Monday, September 24, 2007

the reckoning

i had a feeling that pooka was going to be in for some adjustment at school. i thought it happened last week.

when we came into the school, lisa* and john were sitting at the table. john said, "beth isn't here today." (i had seen beth duck under the table a second before.) pooka found her immediately and thought she was playing hide-n-seek. beth popped up and groaned. lisa and john said, "beth doesn't want to play with you today." pooka said, "is that true, beth?" there was confusion in her voice.

beth said, "i have to play with you everyday!" pooka was a bit flustered so i shooed her downstairs to put her stuff away. i heard the kids still talking behind us as the other two declared that they weren't going to play with pooka, either.

it just about broke my heart. i know she's bossy, and i can see the potential for her to become a bully because of her size and intelligence. but she craves playmates so desperately after the long isolation she's endured. i began to think that her conflicts with emily at school arose because emily stood up to pooka and wouldn't do as she was told.

i felt like shit that i secretly had such a bad image of my daughter that i would side against her in my mind.

that morning, i told pooka that she had to let the kids play with other kids sometimes. if beth didn't want to play with her, to leave her alone and not pester her, to find another playmate.

i burned inside the whole way to work.

it's obvious that pooka has inherited kisu's commanding social presence and ease in a crowd; she certainly enjoys being the center of attention. occasionally, she shows a bit of my shyness and, unfortunately, i think she also got from me the desperate desire to have friends, and to be wanted as a friend. i think that this could be a dangerous combination and might lead to bullying and/or sycophancy.

my wish for her is to be a good friend, to have friends, but not to need friends. i want her to be comfortable with herself so that she can endure being alone and not be lonely. i don't WANT her to be alone, but to be able to handle it when it happens. instead of, like me, creating a false insouciance and just pretending to like being alone.

ideally she'll have a small core of tight-knit friends that she can rely on for the rest of her life, as well as the ability to quickly turn strangers into amiable acquaintances.

i followed up with her teachers to see how she was adjusting socially and to see if my shameful vision of her behavior was accurate. to my great relief, and continuing guilt, it was not. diane said that pooka has been very helpful (both to the teachers and to her fellow students), very friendly, and overall very kind, although she is a bit bossy. sadly, though, it seems as if the whole class is plagued with snarky, petty, catty behavior. i suppose it's not too surprising, given that it contains 7 girls and only 3 boys.

oh, and for the record, beth ended up changing her mind and playing with pooka that day after all.

*all names were changed to protect the "innocent" little monsters.