One of the nice things about our little country school is that everyone seems to know my child’s name. I worry about her place in her little group sometimes, as I was a bit of an outsider at school. Oh I had plenty of friends, but I was always on the edge of each group and never sure where I belonged. I was too weird to be part of the pretty crowd; too into folk music to be part of the heavy-metal crowd; too into science to be part of the art crowd and too interested in boys to be part of the science crowd.
I watch Mapera playing with her friends, and at the moment she seems to be popular with the girls and the boys in equal measure, and plays both quiet games and chasing-shouting games with enthusiasm. There is one kid in her class who can be a bit mean (there’s always one isn’t there), and Mapera came home once saying that said child had been mean to her. I asked her what had happened and she said that the other child had said she had a fat bum.
A bit of me wanted to steam in and smite the terrible demon-child with my righteous sword of niceness, but I stopped and reminded myself that a) these are 5 year old girls and b) girls are mean, it’s part of the genetics.
I asked Mapera what she wanted to do about it, and she said “I don’t know” which is the response to everything at the moment. I suggested she could play with someone else, or say something silly back (not mean, just make it into a silly joke). Mapera latched onto the idea of a joke and decided to tell her friend a joke to make them laugh.
We don’t seem to have had a repeat occurrence of the meanness, so I reckon Mapera’s comic timing has won the day.
The older children at our school all seem to be very well-rounded too, which bodes well for my child in the future. The school has a policy of giving the oldest year group (aged 12-13) some responsibilities around the school, which I think is a fantastic way of getting them to learn empathy and give them a feeling of being needed in school, rather than just being there because you have to.
The only thing we are struggling with at the moment is Mapera’s problem with unexpected things happening at school. We recently attended the school swimming sports and family picnic, and Mapera happily did the swimming they had been practicing since last term, and played with her friends around the picnic blankets. The problem began when all the kids had to get dressed again and troop through to the field next to the pool to play a few games. I hadn’t known this was part of the day, so it came as a bit of a surprise for Mapera, and things began to go wrong when I asked her who was in her house group, so she could sit in the right line.
Her face started to crumple til another parent took her hand and led her over to the right group where she sat sucking her lip and looking like she was in a police line-up where she didn’t have an alibi for the night before.
When the teacher announced that her little group would be playing touch-rugby, that was it for Mapera. She sobbed as if the little old lady on the other side of the glass had pointed at her and said “that’s the one”. A concerned parent brought her over to me suggesting I should take her home as she was a bit tired. I took Mapera’s hand muttering “drama queen” to myself, but then I felt I ought to do the right thing and knelt down next to Mapera. “Honey, are you a bit stressed because you don’t know what you’re supposed to do?” Nod, sniffle, “would you like to watch so you can see how to play the game” shake, sob “do you want to go home?” “NO! I want to play with Kaitereo”.
So my “tired” daughter spent the next hour running up and down the cricket pitch with her little sister and another 3 year-old friend, playing her own games, her own way with 2 little minions to do her bidding.
I think she’ll be OK.