I wasn’t one of the ‘cool kids’ when I was in school. In elementary school, I was teased a lot. I’m sure we all must have gone through a period of teasing, but I had more than my fair share. I was overweight, and I was different from the other kids. I never felt that I truly fit in. I would day-dream a lot, use my imagination a lot ‘out in the open,’ and I spoke my mind, which set me apart from the rest. This also made it more difficult to belong.
In high school I became more aware of it, when my ‘friends’ who were cool, merged with the other ‘cool kids’ from other schools. I didn’t belong to any clique, and I was ok with it – on most days. I spoke with everyone, was nice to everyone. I like to think of myself as being like Switzerland – nice and neutral. Not everyone understood it, and therefore not everyone liked it, or me. And once again, this made it also difficult to belong.
So one day I decided to not be myself, and be like others so I could fit in. I found a group who appeared to be willing to accept me, and I did what it took to be a part of this so-called family. I dumbed myself down, started talking back, rebelled and started being mean to those who were like the real me. It didn’t feel right being that way, but hey, I was finally wanted! Of course, this had its consequences. I hurt people who I cared for, including myself, and I also got suspended. Luckily, the suspension wasn’t reflected on my school record, but my reputation with the school, and my family was tarnished. I had to deal with those consequences too.
I find that the pressures to fit in are affecting our kids at a younger age. My neighbour, who I think is an awesome kid, is being subjected to this pressure and she is in grade 6, and my daughter, who I see a lot of me when I was her age, is having a tough time fitting in with her school peers at grade 1. Why is that? What is causing this, and when does a parent intervene, and when does one stand back and let their kid sort it out on their own?
I find that on a regular basis I’m working with my daughter and brainstorming with her to come up with ideas to cope with her school peers. It’s so difficult to get the message out that it’s best to be true to yourself, and you it really doesn’t matter what others think. I find at times that I get so frustrated that she cares so much what others think of her, and then I have to remind myself that I, too, at the present time think the same way as well.
There is a bully which lives 5 houses away from us and has decided that she doesn’t like my daughter, and I have caught her a couple of times being downright mean to my daughter. The bully is 8 years older than my daughter. One day my daughter came home crying and saying that she yelled at her, told her that she is no longer able to play, and pushed her. This was after when I saw the bully teasing her and also making fun of her behind her back and covering it up when she saw that I saw. So I took this into my own hands and approached the bully in front of all her playmates and confronted her. This worked, for a while.
Last night my awesome neighbour kid was playing with bully from up the road. When the bully saw my daughter and I come outside with our bikes, she yells at the awesome neighbour kid to hide, because she doesn’t want my daughter to play with them. I decided that I wouldn’t let it get to me, although I was disappointed that the awesome kid followed along. The awesome kid and I used to talk all the time too. Anyway, every time we would ride by, they would go hide. My daughter was oblivious to all of this. Then at one point, when we rode around the block and came back, the bully didn’t see us, and the awesome kid was going to say hello, when the bully yelled not to. I had enough. I turned to her and said “don’t worry, my daughter and I are enjoying what we are doing. She doesn’t have time, nor wants to, play with you anyway. You don’t have to hide every time we ride by anymore.”
My daughter then chased me with her bike while I tried to run away, and then we lay for a while on the front lawn trying to make shapes out of the clouds passing by. I could see that the awesome kid wanted to join in, as she kept watching. She knew that I would welcome her, as I always have. But she never did.
My daughter would periodically ask why I said what I did, and why the two girls would hide all the time. It’s hard for a 6 year old to understand. I’m trying my best but it’s hard to put it into such simple terms. I just feel so sad that at such a young age, these kids are having to go through this.
I’m hoping to be able to speak to the awesome kid alone, and let her know that it’s best to be true to herself, and not have to follow along with other people in order to be liked. If she does, she may just forget who she really is, and wake up one day and ask, who am I?