It's something that most parents dread; hearing that your child has been singled out by other children, and teased. This happened to my daughter in her very first week of school. And here is the story of how my four year old girl dealt with it.
Day two at school can be so much harder than day one. There's so much build up to the start of school; so much excitement - a new uniform to put on, a bright red school bag to proudly clutch, a shiny new hair band to wear. Day one is full of possibilities.
Day two and reality strikes a little, "yes Roh, you have to go back to school again today". The uniform becomes a little less enticing, the book bag has it's first scuff, and she wants to wear the hairband with the big pink flower, not the boring navy one.
And it was upon collection on day two that she told me the story of the boys who had picked on her. "Some boys were gunning me today mummy," she tells me. [Gunning being making guns out of your hands and pretending to fire them at you.] "They were gunning me then they kept pulling my ears," she starts to falter.
"Oh no, what did you do?" I ask.
"I put my hands over my ears," she replies.
"And did that work?" I ask, my blood pressure rising.
"No," comes the response.
"So then what did you do?"
"I told them to stop."
"Then what did you do?"
"I roared at them," she tells me, a little smile starting to creep into her eyes.
"And did that work?"
"Yes, mummy," she says proudly.
When Roh says she roared at them, this meant a very loud, very fierce roar, reserved usually for only the most frustrating of arguments with her big brother. So she had stood tall, and up close and RRROOOOAAAARRRRRRED.
Later that day she tells her big brother about the events. Big brother listens quietly, absorbing every detail, then asks, "What were their names, Roh?"
"I don't know," she replies.
"Well if they do that again, ask them their names. Then tell me their names. And then I will see what I can do." Her big brother is 7. And by way of a premonition I see his clean sheet, gold star record, turn to dust, as the arrival of his little sister to school brings out the fierce protector in him.
Day three and having encouraged Roh that she can tell the teacher if it happens again, and encouraged big brother that probably he didn't yet need to get involved, I send her heart-breakingly back to school. All morning I am troubled by visions of a tiny girl in a corner of the playground, surrounded by these boys. I feel guilt that I hadn't yet raised it with the teacher, sticking hesitantly to my 'three strikes and I'm in [to school]' rule.
I pick up her at lunchtime, and as nonchalantly as I can ask how her day has been. "Good,"she responds. Unable to hold back any longer, as casually as I can muster I ask, "And...um...those boys, any trouble with those boys again?"
"Yes, a bit."
"What did you do? Did you tell the teacher?"
"Why not, Roh? You don't have to put up with this you know," and I start to feel mummy lion emerging.
"Well, mummy they only did it once today."
"Oh," I say, the wind taken from sails. Then the cogs start to whirr.... "Why did they only do it once, Roh?"
"Because I roared at them mummy."
Day four, and on the drive to school I remind Roh of the role of her teacher, and how she is there to help if she needs her to. And I ask big brother, "who's the boss of you?", and he shouts "ME!" And I say to Roh, "who's the boss of you?" and she shouts "ME!"
And all the while she's at school I am psyching myself up to have to go into school, because today could be strike three.
At lunchtime I pick up a happy girl, who runs to me with open arms.
"How was your morning my angel?"
And forgetting all nonchalence I quickly ask, "And those boys, how were they? Did they gun you today?"
"No, mummy," she tells me grinning from ear to ear, "they're playing in a different part of the playground now."