When I picked my daughter up from school today, she made this announcement: “When I get home, I’m going to make a sign-up sheet for a special club.”
“What club?” I asked her.
“A club for the kids in my class. I want to make a dance party club. I’m gonna ask everyone in my class to join my club,” she said.
True to her word, when we arrived home, she marched right into her room, grabbed a blank book she’d been given as a prize from something, and made a giant label for it that read, “Olivia’s Club Book,” which she glued to the front. Then she wrote on each page the name of a classmate; this was where she would ask each of them to sign up for her club tomorrow.
It’s adorable, I know. But can I confess something here? I am secretly hoping she forgets to take the notebook to school tomorrow. Because I am so nervous that some kid will give her flak about her club and not sign up.
I know, it’s absolutely ridiculous. These are kindergartners. But am I the only one who worries about stuff like this? Is it just me who stresses out so much about my kid potentially getting picked on or made fun of for all the cute things she does so that it’s kind of hard for me to fully enjoy them?
The first time I really remember this coming up for me was when she was four and decided that she wanted to wear her Ladybug Girl wings and antenna to preschool. The get-up had been a gift, a companion to a lovely children’s book featuring a “Ladybug Girl” as the main character. It had been her favorite book that weekend, and she had decided she would be Ladybug Girl, too, come Monday. But when she walked into preschool the next day and the kids asked her why she was wearing wings and an antenna, they had no idea who Ladybug Girl was. As I left, with a pit of worry in my stomach that she would be teased for the outfit, she was explaining the concept to a clueless friend. When I picked her up that afternoon, the wings and antenna were in her backpack. She hasn’t worn them since.
To be honest, she has never once mentioned that anything bad happened that day. For all I know, Ladybug Girl was a big hit but the wings were itchy or something. But although I enjoyed the pure precious joy of my four-year-old’s decision to wear an adorable costume, I admit I also felt an odd kind of peer pressure by proxy about it. All the old fears I used to have as a kid, about fitting in, have come flooding back.
I guess I was teased the regular amount as a kid—I wasn’t persecuted in any extraordinary way. The occasional meanie picked on some item of my clothing or accused me of picking my nose. You know, the average stuff. Nothing that ought to give me a complex. Yet I feel this tremendous, all-out-of-proportion, protective fear that now my daughter won’t fit in.
Is it an only-child thing? Would it be different if she had a sibling? Maybe. My personal insecurity issues rearing their ugly head? Probably.
Take, for instance, the other day when I picked her up from school and her best pal from her class watched her get into my car, and watched me help buckle her into a booster seat with a back.
First of all, she’s six, guys. What is the freaking hurry about getting little kids out of booster seats? She’s 47 pounds!
She’s griping constantly to me about so-and-so not having to use a “car seat,” and when can she just use a little backless booster like “all” her friends?
When she complains to me about this, it rolls right off my back. “I really don’t care what other kids are doing,” I tell her. “I care about keeping you safe, and this is the safest seat for you. Get over it.”
So why is it that when her friend, whom I barely know, called out to her, “You sit in a CAR SEAT? Weird!” my daughter just laughed while I turned into a self-conscious kid and got overly defensive, arguing with this six-year-old, “What’s wrong with a booster seat?”
Not my proudest moment, obviously, but I’m just being real here.
I could also share with you the regrettable, internal, momentary cringe I had the time she decided to set up a “medicine shop” made out of an Amazon box, on the front lawn, on a freezing day in November, calling out to neighbors that she could write out prescriptions for them. Or when she rode on a tagalong bike attached to her daddy’s bike for “Bike to School” day (since she has repeatedly refused to ride her own bike or learn to ride a two-wheeler), and I worried all morning that she would feel bad that she was the only kid without her own bike or, worse, that some kid would pick on her for it.
The adorable, creative ways in which she expresses herself will grow and change, and before long, the front-lawn medicine shops and costume-wearing school days will be replaced by requests for trendy shoes and an iPhone. I know I have to enjoy these moments of childhood innocence and imagination and get over my own associations of self-esteem that have nothing to do with her. She’ll have her own issues someday, she doesn’t need to be saddled with mine too. Part of me hopes and yet simultaneously fears that she will still want to wear a princess costume to school in a few years.
So it is with nervous trepidation that I have put her handmade club sign-up book at her spot at the kitchen table so she can find it first thing in the morning. And I am sending good juju into the universe so that tomorrow, all those kids will be clamoring to sign up.