"Odd Girl Out" ... anybody read? Any comments? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 21 Old 07-07-2003, 10:38 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thought to put this in the Books&Media forum, but this felt more like a parenting issue, so if the mods want to move it, I understand ...



Anybody read this? It's about the "culture of aggression" in girls, and the extraordinary level of malevolence that surrounds their interactions with friends & peers.

It hit me on a personal level, as the victim of this from one particular person (whom I'll call Jane) for many years.

In awesome irony, as an adult I met Jane's younger sister (didn't know who she was at the time) and we became friends. She talked to Jane about me, and was told that I was mean to Jane because I didn't invite her to a birthday party in 8th grade.

Now, mind you, this is after 1st through 7th not being invited to her parties ... or being ostracized, or or or or ... you get the point. In a school with less than 20 kids in your grade, that's not so easy to live with.

So in junior high, when we finally had 60 kids in our grade, and I didn't invite her to a birthday party ... that is what she remembers.

And we're both over 40 now, so the fact that we're still feeling these things is fascinating ...

:sigh




Anyway, the thought of my DD being put through what Jane put me through is torture to me. Reading this book scared me, because I always thought it was my bad luck to know Jane, not that this was standard operating procedure in girls' relationships.





Anyway, any other experiences? Thoughts?

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#2 of 21 Old 07-07-2003, 10:55 AM
 
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I haven't read the book nor was I involved in any abuse in school but my best friend has horrid stories about jr high. I am very interested in this topic because I have a very "bossy" daughter and I am trying very hard to counteract it. One of the tradtional "jobs" of women in Western cultures was to keep the other women in line and force them to behave within the cultural norm. I wonder if we are teaching our daughters this without even knowing it. Women are so much harder on themselves and other women than men are on men or women.

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#3 of 21 Old 07-07-2003, 12:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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You know, in DS#1's preschool class there was already an incident like this, two years ago in Nursery where one child (whose mother and I are friends) was being ostracized by "the clique."

Can you believe it, 3yo girls already doing the clique thing, and ostracizing a girl, ostensibly because she's too tomboyish? Or at least that's what the clique's mothers all said, "Maybe if she wore more girlish clothes" and all these other offensive suggestions as to why their daughters were so mean to this sweet little girl.

That said, my son was uninvolved (being a boy, right?) so I was totally unaware of this situation.

The whole thing is too freaky.

Granted, in this case the mothers are probably like that, so maybe that's how the daughters learn, but really, isn't 3 too young for such nonsense?

Though it happened to me starting in 1st grade, so that's 5-6, right?

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#4 of 21 Old 07-07-2003, 12:24 PM
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I was bullied by a girl from grade 3 to 5 (she moved, YEAH!). I had to be her friend or she would beat me up. I see now that she had a bad home life. I think she may have been sexually abused but I still have a hard time forgiving her. I saw her once when I was around 20 and I was still scared of her and she was still threatening me.

I have had a hard time developing close relationships with girls all my life. I always had girl friends but I kept them at a distance until recently (I'm 41). I always felt more comfortable with boys but of course there came a time when they were scary, too (not interested in just being friends). This girl was the only one who physically threatened me but there were lots of others who were psychologically threatening (teasing, ostracizing, etc.).
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#5 of 21 Old 07-07-2003, 12:41 PM
 
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Read the book and really liked it, but was left wondering okay, what do we do about the problem? Talking to victims of "silent aggression" is one thing, but what about the girls causing all the pain? How can their behavior be changed? I don't think these girls are bad, they are acting in a way that works for them or they wouldn't keep it up. I feel overwhelmed with the enormity of the issue because it's so ignored by society, yet it has such potential to really alter girls lives.
I have a dd and I don't want her to suffer as so many girls do. I experienced some of being the one left out when my family moved cross courtry. For the most part I was always the girl everyone was friendly with, not part of the inner sanctum. I feel this way today as well. It's like the whole rules of female friendship are hard for me to understand. I have a couple female friends, but it seems to me like it comes so much easier to some people. Starting to ramble but I really enjoyed the book and was excited to see someone else bring up the topic.
I also did a friendship group for fourth grade girls last spring and I was amazed at the amount of cruelty going on amongst them. The group was hand-picked by teachers for their "issues", yet the girls causing the problems were not in the group, so I ended up working with the victims, not the instigators. I found it very interesting that the teachers did not see what was really going on.
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#6 of 21 Old 07-07-2003, 02:45 PM
 
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merpk, (OT) still can't get used to that name change

I have not read that book, but I have read Women's Inhumanity to Women. It is all about how women treat women and how it starts at a very young age.

The author (I don't know off hand) states that many times mothers undercut and compete with daughters. Sisters also compete and then this behavior is taken outside of the home. Comments about appearence are used to wound. Silent treatment is a passive way to damage a girl. It also talks about how girls are more emotionally mature at a younger age and so they learn earlier on how to wound in deeper/emotional ways.

The girls in my school were brutal. Most were acting in self preservation though. It seemed to be an I'll oust you before you oust be attitude and a herd mentality. One theory is that girls/women have the need to be more social than boys, so this kind of wounding would affect females more deeply.

Also many girls are praised for their physical attributes, so that would become important early on in peer settings for a lot of girls.

I am rambling... But I find this topic endlessly fascinating.

I will check some stuff that I have written about this and I will try to come back tonight.
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#7 of 21 Old 07-07-2003, 03:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was also a little peeved by the fact that the book doesn't take on the aggressors, just listens to the victims. Which needs to be done, I guess, but would have been a little more helpful to me as a mother ... and as a former victim ... to understand this stuff a little more.

MamaOui, I find this all endlessly fascinating, too. So much so that this is the only book I've actually made time to sit down and read in quite some time.

Oh, and ... OT ... a nice side-benefit of the new name, keeping y'all on yer toes ... :LOL
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#8 of 21 Old 07-07-2003, 05:40 PM
 
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Did you ever read Margaret Atwood's novel, Cat's Eye? That would be a good book to read on this.

My story: there was a little girl in my 3rd-4th grade combined classroom who told me that I was "scummy" for wearing the same clothes twice in one week. She was snotty and awful. She was also the youngest sister in a family of four, chubby and awkward.

What does she remember about me? That when we were in high school, I encouraged her creativity and told her she was funny and smart. I don't even remember saying those things to her. She told another friend that it was a turning point for her, that no one had ever said those things to her. (She was funny and smart!) That would tell you a lot about why she acted the way she did when we were 8 and 9.

I wish I knew how a parent could tease-proof a child. I think if you love them warmly and unconditionally and don't criticize them much, they develop a lot of self-confidence and know how to deal with light teasing so that it doesn't develop into heavy mean teasing and ostracizing. This is my hope, anyway.

Divorced mom of one awesome boy born 2-3-2003.
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#9 of 21 Old 07-07-2003, 08:00 PM
 
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Here's a bit of what I posted about that other book I mentioned:
I just started reading the book last night and I am very sleep deprived, so when I can process and paraphrase some of what I have read, I will.

Some basic themes I am getting are that women don't like to confront one another, so we end up holding gruges. Women need to be more direct. The most common problem daughters seem to have with mothers is criticism, which makes it hard for women to except constructive criticism. Women/girls use verbal and indirect aggression (such as gossip, ignoring, forming cliques so those who won't conform will feel insecure) to wound.

My ds#2 is crawling all over me and hanging upside down......
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#10 of 21 Old 07-08-2003, 01:16 AM
 
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I had two very intense female relationships, one from 1st through 3rd grade, on from 6th through about 10th grade. The first one I thought of as a witch. Not "rhymes with...", but a genuine, magical power-possessing being. I couldn't understand why I disliked her so much and still wanted her to like me, and would do things to ensure that.

Also a girl from a troubled home.

In 3rd grade (and I remember this all very, very clearly), I managed to "break the spell". We had a class camping trip, and were choosing tents. She assumed I would be in her tent, and I decided to share a tent with a new tomboyish friend and two male friends. (All very innocent.) I clearly remember everyone being just shocked... SHOCKED!... that I had the wherewithal to do such a thing, and being very proud of myself that I pulled it off.

Similar story with the second girl, but I need to go to bed.

At any rate, moral (such as it is) is that I think I had a pretty good base of self-worth, from my parents and elsewhere, that helped me to deal. And deal I did.
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#11 of 21 Old 07-08-2003, 01:49 AM
 
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I haven't read the book but I did see the author on a talk show and got the general idea of what it is about. I think it is about time that someone approached this topic and brought it out into the open. I think a lot of women continue this behavior throughout life, it isn't necessarily something girls grow out of. It becomes more subtle but is still there... I have to confess that I have been on both ends at different times in my life but I make a conscious effort to avoid gossip and to approach people directly about conflict/issues. In general, I find that most women are very uncomfortable discussing conflict and will often change friends just to avoid working out an issue. Sometimes I think this comes into play on message boards too although not as much on Mothering message board. Another parenting board I used to visit was very clicky!
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#12 of 21 Old 07-08-2003, 01:53 AM
 
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Sorry, the other board I was referring to seemed to be dominated by a few posters and they often ignored posts by new members or infrequent posters. I really haven't seen this on Mothering at all. I shouldn't post in a hurry.
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#13 of 21 Old 07-08-2003, 02:25 AM - Thread Starter
 
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sozobe, you made me think about my parents' reaction to my "Jane" situation. And they reacted pretty strongly, but I have no recollection if they ever called her parents or not. Don't know. I have a specific memory of my mother sitting on the side of my bed (when I was trying to get her to keep me home from school, and telling me, "The rest of your life, wherever you go, there will always be Janes. You may as well learn to deal with them now." And I suppose I did.

So now, 30+ years later, I'm friends with Jane's younger sister. And my parents don't want to know about it. When I have brought her up, my mother makes a face and turns the subject elsewhere.

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#14 of 21 Old 07-08-2003, 02:30 AM
 
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I was "victimized" by a nasty girl all through elementary school, until grade 6 when I finally realized that trying to be friends with people who really didn't like you was a waste of time. I befriended all the other unpopular kids and found, to my surprise, that they made much better friends. The girl who made me so miserable was the "Nellie" to my "Laura Ingles". Seriously, every time I watched Little House I thought (that's just like me and K). As an adult I still find myself reacting as a little girl to any mention of her. I recognize now that she was jealous of me, and that's why she was so mean to me. But when my parents tried to tell me that as a child, it made no sense to me (I couldn't understand why she'd be jealous of *me*).

From a philosophical standpoint, I feel that in certain ways, women are biolgically programmed to be gossipy, meaning that we form and break alliances through secret sharing and betraying those secrets to others. That doesn't mean that we can't actively strive to be ethical in our behaviour, but it does help me when I understand where something comes from. In the context of hunters/gatherers it does make sense to have such a pattern of behaviour (I'm influenced also by a book called "Grooming, Gossip, and the origin of Language").

Also, humans are social creatures and as such there are hierarchy's that develop. I tend to see competitiveness, dominance, and its close relation - bullying - as modern manifestations of that age-old battle for one's place in the social structure of the "herd" or group. Again, not that this is an excuse to act unethically but it does help me figure it out.

Now what I'd like to hear are practical suggestions for dealing with this (innate?) behaviour on the part of women in general. So this thread interests me a great deal.

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#15 of 21 Old 07-08-2003, 04:19 AM
 
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I think that having women like merpk's mom say:
Quote:
"The rest of your life, wherever you go, there will always be Janes. You may as well learn to deal with them now."
is a good start.

I am pregnant with #3 and if I have a daughter, I think the best thing that I can do for her is to be self confident, treat the women and girls in my life and myself with respect, let her know that she can do anything and that being different is a GOOD thing, and to praise her for her personality, abilities, her emotional sensitivity...not the surface stuff. And as the mother of two boys, I can teach my boys those same lessons and hope that they value and respect women for all that they are.


As a pre-teen and teenager, I saw some of the smartest and neatest young women, tear each other down. I just stopped hanging out with them and got some great male friends and a few new female friends.

As a late teen and in my early 20's, I was leary of forming close bonds with women. I have always had some close female friends, but I thought they were exceptions to the rule. I am happy that I have let more women into my life.

More on those teens and pre-teens. I grew up with most of them and we all grew up in a small town. A lot of the mothers seemed to have a need for their girls to be popular. They would actually gossip with the girls about their friends, encourage the name brand fashion stuff, were very critical of their daughters...I have some perspective on this, because I still know some of these mothers and daughters now. My mother still wants to be popular, but that's a long story. Briefly, she really values external beauty and she is never happy with her physical appearence. Success to her is measured by the almighty dollar. She is in her 50's now, but tells everyone that she is 49...

Anyhoo

I'd love to hear from some moms with pre-teens or teenage girls. How is everyhting going for your daughters?
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#16 of 21 Old 07-08-2003, 11:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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One of the themes in "Odd Girl Out" was that this cruelty was found in the context of friendship, often very close friendship.

That wasn't my experience. I attended a very small school, and Jane and I most certainly weren't friends, but at the same time couldn't avoid each other since the school was so small.

Knowing how other mamas have dealt/are dealing with this, with daughters on either side of the divide, would be helpful ...

Anyone?
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#17 of 21 Old 12-23-2004, 04:25 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Digging this thread out of obscurity, because now DD#1's class is having this stuff happen. And it's not clear if DD herself is involved.

There's a child in DD#1's preK who is totally in DD's face. (I witnessed this the other day, brought her to school, and as soon as her jacket was hung on her hook, this girl came over ... several inches taller than DD, too ... and literally got in DD's face, with her hands on her hips and her chest pushed out ... man. ) And so DD told me that she told this girl that if the girl continues to be mean to her, that DS#1 (who's 2 years older) will come beat the girl up. And yeah, she got the idea because she was talking about how this girl was mean, and so DS#1 got all protective and said, "If she does that to you again, I'll karate-kick her." (He was in the middle of practicing kicks during this conversation.) So DD took that and ran with it, I guess ...



So, I spoke to the girl's mother. Who says that all the children in the class (girls, that is) are picking on her daughter, are ostracizing her daughter, are mean to her daughter, are not inviting her daughter to their birthday parties (there haven't been any ... or else they're not inviting DD either because I haven't heard of any). But I don't know. May be happening.

And I'm not sure where DD fits in to all of this. And if I ask what's going on with her and this girl, I get a 4yo's answer. IYKWIM.



Oy.



Anybody dealing with these situations with girls?
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#18 of 21 Old 12-23-2004, 09:20 AM
 
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merpk,

I'm sorry you're having to deal with this already. PreK is so young isn't it? And it's always difficult in the beginning to figure out what's happening especially since as parents we want to defend our chidlren (thinking of the mom and the reasons why her daughter is aggressive).

I would start with the teachers...they see so much that the kids don't even recognize as silencing or alienating. Just mention that your DD mentioned having difficulties with the little girl and do they have any help or comments. I did this with my son and a situation last month. He too is in PreK and mentioned that he and another child (boy) are always fighting. I was worried my son was being a brute or something (see, when it's boys it's easier to think of them beig aggressive despite no previous history) and maybe the teacher's were shaking their heads and frustrated without my knowing. Turns out the other little boy is having troubles adjusting to being in school and is acting out with all the kids, but to prevent this child from being labelled the teacher's haven't brough it up except in cases where a parent approaches them. And they've made it clear to the kids that they wouldn't let someone else hurt them, and the staff are working very hard on redirection. I felt much better leaving the school that day knowing my son isn't being a bully. But I questioned why I was quick to think fear he was. Working on that. Not the same issue for you.

I know it's a different dynamic with and between girls, but maybe a teacher can shed some insight? I know with the little boy in my son's PreK the problem got worse for a bit as the other kids saw him as aggressive or mean etc. That alienated the boy even more than he was already feeling so we've spent some time talking about why that boy is having trouble (his first language is French and the school is bilingual and the English is tiring and frustrating for him.)

Probably no help at all.

I do remember in school the worst cases of bullying I faced were within my group of friends. A close friend and I were singled out by our other close friends (a group of 6 - we were all inseperable) and life was extremely difficult for the year it lasted. And I still don't know why it all happened or what made the friends turn that way, but it was MEAN. My one friend had to bring in school offlicials and police because they were subscribing her to porn magazines, forging her signature. And when the magazines and bills started coming in all the magazines were contaced by her parents and they all cancelled the subscribtions and cleared up the money owing except PlayBoy. Foe a year or so they fought that and it put a black mark on her credit rating. The girls decided they would get sexually explicit in their treatment of me: everything from calling my house and saying obscene things into the phone, regardless of who answered, driving by my house and yelling things out whether or not anyone was outside, same things in the halls at school. And none of it was questioning my behaviour (as in you s***) but just weird sexual comments.

With girls the bullying is much more humiliation based that guys, it seems. Guys, for the most part, just want to physically hurt each other and girls, from my own experiences, go for psychological pain and they do it publically.
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#19 of 21 Old 12-23-2004, 12:32 PM
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Wow, this is a blast from the past! But still a fascinating subject.

I'm at work so I can't say much but here's two points:

1. I think it's important to say to kids that are being bullied "You don't deserve this, no one deserves this. She's got a problem that unfortunately we have to deal with." I worry that by saying: "The rest of your life, wherever you go, there will always be Janes. You may as well learn to deal with them now" will just create another Jane. If you can't beat 'em join 'em.

2. You Can't Say You Can't Play by Vivian Gussin Paley is a fascinating book about group dynamics at school. I wish all schools applied this simple rule.

Gotta go, Liz
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#20 of 21 Old 12-24-2004, 10:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by merpk
Digging this thread out of obscurity, because now DD#1's class is having this stuff happen. And it's not clear if DD herself is involved.

There's a child in DD#1's preK who is totally in DD's face. (I witnessed this the other day, brought her to school, and as soon as her jacket was hung on her hook, this girl came over ... several inches taller than DD, too ... and literally got in DD's face, with her hands on her hips and her chest pushed out ... man. ) And so DD told me that she told this girl that if the girl continues to be mean to her, that DS#1 (who's 2 years older) will come beat the girl up. And yeah, she got the idea because she was talking about how this girl was mean, and so DS#1 got all protective and said, "If she does that to you again, I'll karate-kick her." (He was in the middle of practicing kicks during this conversation.) So DD took that and ran with it, I guess ...



So, I spoke to the girl's mother. Who says that all the children in the class (girls, that is) are picking on her daughter, are ostracizing her daughter, are mean to her daughter, are not inviting her daughter to their birthday parties (there haven't been any ... or else they're not inviting DD either because I haven't heard of any). But I don't know. May be happening.

And I'm not sure where DD fits in to all of this. And if I ask what's going on with her and this girl, I get a 4yo's answer. IYKWIM.



Oy.



Anybody dealing with these situations with girls?
ugh! Don't you hate this sort of crap!

I read Odd Girl Out and loved it. What I appreciated most was that it offered insight into situations that are aggressive that you would never consider bad. Such as the 'bully girl' bringing gifts to school. Turns out, the exact same thing happened to my dd in 1st grade. It was wonderful to be able to recognize and handle the situation.

My dd is 9 and in 3rd grade now so we are careful!

The biggest thing I have taken from the book is to help dd voice her opinion to her friends and not keep it inside. It seems like to me that 2nd grade is a huge problem for girls. I believe it to be a time of confusion where they are really trying to figure out relationships. And the fallout can be nasty. My dd had a horrible time last year. I involved the teacher and the other parents and the school guidance counselor. Now the girls who were involved never really came around, but like I told the teacher, they don't have to like my dd, they don't have to play with my dd, but they sure as hell aren't going to be mean to her! Basically, dd and I ended up doing a lot of role playing and giving her things to say when the girls would act out to her.

My advice to you would just be to keep a running dialogue with your dd. It appears that a running theme for dd when she was having problems was "You can't play with her" or "I'm your best friend, you have to play with me" or the whole club thing comes into play and my dd would just go along with it! One example I've used with my dd is to ask her how many friends mommy has. I ask her if Mommy has one friend and that's all or if mommy has many friends. And what does she think mommy would do if my friend told me I couldn't call anybody but her! DD laughed out loud when I explained that. The thought of Miss Nancy telling mommy what to do was funny to dd.

I'm sorry you have to deal with this. It's very hard. I am sure I will end up homeschooling dd (and the boys).


Trying to do the right thing with three kids and a hubby. 
ds20, dd18, ds16

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#21 of 21 Old 12-25-2004, 02:05 PM
 
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ugh. this thread brings back yucky feeling from being in school. this sort of peer interaction certianly plays a part in my choice to homeschool. not that homeschooled kids are any better/nicer to each other...they go thru the same behaviors. I think that the differance is that parents are able to see it sooner and work to prevent it. I often have pulled one of my children aside and talked to them about treating others with respect, not excluding anyone. I have often heard kids in our group stand up to another child and say "I do not allow anyone to treat me that way. If you keep being mean...I will just ignore you"

mom to four lively children. birth and postpartum doula. midwifery student. choosing to enjoy life. :
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