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Take Six Minutes and Avoid the Sh*tstorm

“You gave me diarrhea.”

No, not you, fellow reader. I haven’t the faintest idea if your household just survived the latest Norovirus outbreak or if you’ve recently eaten at Chipolte. Besides, we’ve never shaken hands — not that I’m implying you don’t wash yours after taking care of business. I’m sure you do.

My daughter came home the other day to share that a classmate told her this. The accuser repeated those words, “You gave me diarrhea,” throughout the entire day as if her mouth had a bad case of the runs. Other classmates laughed. They inched away from my girl at lunch. Hands disappeared under tushes when it came time to take hers at an assembly. My girl was gravely upset; she suffered embarrassment and shame.

Now there are some parents out there who pounce like savage tigers when they’re told their kid’s feelings have been hurt. Like deranged lunatics, they bang out enraged emails to the teacher, demanding he or she handle it the next school day. They’re convinced it’s “the teacher’s job” to deal with such drama. There are others who resort to social media. They post vague statuses such as “Third grade girls are so mean!” which turns into a thread of commentary from the peanut gallery. Nosebags chime in: What happened? Oh no, what now? I’m calling you to talk! Commiserators throw in their own two cents: I agree! Avery had issues this year too. Debbie Downers weigh in: Just wait until she gets to middle school. It’s so much worse! Nothing gets resolved. You’re left no choice but to unsubscribe from the thread, lest be sucked in yourself, and your finger flirts with the “unfollow” button on that parent’s profile page.

And then there are those parents, like me, who take a moment to assess the situation. They ask themselves: Was my kid being an a-hole? Because, let’s face it: sometimes our precious, perfect children act like little assholes.

With that said, I instinctively asked my daughter, “What did you do?” While I already knew she and this girl were friends, I still needed context. Satisfied things were status quo, I checked “Being an asshole” off my list of possible causes of the defamation.

Could she have really given this girl diarrhea? I forced myself to reflect on my girl’s recent bowel movements. Let’s face it: Kids aren’t the most hygienic. I’ve picked enough dry snot off of school library books and have been in enough classrooms to see that little hands feel most at home when they’re down a pair of pants. But no — nothing out of the norm there. My child, like most her age, thrives on a carb laden diet devoid of anything created outside of a factory. If anything, she struggles with the antithesis of diarrhea.

Unable to come up with a valid reason for her classmate’s slanderous claim, I suddenly started to stew. This kid, whom I once welcomed into my home for a few play dates (I even made her grilled cheese and let her graze on snacks all day), now sounded like a first-class bitch.

“What do you mean she said, ‘You gave me diarrhea’?” I asked.

“She means that when she went to the bathroom it was all —“ she started.

“Never mind. I get it,” I interrupted to her.

So it was what it was: A low blow. A “mean girl” thing. I comforted my daughter, letting her cry in my arms. I rubbed her back and whispered in her ear, “I know. You’re upset. You feel embarrassed. It was a mean thing of her to say.”

I contemplated my options. Crazy teacher email or passive-aggressive Facebook post? I opted for neither. Instead, I chose the road less taken. And that, my friends, made all the difference.

I called the parent directly. The conversation lasted a mere six minutes. Six minutes. After an exchange of pleasantries, I stuck to the facts: Your daughter told the class repeatedly my daughter gave her diarrhea. It made my girl feel mortified and ashamed. And then I made my request: Can you explain to your daughter that it hurt my girl’s feelings and ask her not to do it again?

The response? “I’m really sorry she said that. That wasn’t nice. I’ll talk to her tonight, and she’ll apologize tomorrow. She won’t be saying that again.”

In those six minutes, I accomplished a lot. I spared my daughter’s teacher a crazed email come morning. (Teachers have to deal with enough crap; we should cut them some slack every now and then.) I avoided looking like a jackass on social media and maintained the friends who follow me. More importantly, I did two of the most essential things I can do as a mom. First, I was an advocate for my child. Those six minutes showed her that she has worth and value; they gave substance to the words I tell her all the time: You are important, and you are loved. In addition, in those six minutes I modeled how we as human beings need to handle conflict. I was calm. I was direct. I asked for what I needed.

My girl came home the next day with an apologetic note from her classmate. She told me about a game they played at recess. Apparently, like diarrhea, such things come to pass swiftly in the kid world. I’m sure the girl will be over sometime in the near future for another play date. (Except maybe this time, she won’t be grazing on any snacks or eating grilled cheese.)

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