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Today, we take a break from our regularly scheduled programming (places) to talk about another parenting phenomenon: Back off my kid, or I will take out my hoops, rip off my weave, and cut you!

Raise your hand if you have ever been sitting in preschool play group and some bully of a child took your baby’s toy. Yeah, I know you have been there. And since most of my friends are pretty civilized, I imagine you calmly walked to the children, knelt to their level, and in your sweetest mommy voice said,”Now that’s not how we play. We must share!” Then you pulled the contended toy away and replaced it with two new toys, distracting both little ones and restoring peace.

But I bet deep down inside, you wanted to kick sand in the brat’s face, yank the toy away from him or her, give your baby back what she lost, and give the monster’s mom a piece of your mind.

Guess what? That just keeps on happening. When Libby was in third grade, this chick stole her lunch money. I had that girl as a high school student and it was tough not to give her a failing grade on her tests in retribution. Hilary had her purse stolen out of her university gym cubby this May. She reported it to the campus police, but if I had found the thief, I would have been tempted to punch her in the face ( I assume it was a girl, it was a cute bag from Charming Charlie’s). Daniel’s truck had his truck window bashed in and $600 cash stolen last week. Cannot even speak aloud what I’d like to do to that bum.

But you know what is worse than watching your kids have toys or lunch money or cute bags stolen? Sitting by while a peer tries to steal their confidence.

Libby is being targeted by some pretty vicious gossip this year at school. She’s had rumors spread about her physical involvement with boys, and now she’s the target of a nasty campaign in her very own theatre department. Yes, the one of which I am the director.

This mother wants to march to the homes of some kiddos and smack them upside the head! What I am doing instead is trying to teach Libby to consider the source, ignore what is clearly untrue, and resolutely shun the drama. Of course it is more complicated than that. I will be asked to write college recommendation letters for these kids. They will be auditioning for me in early September. I spend hours each day with them.

So I breathe. I teach. I ask them to examine every bit of gossip before they spread it and ask themselves if it’s true, if it’s good, if it’s helpful, and what is their motivation for sharing it.

I work to restore Libby’s faith in humanity and herself.

And I make sure to leave my hoop earrings at home.