Eva has always been a little different to other children, even from the baby days when her personality was just starting to appear she would be happier in a quiet room reading books with me and playing simple games than in a room full of people, she talked really early and would happily hold a conversation with an adult but would shy away from children her own age. She would cling onto my leg when out and about, she hated softplay, she didn’t want to join in at clubs and yet as soon as she was home in her own surroundings she would become the life and soul of the party. It has been 6 years now, and this hasn’t changed. But life has.
Now she has to have this same personality in a world that doesn’t celebrate difference, in a world when most other children like the same things, where girls conform to dresses and make-up and boys like football and rough play, where tv and the latest fads seem to dominate childhood altogether and her love of books and documentaries make her seem worlds apart, she doesn’t fit into any single category. She is neither a tom boy or a girly girl but she is a sensitive soul who just wants to be accepted and to find her place to fit, to feel happy to be herself.
There is no place more apparent of course than school and that is the place that I cannot be. I cannot be there to champion her or to support her, but I can help her learn to celebrate difference. Not just because she doesn’t fit into this childhood stereotype but because other don’t too, to see past all of that and to accept others in life. To accept them for who they are but also to know that acceptance doesn’t mean defeat. We can accept people and realise that just isn’t for us, to decide to turn the other way and choose a different path, and know as much as anything that there is a path to take. A hard lesson to learn at 6 years old, but one that truthfully I think she already demonstrates better than I do!
Eva had her second school disco recently and after success of the first one for Halloween I looked forward to the day to share that excitement once again. She was a little subdued I must admit and wasn’t counting down to it like I expected but happy enough she chose her outfit (NOT a dress or glittery shoes as she liked to tell me) we had this little photoshoot outside and then she waved from the car as my friend picked her up to join all the other KS1 children and teachers alike to loud music and flashing lights aplenty!
It was one of the hottest days of the year and that was clear to see on her face when I greeted her just an hour later and the heat rushed out as they opened the doors for the first time. She looked sad, I put it down to being hot and tired so I didn’t push it, I left her with her thoughts all the way home and didn’t ask. Then she turned to me as I was tucking her in for the night and said “Mum I don’t think disco’s are really my thing. That’s ok isn’t it? I don’t think I will go again.”
A part of me wanted to cry (ok a part of me did cry) and even writing that makes tears well up in my eyes because the thought that she doesn’t feel comfortable in this surrounding she has to go through for years to come breaks my heart. Yet a huge part of me is so so proud that she actually must be pretty confident to know herself and to know she is accepted and safe enough to make decisions that go against the grain. She asked if maybe we could do something as a family instead, go somewhere cool and spend the time together so she wasn’t feeling like she missed out. I love her for that.
We have spent so many years thinking she was shy, helping her to come out of her shell, making efforts with children her own age and wondering if it is something we have done, or maybe I have passed on my social awkwardness (that may well still be true). But it has taken 6 and a half years of parenting and a whole lot of learning from Eva to realise, that is not the case.
My child is not shy, or rude, or spoilt, or stuck up. She’s just different. She does take childhood joy from life, just in a different way. She likes different things, she doesn’t like pink, she won’t be wearing flowery dresses to a party, she’s not comfortable rising a bike and you will find her in her room reading or writing more than you will climbing up a tree or running around at a park. This is my Eva and I cannot imagine her any other way.
I want more than anything for her to learn to stand by who she is, whatever that may be. Not to have to conform or feel inferior because she isn’t like everyone else, in fact to celebrate that. So I will be teaching her, and both of my children, to celebrate difference, to show respect and joy at the wonderful array of people that walk the earth and the confidence to find those people who relate to them, who make them feel good inside and to know that that will happen, even if it isn’t in the local village school.
For now she knows who she is, she mostly makes no apologies for this and she is her own version of perfect, and it just so happens, my version too.
Keep being you baby girl as there is noone else who does that better.