Is your child a “Heather”?

by Honest Mom contributor, Janine Huldie – blogger at Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic

Is your child a Heather“Are you a Heather?” “No, I am a Veronica.” Yes, for those who can remember back that far, I am quoting a conversation from the 1988 movie Heathers between Winona Ryder (Veronica) and Christian Slater. You are probably asking – why I am doing this?

Well, I had an experience with my three-year-old daughter at her preschool, where she was involved in being a part of the so-called “in crowd.”

Let me set up a bit of background. My older daughter, Emma, has three cousins, and they all are born the same year and are the same age. They have, of course, been best friends and played with each other from pretty much as far back as they can remember

This year when Emma started preschool, both of her cousins did, too. They all go to the same school and are even in the same class. When Emma refers to her cousins, she simply says “My Friends.” Even though they are her cousins, to her they are just friends. We are so happy to see them together, because they do truly love each other.

And it is a very cute scene with the three of them walking down the hall holding hands, because they remind me (at least) of three little old ladies with their walking pace – and they sometimes bicker like them, too.

One of their classmates, another little girl (I will call her “Veronica”), was standing with her mom waiting for the day to begin. I had spoken to this mother a handful of times, and she always told me that Veronica talks about Emma often at home. Well, Veronica was standing there and wanted to hold hands with the three “Heathers.” If you have seen the movie Heathers, then you probably know where I am going with this. The Heathers, of course, wanted nothing to do with Veronica, and she stood there dejected, hiding behind her mother.

My heart broke for Veronica, because when I was young, I was never one of the popular kids, and I knew how it felt to be left out. I also was embarrassed and ashamed of Emma, because I have not raised her to be this type of person, and have always encouraged her to be outgoing (she was uber-shy even up to last year), but to be a kind and warm person, too.

I then tried to include Veronica by telling Emma that they were in the same class, so why not hold her hand, too? My “Heather” wanted no part of it, and that left me shocked and upset.

Emma went into class and I stayed behind to speak to Veronica’s mother, who was nothing short of gracious and totally understanding that the three girls grew up together.

But still, I came home feeling terrible and mentioned it to my husband Kevin when he called from work. He was just as appalled and thankfully on the same page as me. We discussed how we were truly not part of that in-crowd and remembered what that felt like way back when.

At dinnertime, Kevin had a conversation with our little “Heather” about what happened at school, and by the end of it, I felt he got his point across to Emma.

After their conversation was over, we both agreed that we needed to keep a better eye on the situation and even try to set up a playdate, so that Emma can play with Veronica more and get to know her better.

It is ironic, because last year another blogger was talking about “the mercy playdate” and how her son wanted nothing to do with it – but in the end it turned out more than fine and her son enjoyed himself. I even commented on that post that I didn’t think I would have to deal with this for a few years.

I guess I was off by a couple of years. But I will say this: I do not want my daughter to be a Heather and to be hurtful to other kids her age. And will do anything I can in my power to make sure of this.

Has your little kid been a “Heather” – or a “Veronica”? What did you do about it?

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51 Replies to “Is your child a “Heather”?”

  1. The thing I find is how terrifyingly easy it is for girls to behave like Heathers. ACK!!
    They can be quite the little sociopaths — at such a young age.


    1. I know Lady Estrogen, it is just totally scary. And believe me we weren’t prepared for this at this young age. But I will admit thankfully our daughter did understand and the girls became friends after this. And that line gets me every time!

  2. Did you look at her and say, “What’s your damage Heather?” Yes, my little one never wanted to play with a girl we carpooled to dance with. I kept counseling and encouraging her and now they are friends. It’s sometimes hard to remember what little time they have been on this Earth and there are so many lessons to be learned.

    1. This Mom, I didn’t, but believe me I held back, because yes sadly perfect line. But thankfully the situation did work itself out and the girls are now friends, but was shocked that it was occurring at such an early age.

  3. Great post Janine! With three daughters myself, I have also been appalled to see how young all of these "cliques" start. Like you , I was usually the Veronica that go left out. I certainly don't want my girls to be "heathers" or "Veronicas" and I hope they can find some middle ground. So far, I think they have! 🙂

  4. I have seen my daughter in both situations. Her first preschool when she was 2, she was a Veronica. When she was 4 she was a Heather. Now that she’s in bigger classes, she seems to be finding a happy medium between the two, and it changes with many situations. She’s never specifically excluded anyone (except her “annoying” littlest sister), but there have been times when she only wanted to play with one friend over another. I think that’s all normal parts of learning how to be a good person.

    1. Lori, I was so shocked that I did happen so early on for her, but thank you for sharing about your daughter here. And just happy to know that it isn’t just my daughter who had something like this happen at this age. Thanks!

  5. Lisa, I know the middle ground would be so nice. And we are trying so hard to instill this in both our girls now. I really thought I had a bit more time up until this, but I was so wrong. But I am more then making up for it now.

  6. Janine, I really love this post- when I read it before I loved it, and I still do. I just had an incident that reminded me of it a few days ago- my daughter had been friends with a “mean girl” in kindergarten, and in 1st grade we were grateful that they weren’t in the same class anymore. Izzy made a new BFF in 1st grade- a really sweet girl. This year, 2nd grade, all three girls are in the same class, and when I asked Izzy who she played with at recess she responded with the “mean girl”s name. My heart sunk, and I felt so worried that she was going to ditch her sweet friend because she was back with her old, unkind pal. Figuring out this friendship stuff,and knowing when to speak off and when to back off- is SO hard.

    1. Stephanie, I know seriously and this year the three girls are actually going to be separated and Emma and “Veronica” I believe are going to be in the same class. So, mine is reverse this year, because Emma and this little girl do seem to be friends now and thankful for that in the end. And she will always have her cousins, but sometimes I think it is healthy that they have their own friends, too. But you are so right it is so hard to figure out when to intervene and when to back off at times. Thank you though for sharing and seriously helps knowing it isn’t just me 🙂

  7. I think I haven’t seen it much yet. There was a time, though, that Scarlet wanted to play with her good friend at preschool and she was chasing her and the little girl was yelling, “Leave me alone!” That upset me for about a minute until her other friend came up and grabbed her hand and all was forgotten. A week later the reverse happened! The little girl who yelled at her wanted to play with Scarlet and she yelled back, “I’m busy, now go away!”

    1. Girls Tamara!! As my husband says there is always some kind of drama and we never know what to quite expect next! But, yes it is so true I see it with my own girls. One minute they want each and the next not so much. Thank you for sharing here 🙂

  8. I remember when my son was in preschool the moms and I would all talk about how quickly the “girl” stuff started. We were shocked that at age 3 there were already “in crowds.” The moms of the girls alternated between being the “Heather” mom one day and the “Veronica” mom the other. We also watched how differently the boys played. If the boys had a problem it was often expressed physically (it is the boy moms who are almost always told to wait after class!) and then it was over and the boys were friends again, but the girls, even at this young age, could hold a grudge. I think it’s great that you are working on this now. Thanks for a great post!

    1. Kathy, I swear I commented to you earlier, but going though now re-reading the comments and it seems that my comment to you never went through. But what I pretty much said earlier is it is so true how the girls seem to deal differently with these types of issues versus the boys even at this very young. Definitely shows that this is quite possibly a gender issue more then not, I suppose. Thank you seriously again today for all your support here and shares, too!

  9. I know my nine year old daughter has been the Veronica a couple times as she's mentioned it to me. It sucks to have to explain to your kid that other kids, girls especially, can be really mean for no other reason than they can. I can only hope that her experience on the outside reminds her never to be a Heather!

  10. I know you are so right that this is very much a girl thing and like I said to Tamara my husband’s favorite phrase is, “Such drama with little girls!” Thank you seriously for sharing your own tales of this and for always sharing this one for me, too!

  11. I have a three-and-a-half-year-old son who goes to pre-k. He’s been in day care since he was three months old. It’s interesting for me because when I was little, I was often the one left out – too shy, gawky, not rich enough…whatever. So having a boy is different for me, as I’ve noticed he tends to be the boys all the girls want to be around. I’m often told by other moms how their daughters talk about him. It’s sort of funny.

    My son seems to enjoy the presence of both boys and girls, but there have been times at the playground, when he’s started following older boys he doesn’t know and copying them, where I’ve grimaced. I remember one time in particular how he wanted a grumpy five-year-old boy to play with him (slide down the big slide with him, etc.) but the boy refused, sliding ahead of him, etc. Jack looked totally dejected. Eventually the five-year-old actually SCREAMED at my son, “STOP FOLLOWING ME! WHY ARE YOU FOLLOWING ME?”.

    I was shocked. I ended up sliding alongside Jack, and in the car I said to him, “I’m sorry that boy wasn’t very nice to you. It wasn’t your fault.” He seemed okay about it…appreciated my commented with a, “yeah, he wasn’t nice,” response. But I know I can’t always be there.

    I don’t think three-year-old girls exclude others out of spite; that actually comes later. LOL. I don’t know what the answer is, other than to say sometimes you have to talk honestly to kids about including others, and instilling empathy in them when they’re young.

    1. Deb, thank you for sharing and I couldn’t agree with you more. I think we do have to teach them and instill this in them at a young age. I think the younger you start the better. I really wasn’t prepared when this happened. Even having been a teacher before having my kids didn’t prepare me for being the parent int his situation, but thankfully we did deal wit it from the onset and it does seem to have worked at this point.

  12. My daughter got caught up in preschool “girl politics” last year in the older 3s class. Some of the girls were emulating older sisters’ social aggression. When it became clear that my daughter was getting a bad attitude about kids who had previously been friends (also soul-crushing ideas like “It’s not cool to be smart.”), we pulled her out of preschool entirely.

    We’re trying preschool again this year, but she now knows that socially negative behavior will have serious consequences at home.

    It’s important not to lose sight of how social domination can distract smart girls from real goals and learning.

    They wanted to move me into high school out of the sixth grade because I was supposed to be this big genius… then we decided to chuck the idea, because I’d have trouble making friends, blah, blah, blah.. Now blah, blah, blah is all I do. I use my grand I.Q. to decide what color gloss to wear and how to hit three keggers before curfew…

    1. Adrienne, I am so glad that this seems to have worked for your daughter and I think we all have to do what is totally right for our kids. Thank you for sharing and just helps hearing others have gone through similar and have they have handled it.

  13. I know it is so hard to be a parent and see this happening to your child. I believe our instinct is to protect them no matter what, but sometimes we can only do so much, because girls will be girls, but still I am with you I really hope neither of my girls grow up to be a full fledged Heather (at least if I can help it)!

  14. This is one of the reasons I am glad I don’t have girls. I actually witnessed this in action once at a Gymboree play time. A group of girls who were no more than 4, whose moms had all come together, were totally shunning another little girl. I was horrified. Maybe even more so that the moms were not doing anything to prevent it (Hmmm, wonder where they learned their behavior??).

    1. Kathy, that sounded awful and seriously I do not want either of my daughters ever thinking this is the right behavior or the way to treat another at all. You are so right though that boys are definitely easier in this department, but really can’t agree with you enough that these girls apparently learned it from their parents. The apple doesn’t usually fall far from the tree!

  15. It starts younger and younger. When one of my daughters was small, we were new to a playgroup, and the other girls were excluding her. It was pretty blatant. I heard one of the little girls say to her outright, “We don’t want you here. You can’t play with us”, leaving my daughter in tears. The thing that always got me was that the other mom heard her daughter say it, but just turned to me, shrugged, and said, “Oh well. That’s just the way kids are.” She completely refused to even address it with her daughter. I lost a lot of respect for that mom.

    1. Lisa, that is the mom, I never want to be. I knew immediately when I saw this behavior our of my very own daughter, I needed to do something about it. I just don’t understand how another mother could stand there watching their child behave that way and do nothing. I would have so lost a ton of respect for this mother, too to be quite honest.

  16. Did you say, “Let’s go get a slushie” when you picked her up that day? 😉

    I worry about these situations with my own daughter. I’ve been a Veronica and a Heather, and now I’m really self-conscious of including people. I hope that rubs off on my daughter!

    Awesome post!

    1. Oh the famous Slushie, lol!! But seriously I was more a Veronica then then a Heather, but yes did have my moments, too. But like you Dani, am so conscious of this and try my best now (especially after this) to make sure my girls get along with others and not try to exclude anyone. And I have a feeling your daughter is going to learn by your example and know from being friends with you that you are an excellent mother!! 🙂

  17. This is an AMAZING post. When my older daughter was in JK, and we had our first conference the teacher told us that she could at times be quite mean to one of the other children. I cried the entire way home. The last thing I EVER wanted to have was a mean girl. We talked ALL THE TIME about kindness and being caring and considerate, and it seems to have helped. You are an amazing mom. And your daughters are lucky to have you to guide them.-Ashley

    1. Ashley, seeing it with my own two eyes made me feel awful for the other little girl and so upset that this could be my child doing this. I knew I had to do something about this behavior and thankfully my husband was also on the same page. In the end, the two girls are now friends and have even had play dates, too. But I do know all too well how you felt and sounds to me like you are a wonderful, loving mother , too!! 🙂

    1. Thank you Meredith for always being so kind and supportive. Seriously so happy to have you in my corner and consider you a wonderful friend. And thanks for re-reading and for all your kind words again 🙂

    1. Kristen, I too was one of those kids, who desperately wanted to be a part of things, so there is no way I would let my kids treat another kid poorly knowing how I felt when I was younger. Seriously, wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you for sharing and commenting.

  18. I can't believe how early it can start! My son will be 3 next month. If I find myself in a similar situation with him someday, I hope I can handle it with the same grace that you did. I considered myself to be "2nd best" in school: I was the 6th man on the basketball team, first substitution on the volleyball team, friends but not GOOD friends with the popular crowd, etc. Never felt like I really fit in, and you're right – you never forget that feeling.

    1. Sara, I know what you mean and I will always remember how it felt to not quite be one of the in-crowd myself. And thank you for your kind words and think from what you said here that you handle this if you have to will as much grace if not more.

  19. Oh, I totally see where you come from, I was such a “Veronica” forever! Maybe still am sometimes.. You two dealt with the situation so well, in my opinion. However, I wonder if that situation was just that, a situation, or if incidents like that happen more often. I know from Lily that her “best friends” change a lot, but she’s still friends with all of these girls. Maybe your situation is different, since Emma has grown up with her cousins and obviously has a very strong relationship with them, where it is difficult for “outsiders” to be truly included. But I still thik you and Kevin have done the right thing and handled the situation perfectly!

    1. Stephanie, I think you may be onto something and am interested in seeing how she will be this upcoming year, because the cousins are not int he same class this year, but Emma and this little girl I believe are. So, I may have more to report in the end and stay tuned. Thanks by the way Stephanie again!

  20. I am very proud to say that this year in 1st grade a new girl joined the 11 that had been in Kindergarten. As soon as Kiley, Addy, and Chloe got settled they stood right up and went over to Madison to say hello and introduce themselves.

  21. I find it so interesting that girls do this so early, yet when we get older, we forge relationships that are intently passionate and caring. My son is 10, and he has said from the beginning that he won't name any of his buddies a "best" friend because he doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. He's got a tight knit group of 10+ boys are very good friends. But they don't read into it. They play, forgive & forget. Girls have a harder time doing that. Great post!

    1. You are so right Jennifer and for some reason girls just do have a harder time with this. It is interesting though to me still how young it does begin. And that is what motivated me to write this down and share with all , too.

  22. I'm a mom of a boy and I do think you are reading too much into it at this age! Your daughter can't probably remember what she had for breakfast today, not meaning an insult, just kids that age do not remember well yet. You've mentioned she was shy , may be she's still shy with new people and places. It's possible that she didn't got over being shy but just got comfy with her cousins. Also, if you are not in a urban area, chances are you have a mini playground in your backyard and unknowingly even the kids have been in their own "in world" for a while by their standards. This very situation is the reason that schools usually avoid to place siblings or very close friends in the same class when they start school. Anyway, I do believe you worry too much about situation that will be resolved in couple of play dates. I'm sure you know about the reasons why 3 is not the perfect number of kids for a play date and your daughter will have a blast making a new friend soon. Have fun and don't worry too much.

  23. Rossy, I may have been reading too much into this, but I will say my husband and I just did what came naturally to us as parents . Thank you though for your input and thoughts. I appreciate hearing what others think on this. And i know many would say girls will be girls, but to be quite honest we felt on the off chance it wasn't just that, we would teach her that this is not the behavior that we would expect from her as she got older towards other children.

  24. I’m lucky that I haven’t had to deal with this much yet with my children, but I feel like it’s going to be inevitable. As frustrating as it is, part of how we identify ourselves is by what groups we belong to.

    What did you and your husband say to your daughter to get her to choose to include “Veronica” next time?

    1. Frankie, you are right you do tend to identify with what group you did previously belong to. And as for what we said, first off we asked her how she would feel if this was done to her. She told us that she would cry. Then to drive it home we said that is how this other little girl most likely felt. It seemed to work and they are now friends and we haven’t had any more issues at this point.

  25. What a powerful post. Thank you for sharing! SO good to see lessons like this being taught to young people and publically so that other parents can learn from this as well – I am actually running a series on my blog called 'How to raise your children as world changers' which is stories of actions like this or habits or mindsets to teach young children so that they will hopefully grow up well – with the idea that parents who may not have the time or creativity to come up with these ideas can learn from each other [much like what your blog seems to be doing] – – four stories in with more on the way…

    So thank you for sharing – would love it if you'd be up to sharing or adapting this story for my blog series – drop me an email if you're interested…

    all the best.
    love brett fish.

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