Author Note: This chapter touches on the topic of bullying.
Oh I haven’t written that in a long time. It’s been awhile since my last update.
Carrie came home from school, distressed. She was selected to be the Juicy Orange Bear, her class mascot, for the school year. She talked to Joseph for hours at the kitchen counter about all her responsibilities. How she would give the morning announcements over the loudspeaker and promote school spirit at sporting games and events and star in the upcoming fall play.
She spoke with Ali, our neighbor, about what it’s like to be a professional mascot. Ali was more than enthusiastic and invited Carrie to shadow her at work. Carrie was even going to write a paper on the subject.
Then, something changed. Carrie grew increasingly upset and agitated. She wouldn’t take the costume off… ever. Even when I suggested a fresh launder. I tried everything – giving her space, talking with her, taking her out for ice cream, letting her stay up a half hour later to play Voidcritters, asking her to do more chores, and I even went as far as asking Karleen for help. That didn’t end well. Karleen came over and sat on Carrie’s bed and told her there was one thing that cheered her up and it started with an ‘woo’ and ended with an ‘hoo.’ I chewed her out for talking about inappropriate things with my daughter. She merely shrugged and said it was good for Carrie to know about the facts of life. Thanks for nothing, Karleen!
Carrie would crawl onto her bed and cry herself to sleep every night. Joseph and I were so confused. He tried talking to her a few times, but she kept sniffling and saying she was embarrassed. I asked her if it was about her grades. Yet her report cards said she was doing better this school year. I asked her if it was about a boy. She snapped at me and told me to go away. I quietly asked her if it was about a girl… shouldn’t discriminate… or if the other girls were being mean to her. She just turned over and let out a little sigh before sobbing.
When she did come out of her room, she was sullen and moody. She would snip at her siblings, even going as far as to yell at Parker. She would lock herself in the bathroom for over an hour. I could hear the familiar music on her tablet, indicating she was playing Voidcritters, and an occasional barrage of dinging, indicating she was receiving messages through her app.
One night when she was sleeping, I picked up the tablet and scrolled through the messages. It was horrifying. Several of her classmates called her ‘ugly’ repeatedly. Some called my precious, healthy daughter ‘fat.’ They said things like no one wanted to see her face and that’s why she had been selected for the mascot. I gasped and nearly dropped the tablet on the bathroom floor. This was not okay.
“Joseph, it’s unacceptable! How can these kids be so cruel?” I exclaimed while giving Marshall a bath that evening.
“I dunno,” Joseph said, wrapping a towel around his waist after stepping from the shower. As he brushed his teeth at the sink, he continued, “We should talk to her teachers.”
“We should remove the messaging app from her tablet!” I said. “I don’t want her to see those words anymore.”
“Or at least block specific users,” Joseph replied, spitting into the sink. “There’s no point in punishing Carrie.”
“What? You can do that?” I said, amazed.
“The wonders of modern technology,” Joseph grinned and kissed my cheek. “I’ll do it tonight.”
I let the bath water drain and towel dried Marshall, formulating a plan in my mind to speak with the teachers, and possibly the parents of these kids.
“Arrrgh!!! Parker! Why did you make a mess?”
My most rambunctious triplet had tossed her daddy’s shaving cream and some of my mud facial scrub on the floor of the bathroom.
“I make shapes!” Parker squealed.
“Noooooo!! No, Parker. No, it’s not okay to drop stuff on the floor like this,” I grunted, cracking my knuckles.
“Bu….but…Car-wie is!” Parker’s lower lip wobbled.
“Carrie is working on her science project,” I explained.
“Bu…but… things…go…booooooom!!” Parker waved her hands excitedly. “Mess. All Over!” she made zooming sounds and explosion sounds.
Ugh! Why did I feel so frustrated? Why did the sight of one more mess make me feel nauseous? Why couldn’t my kids go one day without making a mess? It was bad enough Carrie was still in her bear costume weeks later.
We had spoken with her teachers, and advocated for an anti-bullying workshop for the classes. Joseph spent time monitoring Carrie’s messages for any signs of continued problems, but so far nothing.
We tried positive reinforcement. We told all our kids every day they were loved and beautiful. Maybe hearing it over time would help. Joey always grinned and said, “No mommy… you boo-ti-ful!” Carrie just rolled her eyes, when she wasn’t in costume. I took Carrie to pick out a new outfit once, and asked if she’d like to get her hair styled a certain way for a fresh look. She just flinched and jerked away.
We took Carrie to see a counselor. It was probably past time we did. She was still struggling to call me ‘mom’ and with the trauma of losing both parents, it made things difficult. She still claimed to see her deceased mother floating around from time to time. The therapist told us this was normal for children to imagine their loved ones still with them and with time, this would change. I wondered if Carrie had an overactive imagination trying to cope with grief or if she really did see Catarina. The therapist also said it wasn’t about us. Carrie may never call me mom and I would have to accept it. Of course, I was defensive and frustrated about it, but Joseph calmed me down after leaving the office. The counselor did have a point. I should focus on building a healthy relationship with her. Labels didn’t matter.
“No more messes, Parker,” I declared. “Now you are going to help me clean this up…”
When I bent over to the floor, my back cracked. Ooo! I needed a chiropractic adjustment. Or a massage. Or an adjustment for life.
“Ma…ma!” Parker held her hands. “Saw-we!”
“I forgive you,” I sighed as we began wiping up the shaving cream.
“Ma-ma!” Parker continued.
The little pink-and-yellow clad monster threw herself at me with a big warm embrace. I smiled. It was just what I needed.
Author Notes: Thanks for reading. This chapter featured This chapter featured InfraGreen‘s Carrie and Marshall, and LegacySims2017‘s Joseph, and mentioned friendsfan367‘s Ali Morrison and Karleen Corey. Didn’t get good pictures of them so I couldn’t include it. As an important aside, bullying is never okay. Carrie really did wander around in her bear costume for weeks after having an unfortunate mean encounter with some kids once or twice in public. It seemed like a good opportunity to talk about bullying. This website has many good resources if you’re a victim of bullying, or you see bullying happen. Change the culture. Stomp out bullying.