Camille has never been one to have an entourage. In fact, making friends was not an easy thing for Camille.When she was in K, I admit to feeling pretty pained as she struggled to talk to other kids. She always seemed to go after the blond girls. The ones who were clearly setting up for a life of bitchery. As the rejections piled up, often delivered in the nastiest way a six year old could muster, I would cry a little inside but paste a big smile on my face. "Oh well!" I'd chirp (and you can imagine my version of chirping) "Their loss." And I'd cringe because that's what people used to say to me, and frankly, it felt like my loss, thank you very much. But Camille never paused in her pursuit of friends. The set backs weren't set backs to her. Only to me. It all came to together with a resounding emphasis one day at Barnes and Nobles. Camille was playing at the Thomas Table (a fact she will most hideously deny today) when two little blond girls approached. They were the kind mentioned above. Camille smiled at them and held out a train. The girl who was clearly grooming herself to be the mean one said "What language do you speak?" I bristled because the racism of it (whoever says kids can't be racist haven't lived in my world). Camille smiled brightly and said "Pony Rainbow language" and went back to the trains. The girls were a little stunned not sure how to react to that bit of quirkiness and I realized that Camille was going to be alright. It was my own shit I had to work through because even thought I was in my 30s I was still carrying the pain of all those rejections so many years ago.
But Camille is Camille. At nearly ten, she is incredibly confident. She doesn't care what people think of her quirks. She has two close friends and she's pretty content with those two. I used to feel like I had to push her to have more but these relationships are both rich and good for her. The two girls understand Camille and accept her. What more can you ask for in friends? Certainly not a need for more especially when Camille is content.
Piper, however, is not content. Piper loves people and she wants a lot of friends. But other kids don't seem to like Piper. She has two good friends as well and again they are wonderful girls (in fact one girl is the sister to one of Camille's friends). Piper loves them but she wants more. She is not content to go to park days and read if none of her friends are present. She wants to play to be involved. And she gets rejected a lot.
I used to tell her "Piper you have to be friendly if you want people to be friendly back. Talk to the kids. Put yourself out there." Then she did at a park day a couple of weeks ago and the girl she spoke to ignored her and walked away with what Piper described as a "nasty look." Talk about your bad parenting moment. I knew that what I had told her wasn't true. Sometimes you can be the nicest person in the world and people will still treat you like dirt. But here I had held that out to my daughter as truism. A sweet platitude.
Piper's anxiety has exploded over this. We've had a few issues that I won't fully disclose but let's just say "NOT FUN FOR MOM AND DAD." She's started to be scared of the dark again too. I think it's because she cannot fully articulate the question "What's wrong with me?" Piper isn't like Camille. She doesn't have that self-confidence to just be herself. Sometimes I feel like I failed her. I am worried that all my own insecurities about friendships have effected her. The times I cried because I felt pushed out of mom's circles. The quiet voicing to H that I had said a bunch of dumb things and was convinced that everyone hated me. I know Piper has seen me sitting alone at Park Days while the other mom's gather in different groups. I wonder if she has internalized all those things. And I feel like I should just sign up for worst mom of the year.
H is more practical about this. He says "People are jerks and we shouldn't be telling her to put herself out there. We should be telling her that sometimes people are assholes and they're mean." And I know he's right (without the asshole part of course) but it's sad to that to my funny bright girl. It hurts me deeply that she experiences so much rejection, and again I am not sure where this hurt is mine and where it is hers. I think she's lovely of course. I can see how she puts a grumpy defense at times, and shuts people out before they can get close. But I also see her so excited to share something with someone and see that someone shut her down. I see how she's creative both with pictures and words. She has a lovely smile and a sweet nature. I want to shake the little girls who are mean to her and say "What the hell is wrong with you? This is a wonderful person before you."
I wonder why she can't be happy with her two friends whom she loves and who love her.
Mostly I feel helpless because this pain is so close to my own experience. I don't know how to help Piper because I never learned how to help myself. This is the hard part about parenting. The not knowing. The stumbling because you never learned. I don't know how to see the world as Camille and Horacio do. I am not effortlessly popular as Umberto is. I am like Piper. I try too hard, and then lash out when rejected. I cry even now when I think people hate me. I can never a social gathering without agonizing later about everything I said and did. And now I am at 40 trying to figure out a way to reach past my own hurt, my on ineptitude at handling rejection to help my sweet girl be stronger. This is when parenting becomes about taking those roads unknown even to yourself and wondering if at this age one can map a new route.