I hold grudges.
I remember the little insults. The negative remarks. You may say a dozen sweet things to make up for it, but I will forget them all. Only the occasional stray thoughtless remark burns in my memory, taking on increasing weight with the years.
My older daughter is a girl after my heart. She holds grudges, too. She is only five years old, but her memory is long.
There is a boy at school whom she hates. She despises this boy. He took a glue stick from her during the first week of class. She will never forgive. They were sitting side by side, engaged in an art project. He asked her if he could borrow the glue stick; she gave it to him; after a few minutes, she asked for it back. He refused. She cried and cried. The teacher came over to see what the problem was and the Bean-girl, hysterical, could not explain. The teacher gave her a hole punch in her daily “Great Day card,” signifying a “Tough Day.” Bean-girl was appalled, and kindergarten pretty much went downhill from there.
(Note: kindergarten is actually going much better now. Thanks for all the supportive remarks! I will never hold anything against you, fair readers.)
I still do not know the boy’s name, but Bean-girl refers to him as the “mean boy.” He always does “mean things” to her. In truth, as far as my husband and I can determine, there has only been one other incident of “meaness.” Bean-girl’s class was spending a week on the concept of patterns—looking for patterns in the world, making and designing their own patterns. They were cutting and gluing shapes on a strip of paper to make their own patterns. The mean boy told Bean-girl that her pattern was not actually a pattern. This was obviously a very mean thing to say, because it was a pattern! But Bean-girl showed us her strip of paper, and well, that little boy was right. My Husband and I could not discern a pattern in the string of cut-out shapes she presented us. If it was a pattern, it was on a scale that we could not see.
So on the weight of two tiny incidents, Bean-girl has declared a nemesis for life.
“Why does that mean boy say that he likes me, but does mean things to me?” Bean-girl asked one morning while putting on her shoes.
“He says that he likes you?” I repeated.
She nodded. “He says that he likes me but he does mean things!”
“He told you that he likes you?” I say again, just to be clear.
She nodded, exasperated with my dimwittedness.
“Well…” I said slowly. “Sometimes boys like you but don’t know how to show it in the right way. So it comes off as kind of mean.”
“When they get older, will they learn to show it better?”
I haven’t heard much about “the mean boy” lately, and I wonder how he’s doing and if Bean-girl and he have interacted lately.
They do get better about showing how they like you, Bean-girl. But yeah, when they mess up and it comes out wrong—I get plenty mad, too.