BUSY IN BRISTOW: Fitting in with Cool Kids

| September 28, 2014 | 0 Comments | Busy in Bristow

Like Echosmith, I wish I could be like the cool kids.

But as a somewhat temperamental artist who likes her solitude, I’ve never been good at fitting in or being part of a group. Although I’ve got lots of acquaintances and a solid handful of good friends on whom I can rely, my friends are as eclectic as my tastes, which means together we form no cohesive group.

Lately, this has been bothering me, and the main reason for that is because I see my children are growing up to be just like me.

Instead of participating in a school-wide soccer challenge last week, Oldest Son demurs, claiming he’d rather stick to his regular workout schedule with his father than hang out with his peers.

When I ask Youngest Son who he’d like to invite to go with us to the National Air and Space Museum’s Science Day, he gives me the names of four boys who he likes and who all like him but who none of them really know each other.

“Who’s in your class this year?” I ask Oldest Daughter, and I sigh when I hear the names of a totally different group of girls than the ones from last year because this means she’ll have to start all over … again. She hasn’t been in class with her best friend since second grade, and last year she developed a good friendship with a girl who is in one of the other fourth grade classes this year and whose busy schedule after school and on weekends means we won’t be seeing her much.

Youngest Daughter’s choice of friends doesn’t guarantee much security for her future either. Although she has a steadfast friendship with two little girls who call her their “sister,” they happen to be twins, which poses a different dynamic altogether. As for other friends, she’s got a gazillion people she likes – and who like her – but like her Mom before her, most of these girls have little in common with each other except for the best friendship between two girls whose mothers have also clicked and who, I imagine, will be BFF’s until graduation and perhaps beyond.

I don’t have a BFF. I have several BFF’s who don’t know each other and don’t know that they share their BFF status with other women. And unfortunately, I could never convince these women to like each other as much as I like them individually, and therefore form, a group. Trust me, I’ve tried.

And my BFF’s children? My kids have grown up alongside theirs, but over the years, their kids have all developed besties in their respective neighborhoods which means when we have a party or go to visit them at their houses, guess who’s there?

Oh, the neuroses of the parents become the legacy of the children. Unless perhaps we step back and reflect on them in an effort to make a bona fide change or at least understand why we make the choices we make and accept ourselves for who we are.

 

The main thing I’d like to figure out is that magic ingredient that some people possess which makes them automatic members of a social group. Why have some moms moved to our community, and within a year, become members of “some club” while I still skirt around the fringes of at least five groups while belonging to none?

 

I’ve lived in the Nokesville community for 17 years. My first introduction was as a teacher at Brentsville District High School where I taught – on and off – for 12 years and where Husband still teaches, so a lot of people I’ve come to know over the years, I’ve gotten to know wearing what I call my “teacher hat.”

For a few years, I taught in Dumfries, Gainesville, and Haymarket, and it was during those years that I felt it was easiest to be “me” in Nokesville. Although I’ve always enjoyed teaching in the same community where I live, many teachers I know prefer to separate their professional and personal lives. If I thought this were the defining factor in my belonging to a group, I might have continued working outside the community despite my preference to teach close to home. However, I’m beginning to realize it’s me, not my job, where I work or don’t work, or whether I write this column and people make judgments about me based on my words, that determines my comfort level with my peers. Part of how I feel is because of my personality, but the part that haunts me is that old ghost of childhood insecurity, the part that I – like all parents – now re-live as a result of raising children.

You know what I’m talking about.

If we teach our children our values, I have to admit that we’re doing just that. Although I hesitate to speak for Husband, he is a lot like me when it comes to socializing: neither of us belong to one particular group. We’re friendly with everyone, and we like such a wide variety of people that it’s hard to settle down with just one. We’re welcome just about everywhere we go, but it’s not a given that we’re going to be sitting here or there at a home football game, and it’s just as likely that we’re with the farmers who’ve lived in Nokesville for generations as we will be with the parents who moved here more recently from Braemar as we will be with the movers and the shakers as we will be with the parents and grandparents of the now-grown-up kids we taught (or with those grown/former students themselves – many of whom have children our kids’ ages.)

The problem is I get a little jealous when I find out how deep the roots are within the groups themselves. For example, there’s a group of moms that get together regularly to have coffee and chat. One spectacular time, I got an invite and joined them. I admit here: although I probably don’t appear to be, I’m socially awkward. I want to be a member of your group, but I don’t know the rules, and if I did know them and you’d have me, I’d probably break them by inviting someone else along who wasn’t a member either.

In school, I was that outgoing – but weird – kid who went around the cafeteria talking to all of the students who sat by themselves.

In my 40’s, I’m that Mom who still struggles to figure out where I belong. I will only approach you when I’m feeling confident and chatty (usually after my first full cup of coffee). Otherwise, I’m a perennial homebody, most comfortable by myself, wearing my pj’s, watching Jeopardy, and reading your Facebook posts wishing I cared enough to be popular and wondering if my kids will ever make the hard choices I refuse to make but that are required to “fit in.”

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