It’s been an odd few days. I’ve had some funny and sad conversations with Daughter Dear (DD). She is sharp, witty & observant, and I forget underneath all that, she’s a 9-year-old tween trying to make sense of her world as its boundaries expand. Here are a few snippets from yesterday…
Impromptu geography quiz on the walk to school…she got Chile, Morocco, the Dominican Republic….and then:
Me: Where is Papua New Guinea?
DD: You can’t start MAKING UP countries now!
Time to stop using the globe as an indoor football, methinks.
Later last night, apropos of nothing:
DD: You know the three wise men?
Me: Not personally, no. I’m not THAT old. But I know of their work.
DD: Yeah, if they were so wise (air quotes here), why didn’t they bring useful stuff, like a cot, and a midwife, and maybe some takeaway?
Me: Yes, why not indeed? But perhaps Mary & Joseph could have traded the gold, frankincense & myrrh for other goods.
DD: What, like on the black market?
Most people who haven’t met DD assume I make these stories up. I’m flattered, naturally. But no, I don’t. It is my life’s delight when people have a conversation with her for the first time, turn to me and say, “She’s REALLY like you say she is.” Yes, indeed. I quote her verbatim, because she usually checks if I’m misquoting her and therefore “losing the good stuff”.
However, all the thinking and intelligence in the world don’t seem to stand her in good stead when dealing with playground bullies. She is naturally a lover, and a believer in the good, so she just doesn’t see when people are being, for lack of a better term, little sh*ts. She went through a bout of being bullied by a girl two years ago, and DD’s take on the situation was this: “Her parents are getting a divorce, she’s had to move house, she’s sad and angry, so it’s OK”. We moved back to London a few months after this, and she’s been very happy at her new school. Or so I thought.
Recently, she’s begun to mention being excluded from certain chats, or playgroups, at recess. Ordinarily, this doesn’t worry me, because I know friendships & loyalties at this age are fluid and can change between lunch & tea. However, when probed further, she admits that the exclusions are bothering her because she doesn’t know what’s triggering them, and she is spending more time with her Breton Best Friend, daughter of my Breton Best Friend. However, if you’ve been a follower for a while, you know our besties are expats, and returning to France in a few months. Last night was the first tangible realisation of her impending loss; she sobbed in my arms and asked why we couldn’t house the bestie and keep her at school in London? Apart from breaking my heart, this set off alarm bells in my head. Is the exclusion worse than DD let on? Is this normal? Christ, again, no baseline to work with. My first real friendships date back to age 16, so I have no map, no compass to navigate these waters with her.
Right now, if I had all the gold, frankincense and myrrh in the world, I’d trade it for an answer, a solution. My very real concern is that she internalises this, and starts to think it’s about her, when I truly doubt it is. I fear that this will be the first chink in her armour, the insidious whittling away of her psyche.