Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dr. Seuss - Helping Us Through the Tween Years

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. ~ Dr. Seuss

This is my favorite quote. I even wear it around my wrist on a leather band on most days. 

And yet, I have to remember...

The sentiment goes for everyone. Whether you're shy or loud-mouthed, bossy or meek, completely sane or a little bit wacky. Yes, it's important for everyone to be who they are and say what they feel.  

Which, you know, is fine. Great! Free speech and all that. But sometimes it's just real hard to remember to be who you are and say what you feel - to be yourself - when the bossier, louder and/or wackier among us have every right to be and feel and do as they please as well, thus very possibly influencing how you feel about yourself.

Especially when your'e an impressionable tweenaged girl. 

(Or even if your'e a still-impressionable, ahem, not so much a girl anymore. At all.) 

Welcome to the 5th Grade. 

Apparently this is the year to overly stress the importance of being who you are and loving yourself, while at the same time acknowledging and accepting the fact that not all people are going to like you. And for no good reason, either. 

Oh, man.

It breaks my heart to hear Sweetie tell of how she keeps trying, everyday, to play with a couple of girls from her class. Girls she's always been friends with before. And to hear that, everyday, one of them (always the same one) has some excuse or another for why Sweetie cannot, in fact, hang out with them. 

She wonders aloud, "Why not?!" 

She exasperates, "Come on!"

She reminds them, "You said yesterday that today I could!"

Gosh darn it, she keeps trying.

And they keep saying no. Coming up with excuses. Ignoring her. Shunning her. 

And for no good reason. At all. 

"Well, Sweetie. Some people just aren't going to like you, and that's okay." Tough words to say when, until now apparently, she's always been such a well-liked kid.

I'm proud of Sweetie for continuing to try with these girls. But at the same time, I feel that she isn't recognizing when to give it up. For some reason or another she hasn't developed that filter to know when enough's enough. When to call the battle fought and the defeat accepted. To move on to other, new friends who do accept her and really want to spend time with her. 

After Sweetie first offered up to me an example of the mean girl passive/aggressive behavior, I couldn't help myself but to ask her everyday after that how recess went. But I should have stopped. Sweetie soon got noticeably irritated with me for making her have to talk about it all. Not allowing her to sweep the uncomfortableness of the day away. 

After some discussion with Hubby and my own parents, I finally told her that I'll try not to ask her about recess anymore, but she should know she can come to me or Daddy if she ever wants to talk about anything. And, in fact, she should come to us if she has any problems. To which she agreed and said she already knew.

And then, in the same breath where Sweetie is quietly lamenting her old friends acting in this new, mean way - Sweetie proudly wonders aloud that she must be one of the more popular kids in her school, because younger kids know her by name and sometimes want to play with her, but Sweetie doesn't usually know their names at all. And yet, she's happy to play with whomever just the same.

No filter for knowing when to stop trying with friends who have always been there for her before. Happy to play with whomever does want to play with her. Able to make the most of her playtime when plans don't happen as she first intends. Even though this new school year is still very new, what I'm hearing about Sweetie's 5th Grade experience so far constantly reminds me of what Sweetie's 3rd Grade teacher said about her - that Sweetie is the most comfortable-in-her-own-skin person she has ever met.

I so don't want that comfortableness to be squashed. On the outside, Sweetie seems to be managing the new social structures with aplomb. But I'm constantly worried about how she's really feeling about it on the inside. How hurt is she? Does she worry, feel sad, angry or like an outcast? All of those things and more? Is it just this one girl who's being mean, or are other kids picking on Sweetie as well? What about the other girl, now "mean" only by association, not sticking up for herself or Sweetie by saying, "You know what? I like (Sweetie) and actually do want her to hang out with me!" Is/has this old friend turned mean herself? Is she in danger of becoming a mean girl? Or is she just too conflicted and shy for now to speak up and may, over time, come around again to the good? What about the teacher?! Is he noticing any of this at all? Or is this just what 5th Grade is and I've just got to let Sweetie go and get through it, just like we all did? Certainly she's not being outright bullied. This too shall pass.

It's just, you know, it's Sweetie. Have Hubby and I somehow done her a mis-service by not exposing her to more cantankerous kids? Kids who are obviously less than savory - allowing her to learn how not to be treated by someone? Learning how to know when to walk away and find friends who treat you well? Teaching her earlier on in life that not all your peers are always going to be your friend, and that's okay?

For all that is so very, very right with Sweetie - so understanding and mature in her acceptance of all people - have we done wrong by her at all?

In the end, I know - no. We haven't. God love her, Sweetie is as great as ever! Would I or Hubby have ever kept trying back in school, day after day, to get in with an old friend who was now treating us less-than-satisfactorily? Heck no! We'd get the message straight away, back off, and - at least speaking for myself - probably into a corner by myself for the rest of the year. Sweetie, though - she's a fighter. She knows how things used to be and can't understand when things change "just like that" for no good reason. It makes no sense. She keeps on trying. And when that doesn't work, again today, she heads off to some new friends or to play by herself. Or happily agrees to play when a request is made by anyone else. She's a happy kid and she doesn't let minor upsets ruin the whole day.

Maybe we should all be more like Sweetie. We would certainly all do well by learning that lesson. Keep on fighting, everyday, for what you know to be good and true. When that doesn't work out though, don't let others get you down. Make a new plan and carry on with your most excellent life.

In the meantime, I do believe Sweetie's found a couple of new friends who do appreciate her - have even told Sweetie that they like her because she "doesn't bring the drama." I suggested to Sweetie that maybe she should back off, for now, on trying to play with those other girls and concentrate on fostering a friendship with these new girls. I'm thrilled to hear those stories of her day. How these new friends appreciate her opinion and think she's really fun and good at certain things.

Because she is. Sweetie is excellent at many things - not least of which, being herself and saying what she feels.