So the other day, Big Girl asks, “Mom, did you have a ‘group’ in school? You know, a clique that you hung around with?” I responded with the simple truth that no, I did not have a group. I got along well with everyone and think I was well-liked enough, but didn’t belong to a “group.” Friends with everyone, friends with no one is how I would classify my school years. Her response: “Oh, good. Then it’s okay that I don’t fit in anywhere. I’ll still grow up fine.”
This got me thinking….and thinking….and thinking some more. Will she? It never bothered me that I didn’t “fit,” but I worry that it bothers her. I knew I fit within my family and had a sense of belonging there, although I never imagined myself “like” them. I come from a very weird strange odd eclectic family, which simply meant that I fit in with them simply because they didn’t fit anywhere either. My Mom’s family is self-reportedly antisocial. Family first and only was my Mom’s family’s outlook on life. What more do you need? And my Dad’s family is Irish Catholic from the Bronx. What more is there to say? (I am quite likely more like my biological father’s family’s personalities, but have spent a lifetime fighting the genetic tendencies to respond to situations the way I remember they did…I have all but squelched that fiery part of my personality although the tinder is always there waiting for the sparks to ignite it.)
And in thinking about my daughter’s situation, I began to realize that I still don’t “fit” anywhere at age 40. I fit within my family, and fortunately found a husband who was my missing piece, but I wonder what it is? This tendency to feel separate somehow? Zan and I are social people….we like people….we have friends, very dear ones, and many who have crossed that boundary of friendship into the circle that we consider family. But I still can’t define myself into a “group.” I don’t fit into the large circle of Mommies whose existence seems to orbit around school parties, and PTSO functions. I don’t fit with the Friday night Happy Hour Mommies. (Thank God.) One of the only places I ever did fit was the school where I worked. And even then, we were a group of misfits within the district. The only school out of five that held a certain philosophy of educating children that the rest of the district balked at. We were an island often rowing against the current….and I fit there. And I fit at Camp Wilton…talk about a collection of bohemians…none of us conformed to the “norm.”
So what do I tell my daughter? How do I help her maneuver this social landscape?
I tell her it’s okay to not fit. It’s okay to feel displaced. Stand on your convictions, but do it in a way that exhibits class and avoids making enemies. Stand out because of your honor, but don’t dishonor others. Treat others as you want them to treat you, but grow a tough skin because that’s not how many others operate. Address the people directly who have disrespected you, but do it with couth and tolerance, and don’t expect the apology that you deserve….let it go once you’ve said your piece. Avoid toxic people…you can’t save them. Declutter your own aura so you aren’t sending negative energy into the world. Pray to God for guidance and trust that it will come, although the answer may not be the one you were hoping for. Don’t argue with strong-minded people. Know your own mind, and don’t be swayed, but also understand that they will not be swayed either. Agree to disagree, or don’t engage at all. Sometimes peace is more important than convincing someone else of your rightness. Bind those who bring you happiness close to you, and let the others go. Trust your family, and do the work required to keep your relationships loving and positive…you will always be able to depend on them. And lastly, be content with your own company….there will be times when you will be your only friend.
I want her to trust that someday she will find her place, as impossible as that seems to her right now.
Man, this parenting stuff is hard work.