Navigating the world as a social being is hard. It's so much easier when you're Pip's age. He has absolutely no concerns about what other people think of him. Most of this is his age - a little of it is just how Pip is and I hope that never goes away. He's had many experiences where older kids at the park were unkind. He's been teased for his purple crocs, for his painted toenails, for his glasses, and his enormous (and gorgeous) scar has been stared at by more gape-mouthed, gasping children than I can count. He smiles and enjoys the attention...for now, anyway.
His big sister, on the other hand, is hyper-aware of everything that anyone might be saying...or thinking...or thinking of saying...while she's at school. It started in first grade. I guess that's the year that little girls become social beings- and then it starts to matter what backpack you're wearing and what's on your shirt. We had to replace the princess backpack for Christmas because someone said princesses are stupid. She stopped wearing her boots because they were getting old and worn and someone commented negatively. And there's occasionally speculation about what others might be saying behind her back - about her ability (or inability) to play four-square most recently. Sigh.
What I notice, though, especially of late, is that this stuff never really goes away for a lot of people. There are still adults worrying and raging over what this person or that person is saying about them. There are bloggers worrying about what they post and acquaintances fretting over what other acquaintances are saying....Big age range amongst the worriers and big differences over the things that are being said by third parties but I realize that my advice would be the same for the adults in my life as it is for my little girl.
Be a good person. Be the best person you know how to be. Follow your heart. If you make a mistake (and you will) then do your best to fix it. If you hurt someone, make amends. If you make a promise, keep it. If you make a commitment, honor it. Do your very best.
If you are being the best person you know how to be, what could people possibly have to say? I mean, sure, they'll still talk. But if you are being a good person, and what they are saying is a load of crap - if it's entirely fabricated - then how can it possibly hurt you? Why should it matter?
If you have behaved badly - if you have hurt someone and you know it and you choose to not rectify it or acknowledge it or exhibit kinder behavior, then, yes, expect people to talk and expect it to be hurtful. If it hurts, maybe it's because there's some truth being reflected back on you. Maybe you don't like what you see through their eyes. That's some painful stuff right there. That deserves some examination - even if it's difficult. If there is nothing you can do better, nothing you can fix, then breeze past it. Why does it matter? You know you've done your best. If it sticks in your craw for whatever reason (and what is a craw, by the way?) then you may, deep down, know that you could have done better. So then you have some improvements to make. It's worth taking a look anyway.
So that's the advice I give my 2nd grader now - not just for now but because there will be people talking for the rest of her life about one thing or another.
"So Anna told everyone that Barbies are for babies and that you are a baby because you play with barbies? Well, do YOU think Barbies are for babies? No? Do you enjoy playing with them? Yes? Then play with them. Anna is entitled to her opinion just as you are entitled to yours."
(By the way - see if you can say "Barbies are for babies" 10 times really fast.)
"Katie is telling everyone that you were mean to her when you refused to play with her at recess? Well, were you? It's OK to not want to play her game but was there a way to explain it nicely? If that's what you did, then Katie is just lashing out at you because she feels badly about herself. If you were kind, Katie has nothing to say. That's just how that goes. So assess your own behavior honestly and react accordingly - either ignore the fiction (because if it is true fiction, it has no bearing on you at all) or repair the damage. Those are the only two choices, really."
Be a good person. Follow your heart. Correct your mistakes. Have a happy 2013.
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