Last week, one of Anna's friends walked up to me and said, "Anna ruined my whole day." A second little girl added, "Yeah, she's really annoying us." Anna wasn't in earshot, off playing or chatting up an adult somewhere, and probably would have snarked back and gotten on with her afternoon. I stood in front of these two wondering how they thought it was OK to give a parent that kind of report, I said nothing, and walked away to cry. It was one of those cries that sneaks up, like when a country song reduces you to tears and you get mad at yourself because you cannot stand country music.
I was sad then and for her future where more of this will happen and where I can't -- and won't -- protect her from it all. My girl is insulated right now, but I see the hierarchies starting already, the BFFs forming. I see the kindergartners who know about Justin Bieber and crushes while Anna wonders how anyone could have possibly invented a double-sided lightsaber and hides behind a pillow not during gruesome battle scenes, but when she can tell that the actors are about to kiss.
I know that in the long run this quirkiness of hers will serve to make her a funny, interesting adult. I'm already so proud of who she is, though she can be a little (read: a lot) loud, a little bossy, and kind of a dork. I don't want a thing about her to change. This particular angst doesn't seem much easier even knowing that all parents feel it on some level -- Just love my kid a billionth of the amount I do, world. Just see how amazing she is.
After I pulled myself back together, once we had Anna in bed and were talking about the day, I told Steve what had happened with those girls. He said, "Honey, I don't care what those girls said. And I don't want Anna to care. I want her to learn to not give a f*ck what people say about her." That concept is so completely foreign to me that I hadn't even considered it a possibility. What if we can raise a kid to be herself and do her own thing, and to not be hurt by the judgement of others?
Steve told me that when he was little he'd just hang out at home, and if friends wanted to come over, they could come over. If not, he'd just spend time alone. I, on the other hand, remember when the two girls I spent most of my time with went and got BFF T-shirts without me. I remember the parties I wasn't invited to, the cliques I tried to get in with in college and never quite succeeded. I eventually made real, wonderful friends and I wouldn't change where I ended up, but the thought of living those school years with less concern about who liked me -- maybe growing up to be someone who could respond appropriately to those girls who found Anna annoying instead of choking up and hiding -- that seems like such freedom.
I'm not modeling this for her right now. I love to please; I live to make people happy, to feel comfortable and loved, and when I know someone is upset with me -- no matter how unjustified -- all I want is to smooth things over. Part of that has nothing to do with worrying what people think of me, but I don't know how to untangle my motivations. This will have to be where Steve comes in. This will have to be where he teaches her better than I can when to just let people go.