Bedtimes are one of the best opportunities for distraction-free, dedicated connection. We turn down the lights, get you comfortable, scratch your back and listen to whatever you want to talk about or ask before wishing you a final good night. Without the distractions of the day, we can often get beyond the necessary but mundane to-dos and get into a space where we can relate heart to heart. As much as you love the time, you might be surprised how often this is the highlight of our day.
The other night you asked, as I was turning off the light and you were burrowing in bed, “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” I replied.
“What happens if you don’t feel like you fit in?”
My gut immediately sank as you asked that, flashing back to my own struggles with that very topic. Sitting alone at lunch. Finding someone to play with at recess. Struggling to make friends and connections. As the only person in my grade that looked like me (which was actually true from kindergarten until late middle school) it felt especially tougher to fit in. Add that to my natural introversion – yeah, I get it. It’s tough.
This year has already been a tougher transition than expected, the new grade adding a more stringent academic quality to the classroom environment than you’re used to. Previous grades were “fun”; This has been more “work” much to your lament. It’s also been particularly difficult to navigate the shifting tides of the social scene, at least from what you’ve shared.
But your mama and I look at the evidence – the play date requests, the comments from teachers, other parents, and the birthday party invitations – that you do have what seems to be a sufficient and thriving social circle. But for some reason you don’t express that confidence in your standing with your friends.
“Well what about [x]?” I asked, asking about a friend I had heard her talk about last week. I began to prepare to talk about how important it is to be your own person, to take your own road instead of others.
I can see you scowl even in the darkened room. “[X]? She’s still a friend, but not my best friend. She sits with [y] at lunch now.”
“What about [z]? Didnt you say you were best friends? Didn’t she give you a best friend necklace?”
“Daddy! [Z] didn’t play with me at recess the other day. I don’t even know where that necklace is. And I don’t have a best friend.”
I sighed again, internally. Oh, do I get that. I always wanted a true bestie growing up. I briefly did for a couple of years until he moved schools.
“Yes, it can be hard not to have a best friend,” I said sympathetically.
“Oh no, I have like 2 or 3 best friends,” you say without missing a beat.
“So what’s the problem?” I ask, puzzled.
“Well, I have FRIENDS. That’s not what I said. I feel like I don’t fit in.”
“What do you mean, fit in?”
“I mean we don’t like the same things. It’s the music they listen to daddy. ” You lower your voice and say shyly, “I don’t really know their music. Or like it. You know, the stuff they listen to and sing. It’s like rap music.”
“Yes. I actually like the music we listen to in the car. You know, Eighties music? Sting. Billy Joel. The Hooters. But I feel so different!”
I roll my eyes in the dark and assured you that people have different musical tastes and that’s okay, and managed to segue into what I was preparing to say about marching to the beat of your own drummer, etc.
“Maybe if I had my own phone so I can listen to music…” you try as I close the door.
As I closed the door, I realized how difficult it is to separate my own childhood experiences when trying to parent you. It’s actually useful most of the time, being able to tap into my own experiences to figure out how to relate to you. But sometimes I have to be reminded that your experiences are going to be different than mine, and to listen with an open heart.
Also, there’s not even a question: Billy Joel is way better than Cardi B.