19 February 2011

"I feel left out."

It’s the saddest thing she’s ever said to us: "I feel left out".

Everyone else has pierced ears.

I know that isn’t true, but they were making earrings in her after-school jewelry class and one of her friends is in the class and has pierced ears and wore her new earrings to school the next day. So of course she felt left out – because she doesn’t have pierced ears and we don’t think that 7 year olds should have pierced ears so it isn’t even on the table as a discussion point.

Everyone else buys their lunch.

Again, I don’t think that’s true. We let her buy lunch once a week, occasionally twice, but mostly she brings her lunch. And she brings good things, like risotto and spaetzle and meatballs and gnocchi, things she likes. Furthermore, the day she brought the meatballs, she said everyone else thought they smelled yummy.

All the girls want to do girly things like play hopscotch.

I don’t know what to make of this. Until the "I feel left out because everyone else has pierced ears" bit came up and was then elaborated on, I’d never had an inkling that she felt left out on the playground at school. I kind of think she’s making this up.

All the other girls have twenty American Girl dolls.

Yeah, right. In our materialistic town, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a kid with twenty, but the kids we know and that she plays with have one each, or maybe two.

All the other girls wear lipstick (said while peering in the bathroom mirror instead of brushing her teeth and simultaneously telling me she’s a tomboy).

Gah. This child-rearing thing is hard.

19 comments:

Harriet said...

I think the "I feel left out" thing is going to happen no matter how much a parent caves to the whims of the masses. It's part of separating themselves from their parents and aligning themselves with their peers, about figuring out where they fit in what they view as the cultural map of their world. We hear this ALL the time and pointing out that it's not true seems to be completely beside the point. It's a tough world out there.

Nadine said...

Harriet said it well. I might add that it's not any different with a boy either, although he's yet to ask for pierced ears ;-)

ifbyyes said...

It's such an instinct to want to "fit in" but it's a good trait - people who don't have this instinct are the people you move away from on the bus because they haven't showered in six months.

Julia said...

I think starting with empathy ("Y'know, I remember feeling that way when I was your age. That's a yucky feeling.") is the way to go.

And it helps, too, to occasionally point out how others might feel left out (though only when she herself is emotionally calm).

And the occasional random comment on consumer overload helps put things in perspective (e.g., "I wonder why some parents think kids want 20 American Girl dolls. To me it's more special to have just one or two that you truly love.")

And the occasional positive reinforcement goes a long way ("You know one of the things I really like about you? You don't get caught up in needing to play girly games just because the others play them. You're strong enough to be yourself.")

Keep plugging away. It's not easy, but... well, it's not easy.

Stimey said...

You're so right. It's so hard. It kind of makes those baby days when everything seemed so overwhelming seem easy.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I like the empathy comment--that's really all you can do. Caving isn't a great idea.

The one thing I might let her have input on is the food. Not buying lunch (my kids only gone one day a month), but on the packing. While the food is amazing I'm sure, she might prefer plain ol' ham and cheese just so as not to attract too much attention.

Heide said...

I've been using the "it gets better" line, telling the kid that as he gets older, it will get easier to find friends who like the same things he likes (like nail polish, and pink, and did I mention he's a boy?). But maybe it helps him most to be listened to, and taken seriously.

FreshHell said...

It is hard. And growing up is hard. My kids are somewhere in the middle of the rich suburban types with tvs in their minivans and pools and the poor kids who live with their grandmothers in a trailer. Mostly, my kids wish they had things they'll never get, like a pool. Or, it's electronic things (the DS is a good example) I can't afford. Santa's on the same budget as me. But, she will eventually find the beauty in her difference. It'll take awhile. My kids are some of the only vegetarians at their school. They only eat schoollunch when they're serving grilled cheese (once a month). My daughter got her ears pierced at 10 because that's when I got mine pierced. Her BFF has to wait a few more years. I sometimes here "it's not fair, everyone has...." but not often. They get to pick their own clothes when we go shopping so they fit in. Luckily, they have good taste. They get to do cool stuff and have an artist family so other kids think they're cool and the surface crap doesn't matter so much yet. I think the only thing you can do is simply remind her that every one is different and families all have their own rules for things and these are yours (whatever they are). It'll all come out in the wash eventually and she'll thank you for making her different than the boring others.

Anna said...

yeah, i hear you. we recently moved to a new town and i want to help my kids fit-in, but also want them to be themselves. (sigh.)

painted maypole said...

yup. the everyone else thing is hard to fight. we've only had it a few times, so far.

Kyla said...

My 8 year old is always telling us how everyone else can play M-rated games and watch R-rated movies...and in his class, sadly it is true.

jo(e) said...

One of the toughest parts of parenting is listening to your kid's feelings and knowing you can't jump in and rescue, that you can't always protect your child from the world.

mayberry said...

I would like for Julia to come and be my live-in parenting consultant!

Also, don't you think it's interesting what other parents allow/don't allow? There is a girl in my kid's class (3rd grade) who is allowed to wear makeup for special occasions. That'd be a No Way for me. She also eats all manner of crappy food. But then again, her parents are much more strict than I about music practice, TV watching, and schoolwork in the summertime.

liz said...

I'm sitting here nodding along with everyone.

Sometimes when MM says "But X gets to do Y!"
I remind him that just the other day X envied MM because WE allowed MM to do Z.

But mostly I hear my mother's words coming out of my mouth...

slow panic said...

parenting is one tough gig.

nonlineargirl said...

We have recently gone through a set of questions from the 5 year old about her body - starting with is my hair staticky, and moving on to are my legs to big and then am I too skinny. Oy. I talked with her about how she is just right, but I was thinking: Too hard, too hard!

Rima said...

Please tell the Girlie that my daughter doesn't have pierced ears, either, and she's still about $80 away from her first American Girl Doll ;)

The Library Lady said...

It gets harder. When you have a 16 yr old (urp) and you are having to discuss her feelings about her boyfriend, you will look upon this and laugh the same way you now can about teething and toilet training. Really.

Meanwhile,we have a mantra in my house you may want to use--I once heard SC quoting it to her best friend in fact:
"Different families do things different ways".

That's my bottom line, and it's sparked a few interesting discussions. Well worth working on it now, before the tweens (!) begin...

slouchy said...

yes, hard. and the harder truth is that it doesn't get any easier.