Last night I was outside tossing the ball for my dog in the dark. The temperatures have warmed up a bit, but the rain has returned, and last night it varied from sprinkles to a light shower and back while I was out. I tossed the ball, and watched the flashing LEDs on Gus’ collar bounce after it, and pondered what to do with my daughter.

Last week the wife had been contacted by the middle school, and was informed that the Girl had been given three days of in-school suspension for slugging a boy. Apparently he had been picking on her, and she let him have it. And the week before THAT, she had scratched another kid badly enough to draw blood. The Girl had neglected to mention either of these little occurrences.

In fact, after bringing me up to speed on the suspension, the Wife made a point of asking the Girl how her day had been. “Fine.” she answered brightly. Nothing unusual happen? Oh no. Nothing at all.

We were angry. In fact, we were nearly incandescent. Here she is again, using her fists when she gets frustrated, and then lying about it. I was so mad I could barely speak to her. The wife didn’t want to confront her with it immediately, but wanted to talk to her alone when they could take their time. Like, while they were walking the dog, or something.

As it turned out, the two of them stayed up late talking, and my wife learned that three boys in particular have been making the Girl’s life hell. They talk loudly and crudely around her about sex. They threaten to take her pencils and break them, and then they do so. They throw things at her. She is apparently a nervous wreck, and is genuinely afraid of them. Yes, she slugged a boy, but it was after he hit her first, which was not observed by any witnesses.

It’s amazing how quickly you can go from being angry at your kid, to wanting to defend them with a baseball bat. I wanted to go to this kid’s house and slap him around. I wanted to go to his parents and ask them what they were going to do about it. I wanted to put myself between the world and my daughter, and dare anyone to make her cry.

Of course, none of those things happened. Instead, the Wife and the Girl went to school and talked to a Vice-Principal and a Counselor, and made sure they heard the Girl’s side of the story. I wished I could do more, but that seemed like the most prudent course of action.

So she’s gotten a bit more sympathy from me lately. I was constantly picked on in junior high, and I know how awful and how isolating it can be. It breaks my heart that she has to go through this, and I can’t do anything to stop it. And worse than that, it makes me sad that she is so reluctant to talk to me about any of it.

Then, I got home from work last night to discover that the Girl had knocked another girl down and hurt her arm. We found out about this when the girl and her father showed up at our door and confronted my wife. Of course, the Girl hadn’t mentioned this to her mother.

I have visions running through my head, of the Girl being expelled, of her being placed in “special” classes, isolated from the student body. I see her grades slipping and sliding, until any hope she ever might have had of going into veterinery medicine is lost forever. And I see an endless series of violent confrontations between my daughter and the children around her, and her lying about them to us.

And I don’t know what to do. Threats don’t work. Losing privileges is an after-the-fact response, and doesn’t seem to work. Is this back to an impulse control issue? Should we increase her meds? Or is this depression, which her psychiatrist thinks she may be suffering from. Maybe she needs a drug for that. What can we do to change the road she is on, before something happens that is life-altering and irrevocable?

I don’t know. But this rapid cycling between anger and depression, and empathy and sympathy, and back is enough to give you the bends. And it is emotionally exhausting.

I wish I could believe that it was all going to turn out OK in the end.