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Fitting In

January 28, 2014

braverWhy is it so hard to be a kid? It’s funny as adults, we tend to think how easy it is to be 8 years old. No bills to pay, no responsibilities, no stress, just do some math homework, read a couple chapters in a book, run around at recess after lunch. Piece of cake, right?  I admit I thought that until The Big One came to me in tears tonight and asked, “Why do the other kids say I am bossy and mean?”  My sarcastic, cynical side immediately thought, well you can be a bit bossy. Fortunately my mommy side kicked in first and I asked about who said it and the context in which it was said.

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One of the boys in her class, apparently announced that she was bossy and another chimed in that she was mean. The instigator, then apparently went through a few other kids and took a poll on who was bossy and who wasn’t.  She says everyone agreed that she is bossy and mean. I held onto her as she cried and then tried to talk to her.

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I did my best to try to help her understand that not all kids like to follow the rules, like she does. Not all kids have parents who try hard to teach them to be respectful, like she does. Not all kids care so much about doing well in school, like she does. And not all kids think about the things they say to one another, like she does.

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I don’t know that I made anything better. I’m not sure I know what to say to make her feel any better about herself. She is 8 years old. She shouldn’t have to worry about who likes her and who doesn’t like her. She shouldn’t have to worry that nobody will play with her at recess. She shouldn’t have to worry that some kid will single her out as “mean” when in reality she is one of the nicest kids I know (and I am not just saying that because she is mine!).  She is a nice kid, now the Little One I can see getting called out for being “mean” because she doesn’t take anything from anyone. She has no problem putting another kid in their place if they are picking on someone or not following the rules. But the Big One she is pretty non-confrontational.

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Yes, she will tell you to be quiet if you are talking in class. Yes, she will tell you to sit down if you are standing when you shouldn’t be. Yes, she will tell you that farting and belching without saying “excuse me” is rude. I guess to other 8 year olds that constitutes being “bossy.” But poor kid can’t help that. I am a rule follower. She in turn is also a rule follower. I do allow for some gray areas, but The Big One doesn’t. She lives in a pretty black and white world (she gets that from The Husband).  I wish I could help teach her that gray is okay.

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I wish that I could teach her that life is hard. Even in third grade it is hard. I remember struggling to fit in at that age. I was a Navy brat, I had the advantage of moving ever couple years, so I knew that when I really struggled with making friends it didn’t really matter because we’d move again soon. The Big One doesn’t have that luxury. We are not moving. The kids at her school are it for now.

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So, we talked a bit about trying to be less of the rule enforcer and more of the fun, silly kid she is at home. We talked about how friends shouldn’t be saying things about you or calling you names. We talked about trying to find other kids to hang out with.  We talked about just being yourself. We talked about how hard it is to find true friends.  We talked about prayer and how God can help us when we feel like we don’t have any other friends.

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What do I do now? I want to give the kid who started it all the stink eye tomorrow at school, but I know that staring down an 8- year-old boy will not help the situation. I want to put The Big One in a bubble so other kids can’t crush her spirit, but I know that’s not possible. I want to hand-pick her friends, but I know that I can’t do that for her.  So I will do my best to love her through it and pray that she finds her place in her little third grade world without suffering too much heartache.

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