Early in his grade school years, my son told me that his friends said a girl in the classroom next door had a crush on him.

“They keep saying that Melissa [named changed for privacy] has a crush on me. I don’t know who Melissa is!”

When I asked him how he felt about it, he said he was not sure if his friends were teasing him or not. As he put it “they might be punking me, Mom.”

At that time I volunteered a couple of hours a week at my son’s school. I worked in the library, enjoying the Type A-personality, mildly OCD satisfaction from re-shelving the books in the right order.

Sometimes the kids asked me for help. The first graders were so adorable as they went through the library looking for books, finding a spot on a comfy couch, starting reading, and then running over to me to show to me, the first adult in sight, what they found. “Look! The caterpillar turned into a butterfly!”

Once in a while, I would remind kids to lower their voices, to not throw things, etc. I tried not to be too intrusive since I was a volunteer and not a teacher or librarian.

One day there were two boys in the back of the library sitting on the floor near where I was re-shelving. A girl was sitting on the floor a few feet from them, talking to them. The boys said in unison, quite unkindly “No one wants to hear what you have to say.”

I walked over and said in a low voice “That was not very nice, was it?” One boy looked sullen and the other looked guilty.

Then I looked at the girl sitting alone. She did not seem surprised by their comment; she did not seem shocked or visibly hurt.

She was used to it and had internalized whatever hurt and embarrassment she had felt.

I realized, being the mom of a “quirky” child, that this girl may also have been a “quirky” child.

I also realized that this was not the first time these boys had been mean to her because their unkindness to her seemed well-rehearsed and familiar. They were not uncomfortable with what they said to her.

Then I learned that she was Melissa from the classroom next door and my heart sank because the odds of my son being right about being “punked” had increased significantly.

She may or may not have had a crush on him, and may instead have been the focus of a joke because she was a quirky girl that kids in her class had no problem being mean to.

Or my son might have been the focus of a joke as the quirky kid in his class.

Or she might really have had a crush on my son and there was no ill will involved at all.

The fact that my son was aware that he was potentially “being punked” might not have made him feel better if he got hurt or embarrassed. If the girl was also included in the “punking,” then two children might have gotten hurt.

I had to decide the best way to protect my son, and perhaps protect Melissa, without raising the social stakes for either of them with their peers.

I decided to report the library incident to the principal, but not the potential “punking.” It seemed the best way to deal with the incident without possibly making things worse for the Navigator and Melissa.

The school was very receptive of my report, and seemed that the instigator in the library meanness incident was well known, and a repeat offender.

Understandably, the school did not talk about what they were going to do to follow-up. 

Most importantly, after that the Navigator said nothing more about the girl with the crush or his friends saying anything about it.

To my relief, the issue gently disappeared.

As a parent it is hard to know when to step in and help, and when to step back and let your kid handle and learn from complicated social issues.

I was glad this one seemed to work out ok.


  1. Wow! My first inclination would be to say let this go. One thing I’ve learned just recently is that 3rd grade is apparently the grade when it’s ok to send or receive the first ‘real’ Valentine. Who knew? I heard some other moms talking about learning about this and couldn’t believe it so I asked my girls. They confirmed that to be true and that other kids were talking about who their girlfriends and boyfriends were for this Valentine’s Day. Hmmm. I asked if they were planning on sharing a special Valentine with someone or if they knew someone was going to give them a special Valentine and thankfully, they said no. My guess is that the kids are having fun with this new found knowledge and wanting everyone to have a ‘new love’. I’m hoping they aren’t that sinister and purposely trying to hurt your son’s feelings by giving him a new girlfriend. I think it’s pretty common for kids to tease when it comes to this stuff and I recall way back when I was in school it happened then. It was hard to know if that kid really did have a crush on you or if you were being ‘punked’. So, I’ll anxiously be awaiting to hear the rest.

  2. That poor girl. I don’t have children even close to that age yet so I can’t offer a lot of advice from a Mother’s stand point. However as the quirky child in school I can offer some.

    My Mom stuck up for me A LOT in school. Middle school especially. I was in and out of the counselors office so often they knew me by name in a really big school. Eventually this started really hurting me because every time I went it only made the situation worse. More and more people began to refuse talking to me. It made things incredibly difficult and I eventually learned to stop telling my Mom at all.

    However I was quite a bit older and had spent most of my elementary years being homeschooled. Plus bullying is much less tolerated in this day and age. So I’m not sure exactly what I wold do in this situation. Since they are so young I would go ahead and report the situation to the teachers and principal so they have an idea of what’s going on in the future. Good luck. I hope you get it all figured out.

  3. Can you try to continue to get to know the little girl better? Maybe you can get a better feel for the situation by just befriending her. I’ve learned from some personal experience to focus on the surroundings rather than the “problem” and answer sometimes come that way. A peripheral view if you will…

  4. That is a tough call. I’d mention what happened in the library and then just wait and see on the rest. It is so hard to know on things like this.


    A couple of weeks ago I posted about my son being told a girl in another class had a crush on him, that he was concerned he was being “punked,” and how I learned that the girl in question was on the receiving end of meanness from boys in her class. You can read the post here.I was concerned that if this girl was the subject of meanness, then my son might be too, with kids telling him she had a crush on him. After asking for comments, readers and friends gave me great advice, both in the comments to …

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