Friday, May 27, 2005

I'm despondent today.

Do you recall that one kid at school who got teased mercilessly? Maybe it was their clothes, or a slight speech defect, or some aspect of their personality, but something about that one kid was different, and the other kids soon noticed it. That's all it really took in elementary school (or middle school, or high school). Everyone got teased a little, but that one kid got teased every day, by almost everybody. It's scarring.

I fear that my daughter is becoming that one kid and I'm heart-broken by the thought.

My daughter (and let's just call her "Daisy" here) is probably not a typical five year old. She's has a strong and goofy personality. She likes to play elaborately structured "pretend" games and she tries to organize these with kids who would rather play something less cerebral. This rejection generally puts her in a foul mood, which makes her an even less appealing playmate. The end result is that Daisy often spends her 1 to 2 hours of daily recess playtime by herself. She fills this time by collecting little bits of crap off the playground. We find little pebbles, buttons, and small bits of brightly colored plastic in her backpack on a daily basis, each one a tiny reminder of her recess exile.

There appears to be lots to make fun of about my daughter. She has a lot of food allergies (dairy, eggs, and nuts) and is routinely mocked by some of the other children for it. There are several occasions each week where some kind of treat is brought in for the kids, and Daisy is the only one who is unable to share in the treat, highlighting this difference between her and her kindergarten classmates.

Additionally, she has an odd sense of humor for a five-year old. She likes word-plays, funny voices, and making up silly song lyrics. The other kids seem baffled by this.

Yesterday, the kids in her class would yell "Daisy alert!" each time she came near. Even the kids who come over to our house for playdates with Daisy participated in this. My daughter was once again left alone to scour the playground for amusement. Breaks my heart.

Ok, so I accept full responsibility for this. I've got an odd sense of humor and I've passed it onto my daughter, who is bright enough to process these jokes at the age of five. She's a smart kid. And when things don't go her way, she sulks. She gets that from me too. Clearly, I've made some parenting errors here, and I've helped shape a child who is adored by adults, but rejected by her peers.

But what now? What do I do now? How do I fix this? She routinely complains about having no one to play with, so there is ample opportunity for discussion.

Do I tell her why I think other kids don't want to play with her?

Do I encourage her to repress the "odd" parts of her personality and act like the other kids?

Do I refrain from suggesting a course of action and merely suggest that she try to figure out why kids act the way they do?

This school year ends in a few weeks, and maybe this will be a non-issue after the summer. Maybe her first grade class, with its slightly different mix of children, will find her to be a more acceptable playmate. Maybe all these kids, including Daisy, will grow up a bit between now and then.

I just don't want her to become that one kid. I'm practically sick over this.

Help, please.


dolface said...

i was that kid in elementary and junior-high, and it sucked, no two ways about it.

my parents were supportive, and did a pretty good job of letting me figure out how to deal with it on my own, while helping me when i got really bummed about it.

they always encouraged me to go my own way, to not give in to the teasing and try to conform, and i think it was the right decision.

i think i turned out pretty well; i have a strong sense of self, and am perfectly happy to spend big chunks of time alone.

(i view my tendancy towards misanthropy and cynicism as positive things).

she's smart, i think she'll be ok.

Mike said...

Dolface, well of course the kids made fun of you. You're a freak! Hey, everybody, the FREAK is here!

On a more serious note, those are wise words. I'm inclined to support her uniqueness, but it's surely painful to watch.

Thanks, man.

dolface said...

yeah, i suspect it might be tougher on you than it is on her.

on a lighter note, n. suggested this:

Mike said...

That's very funny. I liked "teeter".

Colby said...

As a 20-year-old college student, I have absolutely zero advice to give concerning parenting and kids.

But as a 20-year-old college student who's only a couple of years removed from high school, here's my take: The ones who don't fit in are able to shape their own futures. The rest just follow the pattern, because the pattern is comfortable.

And honestly, who wants to settle for being merely comfortable? Not me, that's for sure -- and I bet your daughter won't, either.

So rock on, little chica. Rock on.

Will said...

I'm in the same position as Colby about giving parenting advice, but I agree that she'll be fine. I vote for explaining to her why most other kids don't want to play with her, but just don't ever let her give up on finding friends who'll understand her and people who she can trust.

The Mincemeat Vixen said...

I was totally that kid for a few years in grade school. The thing that I remember finding the hardest was that my parents didn't seem to understand why I had so much trouble fitting in. There was no one I could talk to about it.

It's hard to explain to a five year old that sometimes people just plain suck and that their suckiness has absolutely nothing to do with her, but that's something she probably doesn't really understand yet and it might be helpful for her to know that it's THEM, not HER, with the problem. And she'll also know that YOU understand her and that YOU don't think she's weird like everyone else does. Sometimes there is solace in just knowing that you are justified in your feelings - and she may not know her feelings are well-founded.

Regardless of whether Grade 1 turns out to be different, I don't think it would hurt to have a few talks with her about how sometimes people are just mean beccause it's the easiest thing to be, but that it's only a temporary thing, and that you promise her that she will find friends who appreciate her and love her for the awesome little chick she is. And you could always find some after school groups for more cerebral kids or kids involved in her more unusual interests, perhaps, just to give her a place where she could foster her sense of self esteem and self worth - where she could see there are other kids like her, they just don't go to her school.

At the very least, between you telling her you understand or you've been through something similar, and maybe meeting a few kids like her in areas other than her school, she'll know she's not alone.

But I don't have kids either so what the hell do I know? Hope that is somewhat useful. Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to the bakery to buy croissants and pet strange dogs.


Vivian to Some said...

Crap! I wrote this big, long comment and then lost my connection. I'll try to recreate..

Your post made me so sad for little Daisy. And for you. Because you're obviously feeling guilty? But for what? Raising an intelligent, creative, humorous child? You wouldn't cut down a rose bush because it was growing faster than those around it, would you? Ok, maybe you would. But you see my point. Your job is to help her grow in as many areas as she can. And one of those areas is in how to get along with other (sometimes stupid) kids. But that area shouldn't overshadow any others. You can't pay for fitting in with individuality.

Mike said...

Wow, tons of good comments here!

Colby and Will, looks like the 20 year-old generation is a wise one. Colby, I especially like your quote, "The ones who don't fit in are able to shape their own futures. The rest just follow the pattern, because the pattern is comfortable."

Adrienne, seems like half the people who read my blog were that kid. Maybe it's a blog-thang. Anyway, I absolutely intend to be supportive through this. Well, maybe I'm not so good at the whole "talking" thing, but my wife is. She'll definitely be supportive.

Vivian, agreed that I wouldn't want to promote "fitting in" over individuality, but if I could magically make them both happen...