May 24, 2013

The Forgotten Girl

On Sunday, I bought Swim Girl a new dress for her National Junior Honor Society induction. She tried on a bunch of dresses and chose the one she liked.

Today, she put the dress on and took a good look at herself in the mirror. I don’t know what happened between Sunday and today, but whatever it was, wasn’t good. She started complaining about how ugly she looked, how everyone would make fun of her. The dress, a simple shift dress in greens and blues, looked pretty on her. She looked exactly like a 12-year old girl should look. . . her age. She felt it was too loose around the waist and wanted something to tie around the dress. The waist-tie to her white sweater was nowhere to be found, so with five minutes until we needed to leave, I ran upstairs and searched my closet for something that might work. I found a sweater that tied in the front and brought it down to her. I also grabbed a bunch of pretty barrettes that matched the dress, bought at Charming Charlie’s a while ago.

I helped her fix the sweater and put a carefully placed barrette in her hair. She stood in front of the mirror and said, “I’m so ugly.” She attempted to rip the barrette out but I insisted she wear it. We told her to put her chin up and be happy. This was going to be a big night for her! She moped all the way to school.

We arrived at the school, grabbed a program and found seats. Just as I was settling in, Mr. BBM says, “She’s not in here. She’s not in the program.” I scanned it myself and found her nowhere. Another Mom suggested that maybe she was put with the wrong grade. She wasn’t. I told Mr. BBM he better go tell someone. I imagined them reading names out of the program and my poor Swim Girl standing there, never being called.

Mr. BBM found the principal, told him and he was immediately off to tell the presenters to add her name. After he came back, he announced that a couple kids had been left out of the program, but that they would be printing new ones for all of us tomorrow. He speculated that these kids had turned their papers in late. I know Swim Girl turned it in just two days after her acceptance, a week before the due date.

The ceremony began and the NJHS officers were the main presenters. When it was time to read the names of the 6th graders, they called the names so quickly that the kids were practically running across the stage. When they said Swim Girl’s name, they butchered her last name beyond recognition. It’s not that hard of a last name. It’s five letters for God’s sake.

She made her way across the stage, shook the officer’s hand and waited in front of her guidance counselor for her certificate. He scrambled for a bit, looking through the pile as the presenters continued to rattle through names at warp speed. Eventually he told her he didn’t have one for her and she left the stage empty-handed. I could tell she was devastated. The girl should not ever play poker.

I felt a knot in the back of my throat. My Mom looked like she was going to cry, and I just wanted to stand up and scream that it’s just not fair.

I’m sick of my girl getting the short end of the stick. I’m sick of her being treated like a door mat by some of her supposed friends, and I’m incredulous that the school where she is subjected to snide comments by rude kids is now also the school that called her onto stage, only to send her away with nothing.

When the ceremony was over, one of my good friends came to talk to me and to hug Swim Girl. She had watched it like everyone else. She whispered something in Swim Girl’s ear which prompted a feeble attempt at a smile. As we stood there and I had to start chasing Little Man, the guidance counselor came over and began apologizing to my friend, thinking she was Swim Girl’s Mom. My friend pointed out his mistake and he turned to apologize to me. He said she’d have her certificate tomorrow morning, and I nodded and said “thanks.” I hope my non-poker face told him the whole story. I’m not happy. It’s an oversight that never should have happened, especially when you’re dealing with the already fragile psyche of a middle school girl who already feels like an outsider, the forgotten child, the ignored friend. He couldn’t have picked a worse time or kid to forget.

I’d like to tell them exactly what I think about her being forgotten. I’d like to scream, yell, and let them know how irritated and disappointed I am that they did this to my daughter. But what’s done is already done. Nothing can take away what happened, or how she felt; and there’s nothing that’s going to make it better.

I encouraged her to run for an officer position within the NJHS. That way, she can help to insure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen to anyone else. But right now, her confidence is completely shattered, and that’s not going to happen unless we figure out some way to repair it.

Swim Girl has been begging me to home school her the entire year. I’ve told her “no,” on many occasions and expressed to her how important it is to be part of the school, how she wouldn’t have access to her amazing art teacher, or events like this. I just lost Exhibit B in my case for her staying there. Instead of being a night to remember, it’s one she’d like to forget.

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