Friday, September 5, 2014

Socially Awkward: Intervene or Let 'Em Be?

My big girl has a bit of a hard time socially. She was raised around adults and began reading/developing intellectually at a very early age. This isn't "proud Mama" speak here....this is for real. Sometimes she embarrasses me by knowing things I don't know, but prolly, "Mom, don't freak out, that type of spider is not fatal," or "Don't worry, the garbage truck dumped the recycling into the same truck, but it has a separate compartment for recyclables. You're still saving the planet, Mommy!"

The kid was reading chapter books by the time she was four and when she was five, she read the Laura Ingalls series in less than 3 weeks. Now 8, she continues to be an avid bookworm and we've started to notice the "negatives" of having an overly-intellectual problems.

She has trouble relating to other kids. She would gladly give up attending a birthday party full of 8-year-olds to spend one hour at the library with her (adult) Auntie. She prefers her own company on the playground and often tells me about how in the winter, she builds snowpeople to talk to. She's recently started carrying around a little angel and refers to it as her best friend.

I'm sure this sounds kinda sad to you, my readers, so please let me reassure you, when she tells me of these things, the snowpeople, the angel, her preference for adult-accompanied trips to the bookstore....when she tells me of these things she is glowing. There is no depression, no shame, no masked loneliness. She owns it.

I asked her once, "Do you want to make new friends?" and she told me, quietly, that of course she does....but she is fine being alone, too. Me, Daddy, and her baby sister are her friends. "But yes," she whispered. "It would be really nice to at least have one kid friend."

We thought we'd hit the jackpot with our new neighborhood - directly across the street is a house full of girls. They have four beautiful daughters, each with their own personality, and one exactly the same age as my big girl. They made friends quickly and were inseparable the first few summers we were here.

Then, inevitably, a new girl. This girl moved in late last year and threw the dynamic off a little bit. Now there's three girls playing together, and as many of us know from siblings and/or our younger years, when you get three kids together someone is almost always left out.

My kid, recently, has been that somebody.

I ran outside yesterday to call her in for dinner and this is what I witnessed:

Scene: hot, humid summer day, two neighborhood kids flying by on motorized scooters, my big girl running behind, panting through her words...

"HEY! Hey it's my turn, can I have a chance on the scooter?"

Neighborhood Kid #1: "NO way, I'm not getting off! I just got on!"

"But it is MY TURN! You've been on there forEVER! YOU NEED TO SHARE!"

Neighborhood Kid #1: *blink* *blink blink*

*goes to grab the scooter* "C'mon, give it to me!"

Neighborhood Kid #1: "YOU CAN'T HAVE IT!"

Other Neighborhood Kid #2/Owner of Scooter: "You've been on there for a while - let her have a turn!"

"YEA I really want to try it and you keep telling me no!"

Neighborhood Kid #1: "Don't come near me again or I'm telling my dad!"

*hysterical tears* "I'M GOING HOME!"

I'm standing there, watching this all unfold, thinking, "Hey, gee, maybe I should do something. This isn't some crazy TV show put on for my entertainment, this is real life. C'mon Jen, swoop into action and stuff."

I reached out to embrace my sweaty kid. She had started sobbing loudly and ferociously. I watched the two scooter riders zoom away, neither one so much as glancing our way. I wanted to run down the road and tell them to never come to my house again. NEVER!

But I couldn't move. I wanted to go, my heart was telling me to go, but my body stayed right where it was, clutching El Hysterica Grande. All I could think was, "Gosh I hate this part of childhood."

I was bullied as a kiddo. I was picked on from Kindergarten up until 7th grade. People would make fun of my teeth, my hair, my family, my clothes, my glasses, my skin, my cheeks, my nose, my ears, my backpack, my lunch, my participation in ET (Extended Time), my affinity for Lisa Frank everything (yea, that is pure proof these were real losers, people), my book choices, my good grades, my tendency to cry. I remember walking to school when I was my big girl's age and talking to the trees. They were my only friends, aside from my mom and sister of course. Mr. and Mrs. Birch. Ms. Oak. Miss Maple. I pretended the rustling foliage was our own special language. Sometimes they would tell me to have a good day, sometimes they would tell me they were sad. All the way to and the trees. 

I had to turn into a thug to get the bullies off my back. Seriously thug. Tree-whisperer to gangsta. I wore JNCO jeans and wore gobs of lipliner and huge gold hoops and listened to TuPac (TuPac4Eva) and cussed every-other word and learned gang signs and talked about "jumping" people and tried to skip school and smoked at the bus stop and was obsessed with Fila and Nike and got into stupid fights and snuck out of the house at night to drink in the bushes. Let's all just take a moment and pour out a 40oz for the Gangsta Jen, who lasted only 2 years before succumbing to maturity and finally accepting herself as a weirdo, not a thug.

I obviously still carry the scars...both from the teasing and the big-barrel curling iron I would take to my gangsta bangs each morning. 

I want my kids to have a better life than I had. I want to go out there and arrange her social agenda and plan fun things for the girls to do at our house and tell them to play nice and teach them how to be inclusive and really give her the best circle of friends ever!

But where's that line? 

You see, my big kid is always going to be her. She will always be quirky, and interesting, and a bit academically ahead of others her age. She will likely struggle with her social problems for quite some time, if not her entire life.....and here's the kicker - God willing, I won't be around her entire life. At some point I'm gonna croak, and if I am the glue holding her friendships together, she's going to lose a whole lot more than a mother.

So I don't intervene. Not for scooter problems. Not for outcasting each other. Not for unfair treatment and disrespect. 

I realize I am not the say-all, end-all in parenting, however. As a matter of fact, one of the mothers of a school friend approached me once at an after-school event and started talking about our daughters. She told me they were "fighting again!" and "what are we going to do?" and I can "call her anytime to talk things over!" I was polite. At least I think I was. I nodded.......might've kinda stared with my mouth open. Thanked her for the info and explained I kinda let my kid handle her own biz, but I appreciate the heads-up. I remember thinking, "Am I supposed to care about this kinda stuff? Am I a non-involved mom? Do I need to talk to the student counselor? Do I need to talk to a counselor, period?"

Don't get me wrong, if someone is enduring physical harm or there is blatant violence either emotionally or physically I will lay down the schmack....but 8-year-old arguments? They could be arguing about whether or not a unicorn-pegasus is actually a pegasus-unicorn, for crying out loud. I'm not going to settle that argument. Take it up with Thor or Zelda or something. 

My mom didn't do this stuff, either. She was involved as much as she could be, but was a single mom who worked tirelessly and was often forced to limit her contact with my friends to a few hello-goodbye-why-are-you-in-my-house-smoking-who-is-that-teenager-outside-our-back-window-is-that-a-bong conversations. (One day I'm going to pay for all I've done to my mom, by the way. Get excited about reading my blog posts 4 years from now. It's coming. The true consequences of my horrific 2-year gangster stint....they're-a-comin'. Pre-teen years, right around the corner!)

My mother was there for me, listened to me cry, watched me break down about this friend or that friend, and always offered her advice, but she never, ever intervened. She cared enough to provide a soft place for me to land, but otherwise set me free. I was free to make my own choices about people and circumstances and how to navigate this world as a wanna-be social butterfly. I made a few awful mistakes, but eventually ended up with the greatest group of friends...we remain extraordinarily close to this day.

....stark contrast to Beverly Goldberg (anyone out there watch The Goldbergs?) 

Any time her kid gets his or her feelings hurt, Beverly fixes it. She is hilarious. I love watching her because that whole idea - manipulating situations so your kid gets his or her way - is not something I'm accustomed to. I was always held responsible for my choices and a common phrase in our house was "life is not fair!"

I wonder what Beverly would do to the scooter crew around here. I could see her buying a new scooter for her kid, or stealing someone else's scooter and repainting it. 

Me? I just kiss my scooterless kid's head and tell her to go take a shower.

What do you guys think? Were your parents more like Beverly or my mom? When you see a kid getting excluded, do you intervene? How so? I'd love to know in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading!


  1. This is a hard one. My 5 year old has sensory issues and is ahead of some for the kids she plays with. She is who she is though -and we can just do our best guiding them. Great topic for a post've got me thinking....

    1. Thanks Kristen! :) Can't wait to read your post about it!

  2. I'd say first be grateful she's not a bish like the other two girls. Second, I think you're right in not getting involved in "kids messes" - kids have to learn to resolve those issues now so they're competent adults later. You don't want her running to her manager whenever something goes wrong in the future. I think it's incredibly difficult as a mother to watch that kind of treatment towards your child but you're right just kiss their forehead and buy them some ice cream. In regards to her behavior, I was the same way - thankfully, never bullied and sorry to hear you were.. - but I began to flourish more as I became older. Books were my friend and any "forced" play dates and such were very difficult on me emotionally because of my anxiety. Thankfully, it sounds like she's very confident with herself so leave her be - I think when she's ready and finds the right people to befriend, she will be fine and you'll be planning those parties anyway.. She's obviously able and competent enough to make friends so you can just let her do it at her own pace. Enjoy being her bff because one day it will change just enough for you to notice and you'll miss it. Great topic and you're doing fine, your daughter will be great! Have a wonderful weekend Jennifer -iva

    1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA a bish, hilarious - yes I am super glad she is not a bish!! HAHA And you're right, it is so hard to watch sometimes. I spy on them all the time. ALL the time. And I have my own opinions of them...but I don't share them. I want her to make her own choices because you're totally right - she will need to interact with a number of people who are NOT like her for the rest of her life.

      I am so thankful for your support, Iva!! Thank you for stopping by and giving me some much-loved-and-needed reassurance!~ :)

  3. Wow, it is a hard one. I have a 17 y/o and a 12y/o. 17 is a senior who was horribly bullied freshman year, IT SUCKED!!!! Had to pull her from school the last 4 weeks of that year..... Now she is one of the most liked kids in the school, by students and teachers and when I or the hubby goes to school, everyone seems to know us because we are her parents. Go figure... Oh she came out as gay too, so that did have something to do with being cool now. Everyone wants a gay best friend.....
    The 12 y/o has dyslexia and suffers from kids who find this out and pick on her. Intellectually she is way beyond her years, and this is how she copes. What I did this year was let her join her sisters summer running Track and Field club. She had the best summer ever, as many of the sophomores and juniors befriended the 12 y/o.... She can very much hold a conversation with them. This gave her the confidence to go into middle school this year, and hopefully survive the year....
    Just a thought that if your child is above those surrounding her to let her join something with multiple ages......

    Good luck.....

    1. Ugh that is horrible - I am so sorry your big girl had such a hard time when she was a freshman....but glad to hear things are looking way better now! Isn't that crazy how things can change? Proud of her for coming out! What a strong woman! Love that!

      I love your idea about surrounding her with kids more on her level. My big girl was just accepted into an advanced class with kiddos who learn a little faster. So far, so good! We have an entire school year to learn whether or not these classes help her socially - I'm kinda excited!

      Thanks so much for stopping by Ray :)

  4. There is perhaps a fine line between disagreements and arguments we can learn from and those that are traumatic...children can have abusive behaviors as well, but sometimes they're just selfish, greedy or mean. That's life and it is important for kids to learn how to deal with or get over these things on their own. It's important for them to have support and reassurance from home, but do they need us to swoop down because someone didn't share with them...not really...

    1. I totally agree! I feel like I have a pretty good gauge on how serious their arguments get....I can hear them and see them when they play. In this instance, it seemed rather petty so I kinda brushed it off. Yes, it pissed me off as the mom of the offended, but I knew in my heart it wasn't something that was going to endanger my kiddo. She's gotta get over that kinda stuff or she'll be forever disappointed!

  5. I doubt that most moms of 7 could even be helicopter moms, due to the sheer number of children, and my mom definitely wasn't. I can relate very much to your daughter--I'm better at hiding it, now, and I do tend to, to make my own life easier, but being a nerd doesn't really help with making friends or help you relate to people who only seem to be able to talk about stupid stuff. And kids are mean. Adults can be mean, too. I think everyone has their stories of being bullied or picked on--as long as what you learn from that experience is to treat other people with kindness, it's not the end of the world.

    1. I appreciate your perspective so much Rach - makes me happy to hear there are so many others out there like my big girl! I know she reminds me a lot of myself at that age and I remember the sting like it was yesterday. I don't want her to carry those bruises and this has been such an interesting thread, hearing about the solutions others have concocted to deal with these things. She is at the very core of her being a very, very sweet and sensitive girl. She will be the first to ask you if you're ok when you're crying....even if you'd been mean to her up until that point. My little jewel :)

  6. First off, I LOVE The Goldbergs. Awesome show.

    Second, I intervene if kids get too mean. If it's a small argument, I let it be. But if it gets loud, I'll step in.

    1. Isn't it hilarious??? I love it too. The dad cracks me up - Barry, all of 'em! Especially grandpa!

  7. Phew, it is so hard, right? Walking that line with our kids. I try to be there, without intervening...too much. And I LOVE The Goldbergs!-Ashley

    1. Thanks Ashley :) I love 'em too! Such a good so - excellent writing and since Im a kid of the 80's, I totally love the nostalgia! Thanks for stopping by :)

  8. I had a fun childhood with a group of 4 friends filled with birthday parties, jump rope and recess. That was until I turned 12 and went to junior high. In this big new school one of my four friends became a cheerleader and decided she hated me and started bullying me. She also would not allow the others or what seemed at the time - anyone else to be my friend either. I spent my time reading every book in the library and babysitting on the weekends. My mom was supportive, but nothing she said helped. I would have died of embarrassment if she would have intervened. In hindsight I think what would have helped me the most would have been for her to encourage me to try new things and to meet new people rather than recede into my books. I was also very shy and so is my mom. I still struggle with standing up for myself and effectively communicating my feelings to this day.

    As to your daughter. She sounds confident and content with herself. I'd let her manage her own social interactions as long for now. Unless there is real bullying. Those other two girls could certainly use a lecture on sharing which I would have been very tempted to give.

    1. Savvy I absolutely love your perspective and honesty - thank you so much for commenting! I am so sorry to hear your old best friend became a "mean girl" in Jr. High - that was my hardest bullying period, too! How awful, considering all the other things that are going on with a person at that time in their life! Add social issues to the mix and yea, you carry those scars with you for a very long, long time. If it's any consolation, I think you do an exquisite job of expressing how you feel on your blog. You have a wonderful way with the written word which, in my humble opinion, is it's very own category of courage.

      And thank you for the suggestion about my big girl. She is very much so content with who she is, you are right. She loves her books and loves her imagination. She even loves the way she looks. They haven't gotten to that part of her yet. Should she start to stray off that path, I do believe I will take your advice about getting her into some new things to meet new people. What a beautiful suggestion.

      Thank you so, so much for stopping by Savvy!

  9. It's such a hard call to make but I think you made the right decision. I have a 9-year-old and the girl drama has already begun. I can't believe how mean girls can be to one another, but I think letting our daughters navigate their relationships will only help them later in life. It sounds like your daughter is amazing and will have no problem dealing with the dreaded scooter duo. = )