Angry and frustrated, my friend Angie* told me what had happened that morning at the bus stop. It was her middle-school daughter Brit’s* first day back at school. As she gathered with three other middle-school neighbor girls, they huddled up for a photo. Just the three of them. Brit, in front of the other parents, was quite intentionally left out. She had to stand there awkwardly and alone while the others linked arms to smile for the camera.
But what makes this story even worse is who did the leaving out.
It wasn’t actually the young teenage girls—it was one of the mothers.
Loud enough for everyone present to hear, she’d called together the three girls to snap a first-day-back-to-school picture, leaving Brit—the only other remaining child at the bus stop—to stand all alone, just a few feet away.
It was a blatant and mean-spirited act, leaving all the other parents a bit startled.
I was aghast at my friend Angie’s story. How could a grown adult purposefully traumatize a 13-year-old girl like that? And on the first day of school? But it turns out that this slight was just another in a series of pointed acts of exclusion from the other mom. I was surprised—but probably shouldn’t have been—to learn that my friend and her daughters have found themselves the target of such adolescent-type bullying behavior, all at the hands of a grown-up.1