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Mean Girls Turn Into Mean Moms

I have something to say about this mean girl thing. I understand it far better than I care to admit. Part of my job is to listen and mediate the problems of middle schoolers. Can you even guess what percentage of my day is filled with this drama?

It’s a lot. They don’t always present themselves as easy-to-recognize, either. Mean Girl Syndrome isn’t always in your face. It’s sly and nefarious and artful. Young girls use gossip as their currency, retaliation as their modus operandi, and friendships as their bargaining chips. They are experts at this and someday, with any luck, they grow out of it and turn into compassionate, caring adults.

This article would prove otherwise. There are so many problems with it that I couldn’t help responding. One, because I see these daughters in schools and these mothers at PTO meetings. Well, not exactly “these” mothers, but I’m not naive enough to assume things like this don’t go on in my school. Of course they do.

Allena Tapia, the author of the article Cliquishness and Bullying Among Parents,seems to present herself as something of an expert on Mean Moms. Apparently, her PTO was forced to combine with the other PTOs and she, already in the popular group, had decided that she would continue her “reign” once they were all together. Among her admissions of giggling during meeting time, texting across the table, and ensured (due to large numbers in her “group”) that their agendas were given priority even though there were now others in the room. Tapia also admits that her friends gossip and know all the dirt on marriages and divorces. They know whose Coach purse is real or fake and they muckrake via texting and Facebook.

Basically, their behavior as adults in a PTO meeting where people are expected to make decisions about fundraising and support for teachers in the classroom with materials from which their children will benefit, was met with conduct one would expect to experience in the classroom. What a pity. They were charged with important tasks and treated meetings like a trip to the mall. I’m not even going to go into what she does as a perpetuator of stereotypes of mothers. Suffice to say that she furthers the chasm already made difficult in the Mean Mom War between stay-at-home versus working moms.

These things are enough for me to be offended. It’s not like I need any help in that department when it comes to topics that deal with school. (In fairness, I am not an easily offended person. Normally I joke that it takes a lot to offend me.) Mostly I’m offended because she flip-flops on important issues and presents herself as a woman who has learned her lesson when it comes to being a Mean Mom at the PTO. At first, I thought she was going to show some sort of humility and write about how much she’s changed since she saw the errors of her nasty ways. Instead, she begins to lecture us on getting involved in our children’s education:

“Don’t play the victim, and don’t use it as an excuse not to be involved in your child’s education.”

I have something to say about this. In fact, I have a lot of something to say about this. A lot of what I’ve made my passion in education has to do with making sure that, as an educator and adult, I don’t try to define what being a good parent is. An oft-repeated phrase I hear in the teacher’s lounge, the playground, and the PTO meeting is this:

“So-and-so doesn’t care about their kid’s education. You NEVER see them volunteering or coming in to help or showing up at the talent show.”

What a tired, lazy, inaccurate way to describe another parent. Who among us can define what “good parenting” is when it comes to raising schoolchildren? What person can say that their way of parenting is the best way for a schoolchild? What is to say that a mom or dad (even though we’re not talking about men here) who feeds their child healthy breakfasts and ensures that their daughter or son (even though we’re not talking about boys here) has a place to study each night isn’t involved in their child’s education?

You don’t get to say that, Allena. You, with your immature behaviors and insecurities and excuse making. That isn’t for you to dictate to others. You write that you became friends with those other cliquey moms because of shared values, but you don’t take responsibility for pushing those values on other moms. Worse, you try to justify your bullying conduct.

It isn’t for me, either, but I don’t go to our PTO meetings as a mom trying to break into a group in order to push people around. I’m there to watch out for moms like Allena while making sure that the focus stays on the collaborative part of the PTO.

I sit at that PTO table whether you like it or not and I’m not someone to be bullied with your antics. Grow up and get out of that middle school mentality, Allena. The sooner you can do that the easier it makes my job when working with the child you’re raising to be a nastier version of yourself.

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