Sunday, February 06, 2005

Your children are not your children

I always thought that any kid of mine would be, well, a nerd. Like me. Odd, bookish; the kind of kid who takes a while to find her place in the world. The Renaissance Woman always assumed the same. We figured we'd be able to support our child when he/she got picked on by bullies, giving him/her the benefit of our accumulated wisdom and a safe haven in our dorky little household.

As they say in "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues:" Ha ha ho ho and hee hee.

As Mermaid Girl's friend Hermione's mom said yesterday, while our two confident, socially-savvy, pop-culture-saturated offspring cavorted on a playdate*: "I've given birth to the girl who beat me up in sixth grade."

As Khalil Gibran said: "Your children are not your children, they are the sons and the daughters of life's longing for can house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the place of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams." Somehow I don't think an obsession with Dlsney Pr1ncess und3rpants is what he had in mind, but okay.

Don't get me wrong: My kid, despite occasional imperious tendencies, is a mensch. She's kind to babies and toddlers, eager to help out at home and do good in the world, sensitive to injustice everywhere. But she is an Alpha Girl; there's no way around it. More likely to be the picker-on than the picked-on. And this is a puzzle to RW and me.

It's not that I want my kid to be unpopular or bullied, of course not, I want her to be happy and loved and surrounded by flowers and butterflies everywhere she goes, but if she were bullied, I'd know how to help her deal with it, how to help her love herself in all her oddness and uniqueness. We're a culture of nerdiness in this family: we're both nerds, our parents were nerds before us, my brother is a nerd who married a nerd. Thank God Mermaid Girl has her Uncle Skaterboy to support her in the coolness thing, because aside from the general goal of teaching her to Use her Powers for Good, we're stymied.

Mermaid Girl's friend Ginger is a sweet, unworldly nerd with nerd parents, and I admit I'm a little jealous of them. Ginger's mom and I were discussing this the other day at one of the endless Kindergarten-related events we've both been going to. She was telling a story about a friend of hers who's all freaked out because his daughter is the most popular kid in her class.

"Yeah," I found myself saying, "I keep thinking, maybe Mermaid Girl will learn compassion from other kids thinking it's weird that her parents are gay...but then, this is Seattle! *snapping fingers in frustration* No one's going to give her any grief about it."

I was being flip, of course: if anyone does give our girl the tiniest hard time about her family, RW and I will be all over it. And seriously, I hope and believe that she can become a compassionate person without being a victim herself. We just have to work on the specifics as they come up. So far, we do pretty well: we limit her exposure to television, we won't buy her B4rbie or D1sney things (though we let her keep the ones that come as gifts), we and her teachers talk ad nauseum about, and try to exemplify, kindness and thinking about how other people feel.

Maybe we can get together with Hermione's parents and start a support group: Nerd Parents of Alpha Kids; N-PAK for short. Sort of like P-FLAG. But different. Anyone want to join?

*I swore I'd never use this word, I hate this word with its connotations of four-year-olds carrying palm pilots, but here I am, doing one more thing I promised myself I'd never do. There's just no other way to say "visit over at another kid's house" concisely so it flows into a sentence.


Blogger Anna said...

This reminds me of a coworker of mine who said that he didn't know what to do with his son, who had turned out to be a popular, athletic kid. "If he needed help sitting in a corner and being bitter, I'm all over it. But I just don't know how to handle this." I feel the same way with my little guy; handsome, popular, charming, irresistable: I gave birth to the people I hated. It is so very, very weird. Sign me up for the support group.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Manduca said...

Hi elsewhere! I'm amused and charmed by your consternation over "playdate." What if you said "while our two confident, socially-savvy, pop-culture-saturated offspring played"? When I was a kid, I "went over to Brenda's house." But I'm not sure "playdate" is so bad.

I apologize for all the quotation marks in this comment.

One last thought: I am the (nerdy, 35 year old) anti-social child of two highly gregarious people. I love hanging out with my close friends, and I enjoy meeting a new person every few months or so, but generally socializing is more of a drain than a boost. People are surprised that I don't like meeting people because I can be facile at conversation. Hopefully Mermaid Girl will be more succesful at briding the divide between nerdiness and alpha-ivity than I have been at unifying my inheritance and my innate ways.

Perhaps your nerdy legacy will be Mermaid Girl's empathy for the ways of her nerdy friends, given the insight she'll have. And maybe she'll even choose a few nerdy habits herself.

1:00 AM  
Blogger LilySea said...

Oddly enough, it's hearing stories like this one that really get us excited about parenthood. We can't wait to see what we get! I guess I like surprises. The adoption thing may hedge the sense that we will replicate ourselves a bit, but given our belief in education and nurture, maybe not so much.

I think my own fairly unhappy childhood makes me look forward to and feel reassured by the possibility that my kid will be nothing like me.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

This touches on so much I've been thinking about! The way I position myself as an outsider, but how it turns out that the rules for who is in and who is out have changed. So the same things that made me impossible and a complete pariah as a child are things that in my children make them sort of semi-popular in school. Reading is cool? Dang!

All right, that's it, missie, you're getting another trackback.

2:10 PM  
Blogger weese said...

ha! Our son is an athlete (which is more foriegn to me than my wife), and will probably be voted either Most Popular or Most Outgoing...or Most Insane of his senior class.
This kid shaved his head and painted it blue for spirit week (pics at my blog). Now I was no nerd...but I sure kept my hair and never painted myself for school.

keeps you on your toes!

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mind meld! I've taken the "never say THAT WORD describing playing at your friend's house" vow too.

E Wein

6:15 AM  
Blogger sirbarrett said...

Even Cowgirls get the blues is a great book. I haven't seen the movie but I bet Uma is really hot with those big thumbs.

1:57 AM  

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