Addie is most likely to tell me personal things about her life at school right at bedtime. This is a little annoying because I'm so ding-dang tired by that point and the kids are always pushing their bedtimes anyway. But I try to listen carefully because it's important that she's sharing this stuff with me. I don't have any sense of her life at school otherwise, except for little clues here and there.
I've been wondering when Addie would start to become aware of things like clothes, or being teased. She's been pretty much a free spirit up until now, but I'm noticing some things starting to change. She won't wear a hat she got for Christmas because the other kids laugh at her when she does (a year ago she would have rocked it, no matter what). She thinks things Nolie says are "embarrassing." She thinks things I say are "embarrassing." She has started only wearing plain t-shirts from her closet, and pants with the waist tops rolled down.
And there are the details I get directly from her. She told me a few weeks back about a girl who was making fun of her for a while, and we talked about how to handle it (my advice was multifaceted--try making friends, try saying "whatever," try using your words like an adult. I'm not sure what worked). Addie tells me that girl leaves her alone now, but that there's a different girl, P., who has started calling her "weird."
She whispered this to me last night, in her dark and quiet room, and my first thought was actually a feeling--a rock in the gut--as I remembered what it was like to be made fun of and excluded as a kid.
My second thought: take care of your kid. "Look at me Addie," I said. "You are not weird. You are wonderful. You're the farthest thing from weird that there is."
My third thought, which I didn't say, was, "Of course you're a little weird. You're a professor's kid, an engineer's kid, you're smart and a little gawky and beautiful. You're artistic. You're funny. You're tall. For a girl, all those things make you a little weird. But in the very best way, though you probably won't recognize that until you're almost 40."
But you can't say that, because that's how you see things and you know the other little kids and your kid see things differently, and it's unfair to ask a kid to wait 35 years for it all to make sense.