Tuesday, June 7, 2016

She will level out, they said. She will fit in. She will be part of our family. And she was... except she still stayed different.
On being different
We had a picnic for our fourth grade class last Friday, and I chatted with other parents. Smarty seemed very happy running around with a group of other kids squirting water guns and throwing water balloons... but from time to time she would break from the game and walk around clearly lost in thought. It's almost like she needed those solitude breaks to reconnect to herself and then to jump back into the game. Later we took group pictures. I did not think much of it then but looked at them later on my computer and saw Smarty yet again separating herself from her classmates.

Don't get me wrong. Smarty has friends. In fact, her best friend would have probably been hanging out right next to her, but he had to leave earlier. She and her best friend "get" each other's quirks and forgive things about each other that they don't quite understand. She told me once that she and her friend don't discuss "silly things" such as movies. They talk about programming, plan a website they want to develop or debate God's existence. She is also respected and liked by other kids who are happy to have her as a partner in group projects. But... her intensity is not matched by most other kids. It's hard to admit that it's my daughter who often excludes others rather than the other way around. She "does not do group chats" and who is not terribly interested in "small talk" matters of the elementary school. She is a very 1:1 person when it comes to friendships. Interestingly, both my husband and I were the same way as kids, so this apple really did not fall that far off our tree.

Am I worried? Yes, a little. I am worried that Smarty still does not have a girl friend and does not seem to click with girls much. She always wanted to be friends with one girl from her class, but that other girl prefers big groups and already has several other girls who clamor to be her best buddy. Somehow Smarty's friendships with girls never move beyond a couple of playdates regardless of how much fun they have together. She is never invited to sleepovers and other girl events even though I know that they are taking place. Perhaps it's partially our fault, because Smarty is not participating in many bonding after school activities for girls such as girl scouts or girls on the run. On the other hand, she was in band with many of other girls in her grade and always exited on her own while other girls went in groups. I worry what will happen in middle school where, by all accounts, cattiness and exclusion is expected to increase.

Despite being somewhat worried about Smarty's ability to click with kids, I would not change a thing about her. I love her strong sense of self, her questioning mind, her sarcastic sense of humor, her willingness to speak up and stick out. I would rather her have a few true friends next year in middle school than to worry about those who would exclude her because of her age or size or views. I choose to believe that she will be able to manage social aspects of her new grade, but in the meantime we are planning for her to spend some time with her current friends this summer.

Your Turn

How do you support your child's differences from the norm?
How do you react when your child is... different?

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maryanne @ mama smiles said...

It is hard to watch our kids be different! I don't know that a close girl friend really matters before high school. I think that kids are fine with 1-3 really close friends - maybe even better off since a few close friends are much less likely to pressure kids to do something stupid.

JL said...

She sounds like an introvert. I was the same way. I hated small talk and needed time to myself to recharge. There were times in my life when I hung out more with boys than girls. Socially, it was easier. Girls are more complex and I never cared for it.

Ticia said...

I hear you, and feel your pain and worries. I have similar ones for Princess. Of course I was also the unique child when I was younger, so I do get it.