc.). I thought this unnecessary. Over the years I have known them I have always thought that Janet is a strong personality, very good at manipulating people and deflecting blame, she is also very prone to playing the victim and I have caught her lying several times. I said none of this to my friend out of respect for her.
We agreed to tell the girls to stop backbiting.
When I got her from school, I tackled Chloe on the personal comment. She told me that Janet had actually said it to her first and when she retaliated with a kind of pot kettle black - you are too kind of thing, Janet took offence (people in glass houses). I have later found this to be a pattern with Janet, she will dish out an insult in a 'jokey' way, but if it's given back to her, she can't take it.
Still smarting at my friend's attack on my child I thought I would at least put Chloe's point of view across. So I sent an email. My mistake. 'Are you calling my child a liar? ' - type thing. I got a tirade of abusive stuff about my child back in the email - most of it completely distorted and manipulated. I withstood the urge to respond like for like again. Apologised for anything my child had done but said that some of the comments had not been fair. I never got an apology back and I felt Chloe had been completely convicted without a trial.
My friend went away for a week and things settled down for a bit. Under strict instructions from me, my daughter ignored most of the snipes from Janet, but then it all blew up again a couple of weeks ago. Chloe made two big mistakes. First, she put slightly sarky and catty (but not personal) comments on Janet's Bebo and second, she was in a bad mood and got wound up in PE; she made a gesture which looked like a kick to Janet. For days afterwards Janet put highly unkind and personal comments on Chloe's Bebo saying she was ugly, she smelled bad, she's weird etc. She tried to cover herself by writing LOL, smiley face or Love you! after them. When asked to stop by Chloe, she said she was paying Chloe back - but anyway - they were a joke. Yup, right.
To complicate matters Chloe's 'best friend' is very very close to Janet and also backbites about Chloe behind her back. Today, the best friend was taking Janet's side arguing that what Chloe wrote was worse than Janet because Janet put LOL on her comments. Chloe lost it with her friend, said she 'hated her and has now done more damage. So her friend comes back and says nobody likes Chloe because she's so mean.
Trying to push my natural bias aside, this is how I see it. Chloe has been the subject of low level bullying from Janet on a consistent basis. Janet has a lot of sway with the others in the class not only because she is extremely persuasive but also nice to them. The only time Chloe has felt really comfortable and able to relax, have fun and be herself at school is when Janet isn't there. Chloe gets on fine and has no problems with any of the other girls.
On the other hand, Chloe is by no means blameless at all. She has undoubtedly been mean on occasion, said tactless and unkind things, however, it is no worse than all of them do and certainly no worse than Janet. Usually with girls, there is a spat, mean things are said and then life goes on, but Janet is bearing a big grudge and she's making Chloe pay. From where I'm sitting, it's one rule for Janet - who seems to be allowed to say almost anything to Chloe - and another for Chloe who get's jumped on for any slip, gesture or word out of turn. It's an impossible situation for her I feel, because even when she's trying her hardest to do nothing wrong, Janet will misinterpret a comment or gesture and condemn her further, when other people are doing far worse. Janet is creating a bad reputation for Chloe by always pointing out what she does wrong.
For me it's a question of fairness. It just doesn't seem fair to me that Janet can be consistently unkind to Chloe and no-one says a word, but Chloe does the mildest thing and she's made to pay for it in spades. I think that someone needs to stick up for Chloe and her point of view, but how do I do this? and am I really being objective here? To be honest, I can't take another five years of this and neither can Chloe.
Get together with the mother again - this time holding nothing back and state Chloe's case more persuasively so that she can actually look at what her daughter is doing?
Write the mother a letter?
Avoid the mother and go to the school and talk to them about it?
Back out of the whole thing and let Chloe deal with it? (dangerous with her record!)
Get Chloe moved to a different class, hoping that she will be happier and the same thing won't happen again?
Ask for Janet to be moved?
Get Chloe - or me to confront Janet one on one (don't really want to)?
Move Chloe to another school altogether?.
Find some way of helping Chloe to manage her anger and emotions (if so - what?)
What do any of you think? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill here? Am I getting all stewed up over nothing? If not what do you think I should do? Opinions gratefully received and all suggestions welcomed.