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 should...like, "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 kid.......social 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.
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 school....yep.....me 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!