Transference of Power

January 29, 2010


Yesterday Leah woke up complaining of a sore throat and feeling yucky. Considering Benjamin had fever the week before, this was not surprising. She had no fever and a tickly throat was no reason not to go to school, so I told her to continue to get ready for school. Around that time she lost her ever-loving mind and burst into tears.

This is not totally in character for her, so clearly something else was going on.

We came to find out that the day before was a TAKS review test. (TAKS is the dumb standardized testing that happens here in Texas at certain grade levels.) She did great – only missed three on the math section (out of 40) and was proud of herself for that.

However it appears that after the review test was done a little girl in one of the other third grade classes made fun of her a bit by saying Leah was the last one to finish. And that completely unnerved Leah.

We talked to her that you don’t get any extra points for finishing quickly and that she did the right thing in taking whatever time she needed to do it correctly – and that it paid off since she only missed three. This didn’t help. We pulled out all the parenting clichés… it’s not a race, ignore her, she’s not the boss of you.

Nothing stuck.

I let her stay home from school because she did, eventually, feel warm and she ended up having some low-grade fever. Better safe than sorry at that point.

This morning she was fine with no fever and it really was time for her to go to school. Again the meltdown. I started thinking about that last cliché – she’s not the boss of you. It occurred to me that apparently she was. Leah had given this girl tremendous power over her. And it was alarming to see that.

She was so wrapped around the axle that even threats of taking ice skating away if she didn’t get dressed were met with, “Fine. I don’t want to skate.”

Okay, then.

“Leah, I don’t understand why you are giving this girl so much power.”


“By letting this girl bother you with a very dumb little statement that you know is silly you are giving her control of you and your life. And I’m surprised you’re letting someone do that.”


Husband explained it was time to go to school to face it. That it will not be nearly as bad as she thinks it is in her head. That she needs to tell the teacher what is bothering her because the teacher will notice she is sad. And when the tears came yet again, the message was very clear – you will get dressed and go to school or we will dress you and carry you there ourselves.

Husband took her to school (still under protest) and called me to say that she did, indeed, collect herself before getting out of the car. So I’m proud of her for that.

But man am I bothered by the idea that some silly girl comment unnerved her the way that it did. Leah is tremendously bright, unerringly sweet and a bit sensitive for her own good. But she’s never just been, I don’t know, defeated. She’s pouted or waivered or doubted or assessed. But she’s never been defeated like that.

I don’t think there is more to the story. I believe we would have heard about it by now. But there is clearly another conversation to be had with Leah. Actually, there is an ongoing conversation to be had. I’m just not entirely sure how to approach it yet. Is she hurt because she thinks being “last” is like losing? Is it because she feels “different” with her “race car brain“? Or is she just hyper-sensitive to any sort of teasing? Any or all could be the case.

Regardless of the cause, it’s time to talk about the idea of (self) power and control — and how easy it is to give that away if you’re not careful. How easy it is to hand over the keys to your kingdom and what the consequences of doing that are. But, man… to start having that discussion at EIGHT?! That just makes me a little sad.

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One Response to “Transference of Power”

  1. Kathryn in NZ Says:

    My eldest DD started reacting more to this type of comment as she neared her teens(she’ll be 13 in May); and my youngest DD (almost 8) is starting to show the same trend.
    Another age n stage hurdle for parents to cope with? I’m thinking yup.
    Good luck, and thinking of you