Monday, June 11, 2007

Nice Kids Finish Last?

One of my more painful challenges as Ann progresses through the preschool years is seeing her navigate the murky social waters. It's tough to let go and worry about how she manages when I'm not there to help direct her environment and experiences.

I know that these years are fraught with ups and downs. One day two kids are best friends. The next day one of them doesn't want to be friends anymore. The next day they're friends, but another child has stepped in too, forming a tricky triangle. It doesn't seem like these patterns change much with time, but rather, become slightly more sophisticated versions of the same thing.

Like many kids, Ann thinks very deeply about what she sees and experiences. She's shy yet friendly, and a total chatterbox at home. She narrates a good deal of her inner thoughts when she feels comfortable. Her observations are often punctuated with a resounding, " . . . and that's how it goes!"

Over the past year at preschool, Ann has sporadically mentioned either hearing or sometimes being the brunt a few of the usual kiddie barbs. When Boy Y called her a baby at the start of the year, she matter-of-factly told me, "But he's wrong. I'm not a baby. My brother's still a baby, but I'm big!" Today Girl S told Ann that her picture was 'not beautiful' which had Ann a little down in the dumps. Thankfully these incidents haven't happened often. Ann's not an unpopular kid, but she's no queen bee either.

Ann is the product of two non-queen-bee types who are also sensitive. Chances are, there'll be a good share of hurts over the years. My report cards always said things along the lines of "good student but overly sensitive." And RaggedyDad asked to be changed from one first grade class to another because the teacher was too harsh with some of the other kids and it was too upsetting to him.

It's difficult to see Ann face the usual peer-meanness, because, though she certainly has her other faults, she's not the kind of child who tries to knowingly insult or hurt the feelings of another kid.

Though much of this is just typical preschool phase stuff, sadly, what happens a lot is that the rude kids turn into rude grown-ups who often do get their way. Maybe they're less liked for it, but they don't seem to mind, and in the shorter version of the long run, they even come out on top.

And while I'd rather be the mom of the nice kid, I'd rather her not be relegated to finishing last.


torontopearl said...

I feel for you.
I think girls are nastier than boys, and I already witnessed the catiness when my daughter was in senior kindergarten and her first year at her day school. She is now finishing up grade 4 is a loving and sensitive, yet well-liked spunky child ... thank G-d. She is so opposite to the quiet, shy, withdrawn kid I was. Perhaps "Ann" will also find her way around socially, easier than you or your husband did. We can't assume that she'll be exactly like you, but hopefully she'll share your most positive qualities!
No, it's never easy being a kid...nor an adult. We're always trying to adjust ourselves at every stage in life!

SephardiLady said...

I cry inside when other kids say some of the meanest things to my 3 tear old. He just is not at the point of even thinking the things his peers are thinking. I guess he just isn't exposed to gratuitous insults and the other kids are. I'm glad he does not understand, but it still hurts. :)

Hila said...

I have heard the same things my whole life. My mom has told me that all of my teachers always said that I was sensitive and compassionate but that I also seemed to take everything extremely personally. In seventh grade my favorite teacher told my parents that she was worried about me because I was "too nice to everyone." Looking back, I can see what she must have meant by that. While I wouldn't trade my willingness to help those in need or my sensitivity to others' feelings, I certainly could have benefitted from standing up for myself once in awhile. I had a lot of friends growing up, but I was also mercilessly picked on and teased. It was so hard for me to understand why kids would be mean to me when I went out of my way to be nice to everyone. I guess there are just some rude people out there who will pick on anyone. Your Ann sounds like such a sweet and sensitive child, I hope that she retains that while learning that what others say to her is not a reflection on her in a negative way, but a reflection on them. As always, best of luck :-)

orieyenta said...

Oh boy...she's at that stage where the biggest threat from a friend is being told, "I'm not gonna be your friend anymore!" At that age there were many days when Little Orieyenta would come home crying that so and so didn't want to be her friend anymore. Plus she has always been the smallest in her classes so they ALWAYS tease her for that.

As for the little girl telling Ann that she isn't can tell Ann that there's two Orieyentas in Florida who thinks she is absolutely beautiful :)

And I wouldn't worry about her being the nice kid and "finishing last" -those things don't have to be mutually exclusive.

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

That is hard my daughter had a hard time socializing now it's better but I worry for next year. We wish we could be there to always protect them, tough to know we can't.

Ezzie said...


But she's so cute and sweet!!

In truth, I don't think those kids finish last, though it's certainly rough going in the earlier years. In the end, they're the ones with the (many) really nice friends, the ones who everybody likes. The rude ones are feared, but never truly liked.

triLcat said...

I can tell you that I had an absolutely miserable time in school from 2nd grade until 10th grade.

Didn't help that I entered 5th grade from 4th 1.5 months into the year and was the most religious kid in the school.

In 6th grade, I was so unliked that I literally got beaten up 4 times (including one black eye and one scar that I still have).

I came home from school and cried a lot of times. I probably was mostly disliked b/c I was very opinionated and a big show-off (still that way when I'm not careful to rein myself in).

I always managed to have 1-2 friends (sometimes not in my school) and they got me through the worst of life.

I'm not socially graceful, but I have a few good friends who I really like and appreciate. I have a great husband, good relationships with my family members, and b"h, a baby on the way. I don't feel that I've finished last by any stretch.

Anonymous said...

I have a "friends with everyone" and "everyone likes her" daughter which is great, except as a formerly picked on kid, I see a lot of "friends with everyone" that means "no real good friends" and "nice to everyone." She does get picked on periodically, and had a few rough months this year. Luckily, she's less sensitive than Mommy was in 2nd grade. I'm much more concerned about my "would rather sit in the corner and read than interact with his peers" 5-year old. Then again, my dh told me that he was like that all through grammar school.

Juggling Frogs said...

Two urgent book recommendations: "Odd Girl Out" and "Queen Bees and Wannabees".

RaggedyMom said...

Pearl - Too true. A friend of mine who has two sons remarked that she's afraid of the social challenges of raising girls.

SL - I definitely notice a difference in the class among kids who are the oldest in the family and kids who have older siblings/older brothers. Ann is not savvy in that way yet. Hopefully she doesn't have to become so!

Hila - Thanks. It's not easy growing up!

Orieyenta - I knew I'd hear from you as another mom of a "sometimes too nice" kid! Thankfully it was only Ann's picture that this girl called "not beautiful" and not Ann herself! Otherwise, I'd have had to break out some of that redhead power on her!

SWFM - Glad you sympathize!

Ezzie - Isn't she? And I agree with you. And overall she's had a great year, thankfully.

triLcat - I always preferred having a couple of close friends too. That's all you really need.

Anon - It's funny how they take after us. And yet are so individual.

Juggling Frogs - I thought I could wait with that stuff until junior high at least! But kids are pretty sophisticated.

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Actually it's epathize, which is what a good SW does, no one wants sympathy:)