Friday, January 18, 2008

Mean Girl

"We have LOTS of candy at OUR house," Pie observes loudly to no one in particular.

We're at the library during the post-Little-Gym rush, and the formerly shy and tongue-tied Pie has suddenly found her voice. "We have Dora at our house," she points out as one of her gym-classmates picks up a video. While the other children innocently rifle through the shelves of DVDs, she watches like a hawk. "We have Franklin at our house too," she adds a moment later. "And LOTS of Elmo." There's a hint of aggressiveness in her voice. I can't tell whether this is a misguided attempt at friendliness, a case of pure bragging, or some more complicated combination of the two.

Pie is a shy girl, but her shyness is qualified by an undercurrent of pure hostility. On Wednesday afternoons, when it's Bub's turn to go to the Little Gym, Pie hangs out with me in the lobby, defending her toys against the advances of joyful one-year-olds. If she brings a toy with her I often suggest that she leave it in the car. "So the babies don't get it?" she asks understandingly, and I shrug. Babies are her natural enemies - they smile engagingly, attempt to initiate a game of peek-a-boo, and Pie fixes them with a steely glare, slithering to my side and saying, "My mommy." Back off, baby.

Five-year-olds are another matter entirely. With the big girls, Pie is willing to barter her toys and abandon her mother, delighted to be included in a game of tag or hide-and-seek. When it's time for the big girls to line up for their class, Pie joins them, leaning her shoulder against the door-frame and looking up at their faces eagerly, one of the crowd.

Her meanness is innocent of subtlety; it is pure hostility, open aggression. She expects nothing less from those she meets. "Those mans are following me," she reports suspiciously when we walk across the hall to the library. When the gym instructor tries to lend a helping hand, Pie glowers menacingly and clutches my leg. Her world is under enemy occupation, peopled by poachers, attackers, and spies disguised as harmless old men and rosy-cheeked babies.

38 comments:

Don Mills Diva said...

That was funny and touching at the same time - nice job.

Jenifer said...

Babies are the enemy, that is such a funny concept. From her view though it is entirely logical.

Luisa Perkins said...

She's extremely socially perceptive; perhaps she'll fare better than I did once the junior high years roll around.

Janet said...

Loved the little glimpse of Pie's world.

I find one-year-olds are the natural enemies of a lot of kids. Even my kids, in the midst of their over-the-top toddler love fest, are sometimes subtly mean to their little sister. Part of it is just that they find her reactions charming and hilarious; but part of it, especially with Hailey, is payback for dethroning them as "the baby."

Cyndi said...

Oh, my daughter used to do that, too. I had almost forgotten until I read this. If someone even looked in her direction she thought they wanted to take whatever it was she had. Now that I remember, this ended not too long ago. It is funny that even though I was embarassed by it, I didn't really notice when it stopped.

Kathryn said...

Your writing just slays me!

Hairline Fracture said...

Such an interesting perspective (as always!) My kids also always want to be associated with the "big kids" instead of the babies.

kyra said...

"babies are her natural enemies"

so funny!

Mad Hatter said...

Are you sure you're not raising my daughter because this description fits Miss M to a T.

painted maypole said...

gotta watch out for those babies!

Merle said...

I wonder if Pie is struggling against the idea of "the other". The world is often divided into the others who are like us and those who are not. Those who are not like us are often categorized as "different". Pie is younger than her brother and as such she probably has watched him do things that she could not. Her youngness made her different from him. Her youngness made her miss out. Perhaps, to her, youngness means different and wrong. Thus, babies are her enemy. The older children, on the other hand, have something desirable about them... their age. And if she could just be like them, then she too would have all that they have.

I don't know the specific name of the psychological theory I speak of. I only remember the basic principal. The child who is bullied for being odd eventually grows to hate those that are different. The victimized child, attempts to distance him/herself from the different others through anger and hatred. Unconsciously, he/she rejects all that is different because his/her difference means pain.

I realize I have made quite a leap and that Pie's experience may be nothing like this. But the post was so thought provoking, I wanted to respond.

Teah said...

Oh, I am so GLAD! I mean, I thought my niece was the only toddler out there (2 and a half) that thought babies were pure evil! Actually, it's really just my daughter (15 months) that really gets her goat. Her vocabulary is very limited, so she simply screams "A BABY!!!", flaps her arms...and terrifies my daughter into screaming back. That usually mollifies the two year old - her dominance is safe for another five minutes.

ewe are here said...

Ahh, the evil one year olds.

When I took Ramekin to his nursery for the very first time for a visit, he was about 19 months old, and we visited the room full of 'babies'. He was fine with the visit... until he turned around and saw that a one year old baby had migrated into my lap. HIS mommy's lap. He rushed back, essentially pushed the baby out, and sat down and refused to move, glaring at the poor baby.

At least he's nicer to his brother. Generally. ;-)

Beck said...

Poor Pie. I was holding some cute lil' 4 month old cuddlebug the other day and the Baby stood there shrieking "PUT THAT DOWN! RIGHT NOW!".
Ah, toddlers.

realitytesting said...

Very funny ; ) I remember Laura at two years of age issuing this warning at a fellow two year old at the grocery store...STOP LOOKIN' AT ME BABY!

Kara said...

so funny! Babies are the enemy to my kids too. Those attention stealers!!

Omaha Mama said...

I vascillate between being proud of my girl for being assertive and mortified because she is not a people-pleaser like me.

flutter said...

Oh this is so lovely!

b*babbler said...

I love this... the pureness of her hostility, the lack of guile.

slouching mom said...

You've described the late toddler/early preschooler brilliantly.

Angela said...

She wants to be one of the big kids. So sweet!

kgirl said...

Ha ha, Pie sounds like my kind of gal.

Suz said...

Smart Pie. Steer clear of those babies. I'm telling you, my almost two-year-olds wouldn't give a second thought to taking her Elmo, candy, or DVD's, declaring them "mine."

Chaotic Joy said...

I loved reading this. I see Clara's future in it. That girl. We went to have her picture made today, and she was a pistol. No whining or clinging just disdainful glares and violent head shaking "no's" at anyone that tried to coax her into a smile.

I can't imagine her at two. Well I think I can now...a little.

nomotherearth said...

The Boy does that to the toddlers at daycare. It's simultaneously endearing and completely rude.

Bon said...

i can see her point about the babies. they've always seemed a little suspicious...though i suspect they're out to get her to change their bums, rather than plotting for her toys.

Christina said...

Wow, she's really figuring out her social world. Older kids are cool and people she wants to be accepted by, but younger ones are associated with her "baby" ways and those she wants to leave behind.

How fun to see her working out social interaction. I'm sure her hostility will melt a little as she gets older and realizes there are lots of fun people out there, and no one wants to take away her mommy.

Sarcasta-Mom said...

That was so cute. I love how you painted babies as the enimies. lol.

Mimi said...

What a great character sketch: it's charming enough to elicit the 'awww' but is still pretty clear-eyed about the character it shows. I wish all my parenting could be like that: full of love, but still calling it like it is.

Kyla said...

I enjoyed this little peek into the mind of the Pie.

Aliki2006 said...

Those babies...those old men...they're everywhere! T. isn't in this stage yet--or maybe she won't reach it at all--but I could easily imagine what it must be like!

JCK said...

Very funny and real! And isn't it lovely that they find their LOUD voices in the library of all places.

Ever since my daughter was born she was blessed with what we called the 500 yard glare. On a baby it was unusual. Family laughed, but we actually had a waitress take offense once. As if a baby was ruining her day by glaring at her. I say if a girl can perfect a glare at a young age, it will serve her well.

Julie Pippert said...

Oh how my Patience can relate to this! And by elementary school it acquires a veneer of sophistication that adds such excitement.

niobe said...

I always thought that when grownups said "Oh, Niobe's a little shy," they were saying, in a slightly more polite way, that I hate everyone. Which, of course, I do.

Anonymous said...

Back off baby...great line.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

My 3yo's mortal enemy is a little girl in her daycare who's almost 2. My daughter's behavior around this child is just like you describe Pie's. For awhile it affected her behavior with all kids under 2, but she seems to have gotten past it.

Occidental Girl said...

That's hilarious! The world is full of rosy-cheeked enemies out to take away her toys AND her mommy.

kittenpie said...

Well, babies are known to engage in biological warfare and drop nasty diaper-bombs...