I hated school. From the first day I went to the last, I loathed it. It wasn’t so much the lessons, I loved learning (most things at least… maths not so much), and I got on perfectly well with most of my teachers. I didn’t hate the building, it was much like a standard office block for the most part, and the uniform was perfectly alright as uniforms go. I hated exams, obviously, and homework was a nuisance, but these were all par for the course. What I hated, what I dreaded and longed to avoid at all costs, was the other kids.
I learned to survive school by developing a persona. I became a person I thought I could be to survive and I tried to stick to it. I pretended to care about things I didn’t, I pretended to like people I didn’t. I tried to carve myself an identity I could be true to with ease. It broke me inside. I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know what I wanted. Because I couldn’t stick to it, because I didn’t have anything solid to stick to I drifted between identities and styles, I lost all value and respect for the true me. I rapidly lost all self worth and allowed myself to be used and treated like dirt because why did it matter? The true me was gone.
It took a long time for me to claw my way out of the psychological damage of living a false life. It wasn’t just school that led me down that path, it was various outside factors, but school was the prison where those versions of me were all trapped, and it housed the people they were created for. It’s really only now, more than ten years later, that I feel I actually have conquered those demons. It wasn’t until my marriage ended that I feel like I truly started. Until then, on some level, I was certain that I wasn’t worth anything so tried to be what the situation or person needed rather than just living as myself. It’s a path I still sometimes find myself stumbling awkwardly down, but I am far quicker to pull myself out now. But old habits die hard, and self esteem is a cruel mistress.
When Miss Rose started nursery school she loved it, she was excited to go every day. She loved her teachers, she loved her classroom and she loved her activities. Then it changed and I couldn’t work out why.
The Boy came for drop off for the first time the other day and witnessed it first hand, witnessed her chipper demeanor as we walked into school grounds, played with her in the playground whilst we waited for the other pupils to arrive and the classroom to open. Then he saw her change as the other kids started to arrive. Saw her face lose the fun and become anxious, watched her repeatedly try and run away back towards the road and have to be chased and brought back. Watched her melt down in anguish as we hung her coat on the peg and tried to encourage her into the arms of the lovely waiting teacher.
“Please don’t leave me!” she begs through huge tears and eyes that hold so much fear and sadness that even thinking about it even now, whilst she’s cuddled up next to me watching Ninja Turtles happily, makes me want to cry myself.
It’s the other kids.
Miss Rose is not like the other little girls, and that’s obvious from the moment you see her. Whilst they have long hair in bobbles, braids and bunches, Miss Rose favours short, spiky hair. Whilst they have their Frozen and Cinderella bags, Miss Rose carries her Spiderman one. They talk about Disney Princesses and she talks about Doctor Who. She’s different.
As well as being different by appearance, she also is a very vulnerable soul in a lof of ways. She lays it all out. She’s all in. She wants to play with everyone and, naively, assumes everyone wants to play with her. She puts herself in everyone’s business, attaches herself to other kids at soft play or playgroups, and just assumes they’ll want her there. And sometimes they don’t. She’ll start “helping” with puzzles or trains or blocks when they don’t want help. She’ll join in conversations where her input isn’t required. In short, she’s the kid people quickly learn to avoid because if they don’t she’ll get in their way.
The other kids don’t want to play with her anymore.
This is the first step. She’s going to learn to change herself, suppress herself, in order to fit in. She’s going to start seeing herself as less valuable and less wanted the more she changes herself and the more those changes gets her accepted. The less the real her is wanted the more the fake her will take over. The more fake her takes over the less she will respect real her.
So what do I do?
To have friends and fit in, which is one of those staples on how to survive school, she’ll need to adapt. She’ll need to learn that sometimes people don’t want your input, and that not everyone is obligated to spend time with you. That not all people mesh together in a positive way. She’s not the child who can naturally be a “happy loner”. Some children are, and some children will seek solitude, but that’s not Miss Rose. She’s a social creature in the extreme, and being social requires a degree of adapting to society. The society of school is tough, and she’ll need to change a fair bit to achieve it, and if she chooses to do that I will respect and understand why, afterall it’s a choice I made myself. But I’ll be sad, and I’ll need to try and reaffirm how awesome the truth of her is.
I don’t want her to lose the geeky, punky, intensely socialness that makes her who she is, because she’s special and funny and different. And it’s her. The truth of her, and that’s beautiful. But peer pressure is tough and fitting in during school is tougher.
They say it’s easier to build strong children than repair damaged adults, and as an adult still going through repair at the age of 30, I’m inclined to agree. I figure all I can do is let her get through school however she can, whilst reinforcing at home that I love her for who she is. I hope she will find a friend or two that love her for who she is so she doesn’t completely abandon her true self, but if she doesn’t I love her for who she is, her daddy loves her for who she is, and so hopefully she will learn to love herself for who she is quickly and before she ends up making the mistakes I made and am still paying for.
I love my little nerd.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!