I was an awkward kid, to say the least. I wasn’t good at sports. I wasn’t good at being social. I wasn’t good at knowing what was the hip thing to wear. I had red glasses. I had a perm.
I was no novice to rejection. I once mustered up the courage to ask the boy whom I liked in seventh grade if he would go out with me. Or, let’s be honest, I mustered up the courage to ask my friend to ask the boy I liked if he would go out with me. The answer was no, and so I pushed my glasses back up the bridge of my nose and continued to admire him from afar, counting small victories like the time he walked by my table at lunch and glanced at what I was eating.
I can hear your “awww”s and your “poor kid!” remarks now. But, this is no pity party. I am comfortable with my childhood. I own it. It is part of why I am who I am today. But now with kids of my own, childhood takes on a whole new meaning.
My heart is full of anxiety for what my children’s childhood will be like. Will they be accepted? Will they be good at sports? Will they be picked last for the dodgeball team in gym class? Will they have an easy time making friends? Will my daughter’s crush say yes in the seventh grade when her best friend asks him if he will “go out with” her? (I imagine by that time, I will get an eye-roll—“Mom! Who says ‘go out with’? What does that even mean?”) Oh, I am riddled with trepidation about how the childhood journeys of my three children whom I love so deeply will affect them.
My daughter was telling me about which friend she picked to do work with at school the other day. My ears perked up. Friends? She has friends? She has friends!
I went to pick my son up from preschool and one of his friends asked me if my son could sleep over. I had to control myself from breaking into somersaults right there, right then, in front of 20 preschoolers. Another mom was telling me how her daughter is obsessed with my son and how she won’t stop talking about him at home. Does someone like my sweet, sensitive son? Oh, stop my bursting heart!
Here is the thing: I accept my childhood and acknowledge how it has helped me become me. But I won’t lie. It wasn’t easy. There may even have been tears. Maybe even lots of tears at lots of times. But as my children enter into this new phase of starting school and being around their peers, I have a newfound respect for the experience of childhood. I lurk in the sidelines and wring my fingers together hoping and silently rooting for them to be accepted and not teased. I vigorously hope this will be a joyful time that will help build their growing confidence.
I know there is still a lot to experience and I am definitely getting ahead of myself; after all, all of my children are 4 and under for crying out loud. But I would relive my childhood—the tears, the awkwardness, even the teasing on the bus—if I could trade it for acceptance for my children among their peers and a childhood filled with mostly positive experiences. I would give anything for that.
So, if you see me perched in the bushes at my children’s preschool, please don’t judge me. I am just rooting for their success from the sidelines (or bushes).