Mean Girls

I know it appears that I have abandoned my blog, but I have NOT abandoned my cause. Next post will be a catch up of all my Brazilian accomplishments.

But first… mean girls.

Friday I went with my daughter to a birthday party. This party was extravagant in a different, very cool way. The party was held at a shop called The Craft Studio.

A little house on a nearly deserted street in Higienopolis, the space was what I imagine would look like if Martha Stewart and Rachel Ashwell became lesbian lovers, adopted orphaned girls and bought a weekend house together.

My daughter was overwhelmed by the place and the party. She could barely contain herself and chatted incessantly about what was around her – in English. I encouraged her to speak Portuguese, which she did with the other girls. But she was mostly talking to me, so she mostly spoke in English. She was the youngest there by at least a year. There had to be at least twenty girls in the 5 to 6+ year range and another ten in another room that were a couple years older (friends of the birthday girl’s older sister).

Of course, my daughter attracted attention. All the girls go to a Brazilian school, but one in which they spend half the day learning in English. Despite this, very few of the younger crowd could utter more than a few words of English. Although a few were very sweet and excited to speak English with us and show me things.

So they all ate mini hot dogs and sandwiches on cute little colored plates. Then came the really fun part. Each of them got a dollhouse to decorate. Each. Each one. A big one. Seriously. To take home.

So we sat down at a table of four little stools, four huge doll houses and three other girls and began to work. Two girls were 6-years-old if not a bit older. The one next to us was probably 5.

After a good 15 minutes, I recognized that the two older girls across from us were making comments about my daughter. This soon accelerated into mean looks and then they told the little girl next to us not to interact with us. My daughter remained totally clueless and totally, giddily engaged in the project.

About 20 minutes later, I think the girls asked to be moved away from us. The owner came by and made some excuse and then put the girls in a space in the front. Thankfully, my daughter still had no clue about what was going on and continued to have a blast decorating the house.

But eventually, this wasn’t good enough for these little monsters. They came up and said something, and then my daughter said to me, “That girl said she doesn’t like me.”

Well, that was it for me. I was so shocked that these girls would act like that when a parent was around! I yelled at the one who said it, “Vai! Vai agora!” And she scooted off. But it was time for us to go.

I told the mother that we were leaving and she asked us not to go until they sang “Parabems” for her daughter. But then I told her what was happening and how I didn’t want my daughter, who kept calling out “This is the best birthday party ever!” have this wonderful experience turn sour.

The mother went bananas. She asked me to point out the girls. I told her it didn’t matter, but she insisted. So then I gleefully pointed out the girls and she did everything but pick them up by their necks and shake them to death. It was awesome.

This was my first experience with mean girls in Brazil. I’d hear about it from friends, but now I know first hand. Of course, there are mean girls in the U.S. too. Like most of us, I’d had my own experiences as a child. But I’d never before felt such an urge to beat the crap out of a kid as I did that afternoon.

Why was my child the target? Two reasons:

1. Her mother was there.

This may seem like a reason for kids NOT to go after other kids. But you have to understand that many Brazilian moms do not spend a lot of time with their children. I’d put money on the fact that these girls do not get a lot of mom time. So they observing me having fun with my daughter was a painful point for them.

2. We were speaking English.

Despite the fact that these girls should be speaking fluently at this point, they don’t. Why parents bother to spend the money on schools that give the kids an English experience without actually valuing the language is beyond me. One of the brats actually said that she didn’t like English. So, I’m guessing that because my daughter spoke fluent English was another reason to be jealous.

The mother texted me that night to apologize and tell me that she spoke to the girls’ parents. While I got some satisfaction from this, I also figured that it was probably the parents who created these monsters in the first place.

When I left my career to be with my daughter, I gave up a lot. I gave up my professional identity. I gave up the ability to buy and do pretty much whatever I fancied. I gave up the security of not having to eat out of garbage cans when I’m old. I gave up the ability to go somewhere and shut the door. But I wouldn’t trade that decision. I’ve never regretted it for a moment because I know who my daughter is, how she acts (not always lovely all the time, but at least I know it) and what she is doing with most of her day. I realize there are a lot of mothers who are not in a position to quit their jobs. But I know a lot of other mothers that are more worried about buying that beach house or putting their kids in designer clothes than about how their offspring spend their days. And even more Brazilian mothers who don’t work and still don’t spend time with their children because they have babás to teach them the daily lessons of life, like morals and kindness. I was lucky. My mom was there when I got home from school every day. And while she had four kids, there was always someone to tell if I had a bad day and someone in turn to tell me I was great. It makes a difference.

What’s really sad is while my daughter was over-the-top overjoyed about being there and getting to experience such a great party, these girls could have cared less and seemed to be neither enjoying nor appreciating any of it. I don’t think kids, aside from the occasional bad seed or spawn of Satan, get mean on their own. I think jealousy, frustration and people being mean to them, whether it is their babá or their parents, make them mean.

One mean girl I interacted with as a child eventually shared how rough her life had been and how her mean mother was still effecting her. Sure, not an excuse, but certainly an ingredient.

I’m not judging. I’m just saying that I don’t think parents really realize how much their decisions impact their children, or how much gets lost when they are not around.

I know that little girls are mean. My daughter was none the wiser in this situation that she was being attacked. But some day her feelings will be hurt. Or worse yet, she might learn to be a mean girl too. But I’ll be damned if I let her get away with it. And beware little Brazilian mean girls. I’m already scanning the internet to find ways to place hexes on you.

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48 Responses to Mean Girls

  1. A says:

    Bom saber. Obrigado pelo isso.

  2. Danielle says:

    Really well written, and I think you analyzed the situation very well — certainly better than I would have! Jealousy and insecurity make even the smartest adults do mean things, so when kids feel it, it can mean disaster. And you pointed out something so important — that the parents spent so much money on this party, but that many of the girls hadn’t even been taught to appreciate stuff. When I’m forced to interact with the adult equivalents of these children here in Brazil, I remind myself of that — that they may judge and talk sh*t, but in the end, it’s much harder for them to be happy.

    Good luck out there!!!

    • Thanks Danielle. I can see the road ahead is going to be rough.
      Yes, good point. These kids grow up and most often are rotten adults who create and live in their own hells. Somewhat satisfying, but also so sad. A waste of privilege.

  3. Kristin says:

    I have tears in my eyes reading this. One of the hardest part of being a mom is, as the saying goes, walking around with your heart outside of you. I take hardest people being mean to my kids–I don’t really care when people don’t like me (though I prefer that they do!) but I get really upset when they go after my kids.

    Mean kids are the worst. You cannot slap them because well, a number of reasons. It seems that the more you get involved, the worse things get. And yes, I am known as the crabby mommy who corrects other kids. I’m not even sure that in your daughter’s case of being picked on that it was for any reason at all (you being there, speaking English). I think sometimes pick someone almost at random to pick on–and of course the youngest probably suffer the most.
    I am suffering a similar pain on my son Nico right now. He is five, does ballet, and loves crafts and “girl things” like flowers and the color pink. Right now he is pretty secure–when he wanted a pink stamp set as a “brinde” and the woman said “that is for girls”, he turned on her immediately and said “there is no such thing as girl things and boy things”. But he has a harder time with kids his age. When he changes for ballet every Monday after school, the boys make comments that he is a girl (they are all off for tennis and judo). I know it hurts him. He complains about it but I don’t know whether I use the moms’ facebook page to say “hey, can you tell your kids to open their minds?” — knowing full well that even my husband is opposed to a boy doing ballet? Where do people thing adult ballet dancers come from in the NYC Ballet?
    Wait, so this is not about my problems!! I think you did the right thing on getting your daughter out of there before she realized that there were mean girls. Sooner or later she will know it and I know she’ll be strong enough to be bulletproof to their comments.


    • I think it IS about your problem, and mine, and the problem of all the mothers who want their children to be good and nice and kind. Thank God for the Nicos of the world. What would it mean if we all just did what other people think we should? Or follow a regimen set by people we can’t even remember? If it weren’t for the Nicos, it would be a flat, dull world, one in which we would all act on our fears and insecurities, not our dreams. I hope Nico doesn’t give in, though it means some heartache for you (and me as well because I am your friend). It is Nico who will do something great with his life. The other’s will follow the cycle of rotteness that Danielle mentioned, leading only to a bitter existence (hopefully ;)).

      I think we need to stick together as parents. I’m all about telling another parent what I think! Especially here, where the Brazilian parents have no problem telling me that I’ll be ruining my daughter’s life unless I have another child or that I should put some socks on her. Good for Nico. I hope Sophia has the same confidence to do what she wants. (Ok, I know it is cheesy, but on the ballet and boys theme I have to mention my all time favorite movie here – Billy Elliot ( For goodness sakes Brazilians, rent it.)

      • Sorry, but I have to go here. Try and ignore the boobs.

      • Kristin says:

        Hmmm, yes, I think I will have movie night with the parents…downloading now to the apple tv!

      • Trish says:

        I have goosebumps as I read this. Kids can be really mean, and they do not have the “social filter” we are supposed to develop as adults. It’s a really fine line between sparing your kids from having to deal with random pain and supporting them in all that makes them unique (whether that means a boy doing ballet or a girl speaking in a language that’s different from everyone else’s) and teaching them to develop the skills they will need to feel okay about being different. All I can say is that I’ve learned a lot – even now as an adult – from friends who, for a number of reasons, are labeled “different”… and have realized that in reality we’re all unique, different, and yet… the same.

        • I remember one afternoon in NY I was in our neighborhood with my daughter on the way to the playroom. I witnessed two women talking on the sidewalk. With one was a little girl with a facial deformity with the other was a girl without. The girl with the facial deformity was smiling at the other girl and saying “hello” while the other girl backed away a bit. I don’t know if the woman with the girl was her mother, but I remember thinking “how hard is that.” How does that woman protect her daughter from the world? How do you explain away meanness to that poor little angel, who has very little chance of ever escaping it. Ugh. In part, that memory makes me want to tell my daughter to suck it up. You have everything and a little adversity in your life will make you stronger. You need to be grateful for everything. But it also makes me even angrier at the mean girls, who, from what I witnessed, will probably never be grateful for anything.

          Parenting is way harder than anyone told me it would be.

    • Kristin! I am so impressed with your fortitude and the ballet.

      I just wanted to mention that I had a fabulous BF in my 20s who said if reincarnation was real, he wanted to come back as a straight male ballet dancer 🙂 Mikhail Brayshnikov was very sexy, IMO.

  4. I’m sorry that you had to deal with these kids. There are so many of them in the upper classes like this in Brazil and, I’m sure, the United States (although I am not in touch with those kids here). Too much privilege and not enough attention from mom and dad is a very dangerous combination and can create kids who are completely self-absorbed and without empathy. These kids then go on to get a wonderful education thanks to mom and dad’s money and get prominent positions in business and government. Is it any wonder that our politicians and business people tend to the side of psychopathology? It ends up being an unfortunate thing for all of us.

  5. workmomad says:

    Kids in general can just be mean. I had a 9 year old boy last year that I would have been willing to call out based upon the fact that on the class Valentine’s that each child was supposed to give out to the other kids in the class, he took the time to write specifically to my daughter, “Kayla, I still don’t like you!”

    But yes, girls are mean. I tell Kayla that the prettier and smarter she is, the meaner some of the other girls will be to her, and I think that probably is true for your daughter, too. So, in a way, it is a twisted compliment! I’m glad her feelings weren’t hurt.


  6. Mr. Howard Jones once sang
    “Don’t chop off his head to make yourself look tall
    Don’t tear a strip off to make yourself feel wonderful
    Who wants to compare, as if this was a competition
    Leave that to teachers at school, must preserve their tradition
    ‘Bout time you realised
    You are a specialty
    There is no one like you
    Spend your life worrying
    ‘Bout what you could have been
    Can’t you like being you?”

    The mean girls, and their parents, should listen to his words.

  7. Caio says:

    In a nutshell: some upper class Brazilians have a love-hate relationship with Americans and Europeans due to an envy-induced inferiority complex. I´m not proud to admit this of my own countrymen, but there it is. Sometimes Amanda and I talk about how to best raise bicultural kids to their greatest advantage, and situations like these make me sad. Hopefully such people will be gradually culled out of mainstream society as Brazil becomes more globally available.

    Não dê importância à essas meninas, elas não valem à pena.

    • Thanks for your comment Caio. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that could probably be weeded out of the U.S. as well. It’s sad that while cultural differences might perpetuate some of the situations, the core of it is human nature.

  8. Caio says:

    I know. I´d like to think the positive outcome of those differences will eventually prevail. After all, making sure that happens is really more up to us than to bigotry mongers. Even though I´m not a parent, I know it must hit especially hard when your kid´s attacked. Just hang in there. She´s better than those girls and you know it.

  9. Wonderful post. I’m super happy your daughter did not notice anything, and good for you for stating the truth. In English I could easily confront kids like this and infuse it with a lot of love and caring, but I’m still handicapped in Portuguese.

    Do you know that one of my 6yo students was doing the same thing with ME? She started telling her mom I was making fun of her, told her sister not to participate in class and was refusing to sing songs, and said things in class in a really condescending way to me. I thought to myself, oh, my, this (being mean) has already been working for this little one to get mom’s attention. My instinct was to deal with it straight on, but an stroke if insight told me to kill her with kindness. It worked. I still had to offer a little ‘smack down’ and say something stronger, but I was happy that in my position I could handle it this way. Hopefully I’m playing a part in make the world a better place for us all- especially other little girls.

    • Good plan. I should develop the patience to do this, because I think you are right. I little love is something these kids crave. Good for you!
      I am also have a handicap with my language, but in this case it is probably better, because when it comes to someone going after my daughter, I have a short fuse. Thanks for the advice!!

      • Well, I wasn’t thinking of it as advice….teachers have a different role than parents of friends- a bit more authority.

        The sad thing is, this girl pushes her parents around. Quite a bit.

  10. Ray says:

    Dear B.A.B,

    Your sweet daughter sounds so kind, I feel terrible you went thru this situation.
    I have to say, in my opinion, this has nothing to do with Brazil, or even with an upper class situation. I think Jennifer hit the nail on the head, these are children craving love and attention, and they hated your daughter on that moment, because your daughter has everything they don’t, the presence, the love of a present parent.
    I have seen kids both in Brazil and in the US, from middle class and upper class, who are raised with brand names clothes, toys, accessories, even 6 year old kids with brand new Iphones (absurd), who have absent parents, most of these kids are raised by nannies or parents who are present half the time if that much.
    These kids, not all, but the ones with the “right” personality to go sour, become the little monsters who torture sweet, loving children like your daughter. Those kids are the ever so popular and hated “bullies”.
    Keep strong, keep present. I have no doubts you made the best choice a mom could ever made and you are giving your daughter the best gift a mom could ever give, the most precious thing, your time with her.
    I am also glad the host mom did something about it, maybe some of these parents will get a wake up call and will be able to turn the situation around.


    • I’m glad she did too! It made me feel like there are still normal parents out there. Her children are very sweet and it just confirms why. You are right – it’s not so much about Brazilian kids being meaner, but I just happen to be in the middle of it here. There are load of US kids who do the same… or worse. However, I do feel that it is a bit more socially acceptable to be absent from your kids in the circles of Brazilian that I know. That’s not all Brazilians. And that doesn’t mean those circles don’t exist in the U.S. – I just didn’t know them there. So again, it all comes down to perspective and we can’t make generalizations, right? Love having a blog! Loads of support and grounding.

  11. Lindsey says:

    Ah, it takes all kinds in the world… It’s so interesting though, that you have this perspective in Brazil. My husband and I are afraid of this happening with our daughter in Canada – we felt like Brazil was the safe place to raise children with less hate and more love.

    But maybe this is just a global problem, and it doesn’t really matter where you are. It’ll hunt you down either way! Love that more and more people are breaking outside the box though (even though way more people are still living inside)… at least you know you’re not the ONLY one who doesn’t tolerate bullying/sexism/homophobia/whatever ism you care to use!

    The important thing is just to have perspective and not fall to the masses. I appreciated reading this. Plus, that lady and her boobs made me actually cry. Damn pregnancy!!!

    • Oh man. Not the Canadians! We are not safe ANYWHERE! The Canadians seem so nice! Well, I guess, like you said, it is all about perspectives. You are right, it is a global problem. Ugh. All us nice people gotta fight together on this. Congrats on the pregnancy! So many things to think about…
      Thanks for your comment! Greatly appreciated.

  12. Pingback: Update: Mean Girls | born again brazilian

  13. Trish says:

    It’s funny that as I read this I am reminded of my very own first encounter with “mean girls”. We had just moved to a little town in the midwest USA and I met the girls who lived across the street. They had a loving mother who spent all of her time baking cookies, making healthy meals and making sure her kids plenty of her attention. Wanting to be friendly, I ran back home and grabbed a big container of freshly baked cookies to offer my new friends. As the youngest reached for a cookie, the eldest slapped her across the hand and said, “Mommy said not to take anything from the Mexicans because they’re dirty.”
    It just goes to show that kids are mean anywhere and, yes, sometimes they are a reflexion of their parents. All you can do, really, is be the best mom you can be and hope she gets it. : )
    Sorry you have to deal with that…

    • Whoa! I’m super embarrassed for my country with that story. I’m extra embarrassed to have been a member of that community that we shared. So I guess that we have learned “mean” knows no boundaries and has no formula. I supposed that all we can do is make sure that we know what is going on in our children’s lives and hope they share our ideals. Although, sometimes the ideals of adults are as rotten as those that the kids create on their own.

      • Trish says:

        Funny thing is… I recently found these girls on a social network and discovered the younger girl ended up marrying an Guatemalan man and now habla español (the official language of Brazil, of course)! Life is funny that way.

  14. scrubgrub says:

    Wow, it’s super sad to see that behavior in young children, but you’re right, a lot of the “mean children” I knew growing up had much deeper issues at home. Not that that is always the case, but when they’re that young and that mean you have to wonder where it comes from. Over the top birthday party though… your daughter was right, best party ever 😉

  15. skarrlette says:

    This worries me about bringing my daughter down there. Don’t you think it has more to do with anti-american sentiment being engrained in there culture than anything else? From what I ‘ve heard there is a lot of down there. Any-time some country is poor and jacked up they always have bad feelings toward the United States..

    • I really haven’t come across any anti-american sentiment, however, I might have missed it as my Portuguese is still quite bad. I find that people are either interested in me being an American or not, but I haven’t experienced anything so obvious.

    • Julia says:

      Brazil is not poor. And if there are people that don’t like USA here they have their reasons. And it is not because it’s a richer country…

      • Yes, Brazil is no longer poor. But there are still a lot of poor people. However, as an expat, you probably won’t be in a situation were your daughter will be bullied by the poor. I’ve yet to hear a Brazilian complain to me about the USA. But if Bush were still in power… might be a different story.

  16. Anoonnnn says:

    Welcome to life , it has nothing to do with jealous of your love relationship with your daughter or jealous that your daughter speaks english fluently , 5 – 7 years old kids don’t give a damn about foreign language or if some other kid gets attention from her dad , sounded more like communication issue. It doesn’t matter that the other kids study english , that is not the language they use most of the time , if you put a 5 years old brazilian kid in a room with other 5 – 7 years old american kids as soon as the brazilian kid speaks portuguese the reaction from other kids can be unexpected , some may get curious and some will bully the foreign kid….again welcome to life.

    • Sorry, but I don’t agree with you on the bullying. There is always a reason one kid targets another. Trust me, I was dead on. I’m not even certain what your point is. But yes, welcome to life would be an appropriate statement.

  17. Julia says:

    And girls are mean? Girls? Only girls?

  18. Sorry for disappearing, lately ive been with lots of connection problems…

    I loved the post, its really well written, but i think the problem is even deeper, people here in Brasil have a lotdifferent reasons to be bad parents, unfortunately you’ve seen one of the worst ones.

    Im also glad you daughter did not notice anything, but these kids are difficult to handle, they just cant deal with different kids, trust me i know what im talking about (as a brazilian who does not like soccer or sertanejo/funk{urgh} and loves books, raised in a conservative family in a little conservative town, without even a bookstore) but soon or not, they will get used to it, besides the ones who will find your daughter cool for her differences and just accept her easily.

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