There was a story circulating Facebook a little while ago about a woman who had given a note to some mean girls she had overheard at a Starbucks. I read it, as well as all of the armchair quarterbacks chiming in on whether or not they would have done the same, and who the hell was this woman, anyway?
Well, she happens to be an author of a book about middle school relationships, and has developed a curriculum for social leadership in schools, so she kind of knows what she’s talking about. I knew plenty about middle school girls being mean, from my own experience, and from teaching middle school for so many years. I did not chime in and become yet another judge like so many choose to do these days. I read the story, thought about it, and moved on.
Last Friday, The Man, The Boy, Grammy & Poppy, and I went out to eat as we are wont to do at the end of the week. We decided to go to a place that is a bit trendy, but also has good food, reasonable prices, and is a favorite among the hipster-ish crowd in the area, small though it may be. The Boy likes it because they have a tabletop multi-cade video game that he can play, and in fact chooses to eat at that table while he’s playing. As we’re eating and enjoying each other’s company, I watched The Boy get up to get more lemonade. And I watched as two boys waiting in line watched him, as well. They seemed to make particular note of his footwear (crocs), and begin making comments to each other.
As I said, I spent many years teaching middle school and high school aged kids, and as a teacher, you get a sixth sense about when food fights are about to go down, when a young couple has broken up, and when someone is getting talked about.
In the article I linked above, Michelle Icard, the woman who “spoke up” at that Starbucks had this to say to critics who questioned why she told the girls they were “pretty”:
“I think it’s an important part of the story,” she said. “I think that’s a way a lot of girls hide their bad behavior, by fitting in perfectly physically.”
And Heidi Stevens, Chicago reporter adds:
“I think that’s true of grown women as well. Heck, men and boys too.”
I know that’s true of boys, too. Down here, it manifests itself in wearing the right shoes (and shin-high socks, apparently).
Did I say anything to the boys? No. They were with their parents, I hadn’t heard anything concrete, and this is the South, after all. One of the boys was wearing a Coors Light ball cap, after all. I doubted Mom & Dad would be too receptive to whatever I had to say. If I had been alone with The Boy, I might have gone over to them and said, “I noticed you admiring my son’s crocs – they’re hard to find these days!” or something along those lines. But I was with my family, and they clearly wanted me to focus on something else.
I can only be thankful that The Boy was oblivious. And I am more certain that this cattiness crosses gender lines, and needs to be addressed more often at home, at school, and by perfect strangers at a Starbucks.
The lady who chastised the middle school girls and sent them frappuchinos was beyond out of line — it isn’t her job to lecture random strangers (even if they happen to be snotty middle school girls).
The bare-bones minimum required by the social contract is politeness (as civility stops the world from descending into anarchy). Period. Everything else is gravy.
The middle school girls were minding their own business – as were the boys (and their parents!) at the hipster restaurant). You don’t have the right to intervene unless someone is at imminent risk of harm.
Also, when was the last time you changed your behavior based on unsolicited advice from total strangers?? The answer is likely NEVER.
Thank you for your input, but I disagree. Kids are kids and still have lessons to learn, especially about being mean, otherwise they turn into nasty adults.
Yes, kids have lessons to learn so that they do not become nasty, mean adults. However, the people responsible for teaching them those lessons are emphatically NOT random strangers.
Do you enjoy it when random strangers tell your your son is behaving badly?
Do you give any weight whatsoever to their concerns, or do you think to yourself “they don’t know my kid, they know nothing about autism, they really ought to mind their own damn business”?
When total strangers criticize your son in right in front of you (meltdown at a school event or the supermarket or whatnot), do you encourage your son to give any weight to the stranger’s concerns?
And if you’re perfectly happy to tune out unsolicited advice from strangers, to teach your son to do the same, why on EARTH do you applaud Starbucks Frappucino-Sending Lady?
And if the people responsible for teaching them aren’t there? If a child is crying with no adult around, do you approach? Or do you say, “No, it’s not my responsibility.” I understand your point of view, but people rarely comment on my son’s behavior in public, and if they do, it’s because they are unaware that he is having an issue related to his autism. He isn’t ever caught being mean. This woman didn’t criticize or “chastise” those girls, as you put it. She bought them frappucinos, and wrote a nice note that basically told them they were better than that.
Is it always right for strangers to voice their opinions? No. In this instance, I believe it was ok. And I was tempted when I saw similar behavior directed at my son. You apparently do not believe it is ever ok, even when your child is the subject of the mean behavior. Shall we agree to disagree?