I cannot put my finger on the exact moment it started with me but I know I was very young. I suffered with “nice” girl disease as early as ages four and five and most likely even younger. I am not sure why I contracted the disease but the possibilities are endless. A mother whose attention was not on me, a father who was a perfectionist, Parents that fought loudly and often, male cousins one six -months older and one six -months younger than me, a new sister a new brother and the list goes on.
It did not take the other small children long to figure out that I was a willing target. I would do just about anything to avoid conflict of any kind. I worked hard to make sure every one in my life was happy and comfortable at the expense of my own happiness.
On a recent field trip with two of my granddaughters, a ten -year-old and a seven-year -old I was shaken to my core by their reaction to a bully.
The girls and I headed back to the bus early for the return trip. They were thrilled to be the first aboard and they chose the last two seats in the back of the bus. They told me they always wanted to sit in the last seats. We chatted and laughed as the rest of the kids trickled onto the bus. The ten-year-old was in the last seat by herself and the seven-year-old and I were in the seat in front of her.
One of the last kids to climb onto the bus, a chubby sixth or seventh grade girl marched back to the last seat and said to the ten-year-old, “Get up and go sit with that boy” pointing to a seat in the middle of the bus, “my friend and I are sitting here.”
The color drained from my granddaughter’s face and she dropped her gaze to the floor. She then got up and WAS GOING TO MOVE! I took a long deep breath and said to the bully as nicely as I could, “She is not going to move. You can go sit with that boy.”
I asked my granddaughter why she was willing to give up the seat she obviously wanted. She kept her eyes aimed at the floor and mumbled “I wanted to be nice.”
I saw me at ten-years-old and my heart was breaking for her. Tears stung my eyes. I felt guilty. I was also very angry.
I called my daughter later that night and told her what happened. My daughter confessed she was having trouble getting both girls to stick up for themselves. I told my daughter she suffered from nice girl disease herself and she needed to change immediately.
The women in my family will work together to give these girls the tools and the words they need to protect themselves from victimization.
There has been so much written and talked about this subject so it is still so hard to comprehend that some women still teach and encourage their daughters to be mean girls. I have heard them with my own ears giving instructions to their three and four -year -old daughter’s, “If you want that ball go take it from him.” “If you want the doll take it from her.”
Are they confused over the definitions of being aggressive and being assertive? Have they been bullies themselves for such a long time they do not even recognize how damning their own behavior is to the well being of their daughters?
Learning to be assertive was tough for me in my forties so I have no doubt arming these girls will be an uphill battle. It is however a battle I intend to win.