Girl #1. When 7-year-old Maria returned home from school,
she immediately went to her room, collected all her dolls and threw
them out of the house, even her Mrs. Beasley doll which was her
favorite. She told her astonished mother to get rid of them all, to
give them away, that she never wanted to see them again.
That was St. Patrick's Day, and the teacher had given each child a
cupcake with green icing. Maria took another child's
cupcake in addition her own, so she had to be punished. The teacher's aide restrained the squirming, crying Maria while the teacher repeatedly
hit her. Maria says that the more she screamed and struggled, the harder
she got hit.
The event had a more lasting effect than the large dark hematoma on
Maria's buttocks, which took about ten days to fade, and the loss
of her dolls. From that time on, Maria often experienced
unexplained vomiting in the mornings while preparing for school.
Whenever that happened, she remained home. Her school attendance
became increasingly irregular. When she did go to school, she was
subject to panic attacks brought on by trivial incidents. Over the
years, a few sympathetic teachers and counselors tried to get Maria
to calm down and get some benefit out of school but they weren't
This is just part of a much longer story told me by
Maria and her mother when Maria was in her late teens. Even though
the events they described happened years before, when they told the
part about the Mrs. Beasley doll, both women began to sob.
Girl #2. A mother was trying to make a point: "Violence,"
she said, "is not tolerated in our home. When I found my daughter
hitting her doll with a stick, I gave her a good spanking -- one
she wouldn't soon forget." I tried to explain that the child was merely
imitating the parent which is one of the ways all children learn.
"She was doing to her doll exactly what you do to her," I said. At
that point, the expression on the mother's face became cold and
distant and she answered, "I really don't want to argue with you
about this. You have your ideas and I have mine. So let's leave it
at that." We did.
Girl #3. A father in England e-mailed me this story. His
youngest daughter had just ripped her favorite doll to shreds. Why?
Because her sister had just smacked her. Why did the sister smack
her? Because she had been smacked by her big brother who had
just been smacked by his dad. "It became very clear to me what I
was doing to my family," confided my correspondent. Unfortunately,
not everybody learns that quickly.