Friday, September 17, 2010

Second Grade Mafia

The other day my son asked me if second grade was the hardest one of all. "When you're in it," I told him. "It will seem easy to you in a few years, just like kindergarten seems easy to you now."
But some things don't get easier. Like rejection. And hurt.

I'm not sure how it works in your schools, but at my little elementary school, there's a cabal (really, that's not an exaggeration) of women who run the show. Now, I'm all for those super-loyal volunteers who make things happen. We've all seen them: at church, school, Cub Scouts, you name it. Usually, there's a dedicated core of individuals who work tirelessly so the rest of us who are either too disorganized, too busy,too lazy, whatever, can enjoy the fruits of their labor. I'm not talking about this kind of selfless dedication. I'm talking about women who literally shoved my sweet friend aside when she tried to sign up to be a "room captain" for our second grade.

Quite possibly, we need a change of language. I mean, who doesn't want to be a captain? Or a chief? Apparently, not this small group of women who left off my friend's name from the list of class reps, berated her for speaking up -- oh so tentatively-- about possibly sharing responsibility for organizing class parties, who told her that because she worked it was inconvenient to work with her as a volunteer.

Now, I realize in the great panoply of human drama, internecine fighting at an elementary school may seem, well ludicrous, laughable, possibly pathetic. My friend is not this. She's a five-foot-tall (in heels) pistol who runs at 5 a.m. before the rest of the world is up, runs her own company, devotes herself to her three kids, and is in love with and supportive of her husband. She drives hours every week to take care of a father with Parkinson's and have lunch with her mother. She's not perfect. But she's funny and wise. She has grace in the true sense of the word. It's not about her fashion or style, it's her compassion for the world. Her humor. She truly never complains. But I have seen her cry when she sees someone picked on. So, I am mad. Truly stinking mad at how this friend has been treated. This isn't about cupcakes. It's about bullying that's become all-too-pervasive today. If she, and any other parent, want to get involved, to participate in class parties -- to be a part of their children's daily lives, because God knows time does whiz by too quickly -- then who is a group to shove her aside? And I wonder, what will all of our children learn by this? We tell them to share, to take turns, to work cooperatively. then we stick a big, ol' asterisk on this. Those rules, we note, don't apply for grown-ups.

So, I'm venting today. To my friend: I love you. Be strong. You are needed. To the others: Shame on you. May you remember the lessons you learned in kindergarten. Because second grade shouldn't be the hardest year of all.

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