Lori is eight and cute as a button. She is wise and chatty and good. She is full of affection and laughter and light and frankly, I adore her. I want her to be mine. Thankfully, she belongs to Monique, who is a friend of mine and who lets me pretend.
Lori, daughter of my heart, has a little friend named Muriel. They've been friends for several years now - BFFs, actually. Best friends forever.
At the end of the school year in June, Muriel's mum promised the girls that they'd see lots of each other. With Monique's happy blessing, they made verbal plans for a cottage visit, a trip to Great Wolf Lodge and unlimited play dates.
Summer came....summer went. Toward the end of August, Muriel's mum called to ask if Lori could visit. Alas, Monique's family had already made plans but could they meet another day? Sure, was the reply. I'll call you.
But no call came and then summer was over and school started. The girls met in the playground, delighted to see each other, bravely muddling through their disappointment at not sharing a classroom. They'd play at recess and ask their mothers about after school and the weekend.
And then, inexplicably, Muriel began to avoid Lori in the schoolyard. Started snubbing the girl who'd been her BFF since Senior Kindergarten. Lori carried her baffled hurt home to Monique, who tried to soothe and comfort with all the words parents say when their child's heart breaks:
"Are there other little girls for you to play with, Lori? Something must be going on with her, sweetheart. Be patient. Try not to let it bother you. I'm sure she'll come around."
But one morning, Muriel marched up to Lori in the playground: "My mum says I'm not allowed to be your best friend any more. I'm supposed to find new friends."
That was weeks ago and Lori (and Monique) have been riding an emotional roller coaster ever since. Thankfully, Lori is, by nature, a positive person. While devastated by the loss of her friend, she eventually moved on and seemed to be faring well.
And then this:
"Mummy, Muriel's mummy says you're fat. And she says that I'm a weirdo and I don't pay attention and I'm not smart."
Monique, stunned, drew her daughter onto the couch. "Let's start at the beginning, Lori. What's going on?"
Apparently, the girls had resumed their friendship, but in secret. They were BFFs again, but only some of the time, but Muriel was afraid her mum would find out and then she'd be in trouble. So, she plays with Lori on the days Muriel feels certain her mum won't drive by the school and see them together in the schoolyard.
But on Monday, the pressure got to be too much and Muriel, torn between love for her friend and loyalty to her mother, blurted out some of the things she'd been told, crying the entire time.
On Monday night, settled into her mother's arms, Lori cried too, missing her friend and feeling sorry for her.
"Mummy, I'm smart, right? Do you think I'm a weirdo? And what does she mean, "I don't pay attention?"
Monique had only this for her brilliant, amazing daughter:
"Lori, Muriel's repeating her mummy's words. And she listens to them because it's her mummy. But they are still bullying words. They are not true. They are not true. They are bullying words."
Later, over the phone, I added my own rage and indignation to hers: "What the EFF was she thinking, saying those things out LOUD, to her child? Seriously. Who SAYS that?"
Monique sighed, exhausted from the retelling and the ache in her heart. "I don't know, Liz. What am I supposed to do with this? Should I do anything with this? I mean, really, it's mean and horrible but IS it bullying? How should I handle this?"
Neither one of us have a clue.
Do you, dear friends? Please share in the comments!