His name was George. He was always a mess. His shirt was perpetually untucked and his hair was always all askew. He had the bad habit of picking his nose chronically and, like his fairytale predecessor “Georgie Porgie,” he did actually chase the girls to kiss them. He had no friends that I remember.
I went to grade school with George, and had forgotten about him for years, until I started worrying about my own child. You see, my daughter is totally unlike me socially. I tend to be relatively shy at first, especially in crowds. I prefer to hang back and assess a room, judging who to approach to strike up a conversation. My son is just like me in this behavior. My daughter is not. She’s more like George.
She tends to just jump right into any situation, talking. It’s been her approach to life since she could move on her own. Her toddler years found me on constant alert, as she explored the world around her with no sense of danger or self-preservation. This led to many stories we laugh about now, but I’m pretty sure my hair started going grey during those years. As stressful as it was, she had a zest for life that I couldn’t help but marvel at and admire. It was a joy to just watch her.
Before she was even in kindergarten, I guessed that the school years wouldn’t be easy ones for her. With the over-emphasis on core curriculum and testing, there’s little room for creativity and play. And kids like my daughter thrive on both imagination and movement. The early years of grade school were hard ones for her, as a kid who had what I call “ants-in-the-pants-itis.” It was hard for her to focus when her body wasn’t in motion. She loved to just shout out answers instead of waiting to be called on, and had no problem telling the other students they were wrong when they were.
As the wife and daughter of teachers, I empathized with her teachers and did my best to talk to her about what was, and what was not, acceptable. Not only in a classroom setting, but in any social setting as well. But as the mother of a child who obviously learned differently, I also wanted to protect her sense of self and hated the idea of having anybody trying to hammer down my square child into a round hole.
She learned gradually and, by fifth grade, had mastered classroom etiquette while bringing home good grades. Social etiquette, and especially interaction with her peers, however, was nowhere near as successful. Girls can be cruel, and especially pre-teen girls. Although she’d talk about her friends, she didn’t seem to be invited to many parties or sleepovers or even casual get-togethers. And I knew these were happening, because I’d see the photos that these girls’ moms were posting on social media.
I was never a cruel child and I have no memories of ever being mean to George. But I know that I didn’t go out of my way to be kind to him either. Yet here I sit, yearning for kids to be kind to my child. My child who can be loud, who loves to sing to herself, and whose hair is so very often a mess. And you know what?
I wonder if George’s mom’s heart broke too.
– By an Anonymous Mom.