By: Tanya Pimental
My three kids are all so different. They look so very alike, my mini clones. But inside they learn different, they share different, they empathize different, they love different, and they friend different. Yet, I can’t seem to figure out how to make them all be different and accepted in a way that makes me feel like I am not failing them when it comes to relationships. I’m doing something wrong in terms of friendships.
Am I trying to overachieve their social status? Am I wishing for them to be part of groups they don’t belong in? It feels like they are in this limbo between many groups. Of course, there are worse things; but I struggle wondering if their security and confidence is being challenged by being somewhat displaced. I can only hope they understand the extra special place they can fill as one who can cross social barriers and be themselves. Maybe the evidence will appear later in their lives.
Growing up, I was not popular. I had popular friends here and there but in reality, I was not “in.” Most of my life, I struggled to fit in due to overly strict parents that gave me limited opportunities to develop friendships. I experienced rejection often and some mild bullying. It felt like I was often on the cusp of fitting in and I never quite made it. However, now as an adult, I have some amazing friendships that I treasure in ways I didn’t realize I could or that I needed. So I ask myself, what have I passed onto them to land them in this awkward social limbo that I know all to well to be a sad social stature during adolescence.
Here I am with a super mature 10-year-old and a somewhat immature 8-year-old. Both I see trying to find peer groups that accept them for who they are. Neither able to really process their feelings in their friendship groups. Hoping I can process some of this with them and then help my youngest not struggle in this same way as she comes into this, too. Am I being too intrusive by listening always? Am I too present? That seems crazy. Maybe I should let it be what it is; and yet, I can’t help but feel like I need to be more involved with it.
My oldest. She is simply more than your average 5th grader. She’s a Talented and Gifted student. She’s super tall. She works her butt off at everything she does. I clearly am proud of her — maybe too proud — but she’s the kid that has things come to her because she puts in the time to be the best. There are many 12 and 13-year-olds in her life but I get a sense that they just see her as a 10-year-old and there is some disconnect. So how, as a mom, am I to get her to be accepted. She’s closer to her dance friends than her school friends; those are the girls she wants to spend time with always. When I look deeper, she has three different groups of these friends. She integrates herself as best as she can, and yet, I feel as a parent that she’s not really a part of any strong unit. Maybe I am crazy. Maybe she is ok with this multi-tasked friendships. It surely keeps her from being cliquey. Sadly though, I have seen her be excluded. How do I keep her happy and being who she is with all groups.
With my middle man, he never talks about a best friend. He had some trouble last year fitting in with his athletic peers socially and we were fortunate to make some changes with teams for this current year. Yet, it feels like we are at the same place a year later. He comes across as a kid that people like. I can’t imagine that he’s trying so hard that people actually dislike him for being so outgoing at 8 years old. But maybe that is the case. Maybe he tries too much. He wants to be part of that group that’s cool and noticed. Sadly, he’s this pawn that does stuff to fit in and made fun off when he steps away. It’s killing me as a parent. Does he have any real friends? How do I not force it and foster real friends for him? I’m feeling like a failure for him and he’s so naive that he just smiles and waves and goes on like the world loves him. Why don’t they? And why do I feel this to be my biggest parenting fail? This kid should run for mayor but all I see is taunting and essentially ganging up by those around him. And I’m not even privy to how things are at school.
Then my youngest is a pure showgirl. She’s taken on life with this attitude that will hopefully make her accept her role as a leader despite being the third born. She is sassy and confident. With her, how do I make her embrace this and not fall prey to being the youngest in her pier group although she is a December birthday. I feel like I am struggling to let them be different and yet also learn from parenting them each. No parent wants their kids to be left out and unaccepted, even if they don’t fully know it. These kids are fun and mannered and love to their fullest. Maybe I’m trying to overachieve for them and need to accept less in some way. Can I do something more to foster relationships with these peers they have in their lives? How do I let them be the leaders they have in them to be while still having friends. These kids are different but they deserve to have best friends.
What is it that I am I doing wrong? Is this my own issue and not theirs at all? I love them and yet feel like I’m failing in teaching them how to be friends and develop friendships.