Sins of the Mother (or why my child isn’t popular)

One thing I didn’t factor in to my decision to procreate was the fact that my child’s early socialization would be largely dependent on my own ability to make friends. And I just don’t make friends. Not really and not easily.

My life has mostly been barren where close relationships are concerned. Growing up, I never had a best friend. I flitted from crowd to crowd. Jockettes. Band geeks. Newspaper nerds.

A college friend, who also went to high school with me, once commented,

“I never could figure out why you hung out with us (band geeks) when you could have been friends with anyone.”

And that’s the heart of the problem. I could be friends with anyone and so I am friends with very few. My personality is not calibrated to crowds, in or out. And friends were work. Work with dubious pay-off. On those occasions that I did put in the time and effort, my reward was second-rate. I seldom made the top-tier friend status with those who I was really attracted to as people.

Some of this, I know now, relates to my life’s mission. But some of it gets back to my distinct lack of “follower” DNA.

How does this relate then to motherhood?

Come to discover that my daughter’s popularity, or lack thereof, is directly proportional to my standing in the eyes of her friends’ mothers.

At the moment, I am a down arrow in terms of stock value.

It’s been coming. I saw it. The dance moms noses have actually gotten longer looking down at me this year for my indifferent regard for protocol. A few of them are in danger of becoming cross-eyed from all the askance looks they’ve shot my way.

I don’t care what other women – or people in general – think of me, and that is a statement I haven’t always been able to lay claim to over the years, but it bothers me that my lack of popularity reflects on Dee, who should be judged (well, she shouldn’t be judged ever really) on her own merit. She is a person in her own right after all and not just an appendage of me. Unlike many of the mothers I have met since becoming one, I didn’t have Dee to fulfill any thwarted childhood dreams of my own.

Recently, there was an “incident” with a ballet teacher that prompted me to pull Dee from the school just a week before the year-end performance. My doing this was based on Dee’s emotional well-being. I didn’t want to force her to continue when it was clear that the teacher had no regard for her as a person and saw her as merely a backdrop for her more talented students. This wasn’t the first problem with this particular teacher and forcing Dee to gut it out would have  – in my opinion – taught her that taking abuse from people is what “good girls” do for the greater good of her friends. Being female is enough of a trial in this world without reinforcing the ridiculous notion of “sucking it up” as a virtue.*

I earned a bit of scorn for this from the mothers of Dee’s dancemates. One in particular demonstrated her ire when she forbade her daughter – Dee’s school classmate – from dancing with Dee at the school talent show.

Dee has wanted to perform in the school performance since kindergarten. Her friend agreed to do the ballet number they’d learned together, but her mother won’t allow it. Retribution.

Only it’s directed at me through Dee. Which stinks. I have no patience with people who use children to prove points to adults.

Fortunately, Dee really doesn’t understand what has occurred. I sent a note to her teacher to let her know what happened and to keep her on the alert for anything that might come up.

Dee’s friend and her twin sister host an end of the year day long party and sleep-over the weekend after school gets out. Dee has always been invited. This year I doubt she will be. Another social conformity lesson for me that my daughter will have to pay for and won’t understand. The sad thing is that it won’t change me. I am unlikely, at my age, to bend to the will of people who I wouldn’t have chosen to make friends with in the first place.

It’s not that I dislike these women. They are nice. I’ve had pleasant conversations and passed time in their company. I am just not … I don’t know … someone who feels the need to run my life by committee or needs a lot of outside approval or validation? It’s hard to explain.

I made the right decision for Dee. I am her mother first and the children who were in her dance groups are not my primary concern. I find it hard to fathom that any of them were greatly affected by Dee’s absence anyway. The attrition rate at the end of the year performances (there are two) is high because they fall on weekend evenings and in this neck of Alberta – in June – that’s RV and lake lot season. People bugger off on the weekends. We don’t have a long summer season and no one squanders the tiny bit of time we get.

*There are times and places for sticking things out but not when you are being used or treated badly.

17 thoughts on “Sins of the Mother (or why my child isn’t popular)

  1. I know this was written 5 years ago, but I could have written every word, so closely does it accord with my own feelings … I have 2 boys of 4 & 5, and it kills me that they are starting to pay for my own lack of friend-making skills. We have tons of acquaintances but no real friends/confidants… this has never bothered me until now!

    1. My daughter is in junior high now. She still doesn’t have many close friends but she is well-liked by her peers. She gets along with her classmates, teammates and doesn’t hesitate to try new opportunities even if it means making new acquaintances. These are all good things.

      At the time, I was so worried that she would be just like me that I forgot that she wasn’t just like me. As she got older, she solved (and is still solving) her friendship needs herself.

      Would it have been easier if I could have provided her with ready-made relationships via my own friend network? Maybe. But my own mother is quite extroverted and I was exposed to lots of friend possibilities via her network and I didn’t make a single close or long-term friendship that way.

      My daughter, as she has grown, has cultivated her own network and I helped by making sure that she had opportunities via school, sports and various activities and by encouraging her.

      I asked her recently – because she is changing schools next year – if she felt like she had enough friends. The topic came up because she will be leaving behind her best friend and a new friend that she made this school year.

      “Yes,” she said. “I don’t know what I would do with lots of them.”

      And when I asked if she worried about losing touch, she said, “No, I can text and phone and we can make dates to do things, and at my new school, I already know people from my team.”

      Whatever you are doing to help your boys is probably just what you need to be doing. You can’t change who you are and they will be who they are supposed to as they figure it out.

      If I could talk to myself five years ago, I would tell her not to worry so much but I can’t, so I will tell you instead – don’t worry so much. It’ll work out.

  2. Think you are a cool mum. I feel the same. I wish I had the guts to be like you as your strengths will be played back by her when she is older. However I would caution you not to thwart her self expression and ensure she has her voice heard equally. A strong clear thinking mum who allows your emotional development is surely an asset. I cannot bear the school politics..and all the kowtowing to the popular mums. Had enough of that in school and university!! I would say I am friendly and have very close dear friends who understand my limits with herd mentality.

    1. Part of Dee’s problem is that she self expresses and believes fiercely that fair play involves being heard. She’d likely be more popular if she wasn’t. She’s not much of a follower, my kid.

      And thank you for thinking that I am “cool”. I used to tell my grade 7 kids that I was beyond cool when they would insist that grown ups cannot hope to retain coolness as they age. At the time, I was just messing with them and really more self-conscious than I appeared, but anymore, I don’t concern myself. It’s really not worth the angst.

  3. Raising our children would be so much easier if we didn’t have to deal with other people! I’m kidding. Sort of. Sticking to what you think is best for your daughter is really all you can do.

  4. I followed you here from the 50-something moms blog. I love this post and I loved your statement (in the comments) about living vs. actively non-conforming. That dance situation was appalling and you did the right thing.

    I am also a person who doesn’t make friends easily (but could never write about it as eloquently as you have). I have always had a few very close friends but those are people who refused to give up on me.

    When my now-20-something daughters were young, I also used to worry about their socialization. But they have turned out just fine. One of them is more social than the other but they are both extremely strong young women who have good friends but choose very carefully. I bet this is just a little bump in the road for your daughter and that she’ll be fine.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story. I am heartened to hear that my social ineptitude won’t damage my daughter.

      It’s funny the importance we place on our own shortcomings in the overall development of our children. I can think of quite a few “flaws” in my own parents that didn’t rub off on me at all.

      Glad you found my personal blog. 50 Something is shutting down at the end of the month.

  5. I actually enjoyed this post quite a bit… I always wanted a little girl and instead had 3 boys… and maybe somewhere higher up, there was a sense I would never conform neither and I was spared the feelings you are currently feeling…

    Couple points tho… I DO have 3 boys involved with in the community and I am almost similar to you in nature, however for some reason it has actually plunged me straight into “liking” so to speak… I just became PTA president and now have more “friends” then I know what to do with! And although I do enjoy helping others to learn that you don’t have to conform to fit in, it is over bearing at the same time…

    Another point… when I married john, his daughter kayla came into my life… and its amazing actually… I had numerous heart to hearts with her about being a follower versus being an independent leader and she completely changed! For the better as well… I’m very happy to say that she is now very well liked but yet maintains her own amazing sense of independence and is extremely individualistic…

    So although you may feel this angst now, I do bet it will benefit her in the end 🙂 oh… and you go girl! 😉

  6. I don’t have very many friends, either. Never have. I wonder if that’s part of what drew us to blogging in the first place? Do people with a ton of friends at their disposal not blog because there are enough people in their lives to talk to?

    1. Blogging is my new way to journal. In my high school days, I actually did let people read one of the journals I kept that documented events sans personal introspection and angst. I also wrote stories (and soap opera) that friends read. For me, blogging is like going back to that.

      I think bloggers are people who are naturally drawn to sharing our thoughts and in by gone eras we might have been those who wrote long letters to numerous people and would be showing up in Ken Burns documentaries now.

  7. What would you do if, when Dee is older and more aware, she asked you to yield to the social pressure in order to stop her from being censured in retribution? I’m not asking because I think you should (I don’t), just wondering how that would play out. I’m not much of a conformist myself, and so far this has been OK because my daughter isn’t one either, but I can see difficult scenarios happening between a nonconformist parent and a kid who just wants to fit in.

    1. I won’t have as much to say about this as she gets older which is why I have to teach her to stand up to this conformist nonsense with a harder line now. She is very sensitive and having been that kid once, I know there are bumps to come that I won’t be able to shield her from.

      It’s interesting b/c I don’t see me as actively non-conforming. I am just living. Perhaps it is the small town thing biting me again? I didn’t do well growing up small town after all.

      1. If your life choices are outside the norm, I think there’s not much practical difference between ‘just living’ and actively non-conforming. Internally there is, because you’re not trying to rebel for rebellion’s sake – just making the choices you feel are best for you – but the response you end up getting from the people around you is pretty much the same. Most people seem to think that if you choose something different than what they’ve chosen, you’re not just making a different choice for yourself, you’re attacking their choice, and by extension, attacking them. But, that’s their problem (at least until they make it your problem too, or your child’s).

  8. You did what you felt was best for your child, and as a mother, that is your right! You were protecting her from being devalued by someone that was supposed to be building her up, both in skills and self-confidence. Don’t apologize for being a caring mom!

    Your little girl will grow up with a positive influence in you, and learn how to think for herself, without being just another “sheep in the herd”.

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