Little Miss Perfect

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At the end of each school day, I ask the kids several questions that I hope maximizes my chances of getting real answers, meaty answers, answers with depth and intel. I ask them things like Who made them laugh? Who made them angry? Who was kind to them? Who were they kind to? What games did they play at recess? Who did they sit with at lunch? What did they fail at today? What new thing did they try today? What was the best part of the day? The worst? What are they grateful for today? Those sorts of questions that only an overbearing therapist of a mother would ask.

Yesterday I asked La Chica which children in her grade have decided to play a string instrument in the school orchestra. She listed the students, and with one girl, we’ll call her Z, she immediately added, “But she thinks she’s perfect and that she’s better than everyone else,” with a sneer in her voice.

I know that voice. And you know that voice. We used that voice in middle school and high school and college and into young adulthood. Some people still use that voice, and those words in middle-age. I’ve used that voice, and similar words, when I’ve felt inferior, unsure, threatened, not enough. I’ve used that voice and those words when I’ve felt like I wasn’t cool enough or trendy enough or pretty enough or popular enough. I’ve used that voice and those words to essentially negate or dismiss another human being because I felt vulnerable and inferior to that person, for whatever reason. So I cringed when I heard my 8-year-old say that.

I asked her why she said that. She replied that Z is always wearing fancy dresses with matching accessories, and just thinks she’s better than everyone else, and is mean to other kids. I asked her why she said Z thinks she’s better than everyone else. La Chica had no answer.

So she and I talked about how we must be cautious in making assumptions about people, especially based on outer appearances. We talked about how some people wear fancy dresses a lot because that’s their style preference, or because they’re from New Jersey. But neither necessarily means the person thinks she’s superior to others. We talked about how someone may appear snooty or be mean because sometimes that person is unsure of herself and feels vulnerable herself. We talked a lot about not making judgments about other people, especially if they’re from New Jersey. We talked a lot about how La Chica doesn’t need to be good friends with Z, but she must be kind to Z, and it’s not kind to talk about Z using those words.

It made me sad to see that an 8-year-old has already internalized this type of judging and comparing that is all around her in this world. At first I wondered where she learned this. Then I realized it didn’t matter if it was something she saw on TV, or from her friends, or just witnessing it at school, or if she’s just judgy in her own right. It doesn’t matter because we all do it, so she’ll continue to be exposed to this type of comparing oneself to others, to labeling others into certain Other or Out Groups, to feeling inferior to some groups and superior to others.

We have got to be more careful, and much kinder, in our dealings with ourselves and others. We must be mindful to accept others for their own brand of beauty, we must be mindful to be kind to everyone. Our children are watching.

 

* Please note, the references to New Jersey were written as a sad attempt at my self-deprecating humor.  I’m from New Jersey, and I proudly proclaim that my baseline is dressier and glitterier and sparklier than the average bear.

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10 Responses to Little Miss Perfect

  1. Susanna, your thoughtfulness is inspiring. I trust you are raising wonderful children and being a good (not perfect) example for them. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and caring.
    to kindness!
    Perhaps you want to join the Compassion Games as a way to reinforce this habit? Here’s my post on the games in case you’re interested. Blessings, Brad
    http://writingtofreedom.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/let-the-games-begin/

    Like

    • Brad-
      Thank you!! I am woefully waaaay behind in reading the wise words of the bloggers I follow, you included. My head has acted up lately so I have a lot of catching up to do. I will read your post on the games, and just by the name of it, I’m excited to learn more!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. HI there,

    Yes, children are exposed to the toxicity of negativity from their earliest experiences with other human beings. As you well know, the larger their circle of influence grows the more they will be bombarded by thoughts and ideas that will prove harmful to themselves and all others. It is incredible how quickly we fall prey to peer pressure and the need to fit in. Our conscious tells us to do the right thing and stand up against such hurtful negativity but our strong desire to belong over rides that decision. Raising children of good moral character that will carry them throughout their adulthood is a monumental task and I give you full kudos for doing your best to see that happens. I wish you and all parents like you the greatest success because this world will be a much better place with your success.

    I am a bit curious, twice you say not to judge others or be mean to them but “especially if they are from New Jersey”. Can you elaborate on that statement? Why do you single New Jersians out?
    Thank you for commitment to being a great parent for your children but especially for the world at large. I used to be a therapist to children broken by abuse and/or neglect as well as to adult survivors of the same so I have seen, firsthand, the devastation caused by bad parenting. Bravo to you!

    Tina

    Like

    • Tina, Thank you so much for your thoughtful response, for taking the time to read my post, and for your kind and gentle calling out of my dissonant behavior. Funny, I had written a disclaimer in my original post, but deleted it before publishing. Clearly I should have left said disclaimer in 🙂 Why New Jersey? I’m from New Jersey, and my baseline is dressier and glitterier and sparklier than the average bear, and longtime readers of my blog know (hopefully) I am very self-deprecating, and that I think I’m funny. So that was my attempt at humor. Failed, I see. I however will leave it in and add the disclaimer–I offended, and won’t delete that mistake. I’ll own my messy and dissonant self! Thank you for this opportunity. I’m grateful for our dialogue. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s interesting, Susanna, that what children are exposed to these days is, in part, a function of where they are brought up. I lived in Jersey for years — went to HS and did my undergrad work there. I’ve lived in NYC, CT and Northern VA…. often places of privilege. I totally ‘get’ and appreciate your self-deprecating humor. 🙂 However, I’ve also lived in places where the people, culture, and sense of civility are more grounded in common courtesy, integrity, and less emphasis on materialism. Different geographic areas lend to and encourage different beahviors. I enjoyed and appreciate your perspectives here. In the end, each of us becomes who we choose to be, despite all we’ve been subjected to. 🙂

    Like

  4. Dani says:

    “I know that voice. And you know that voice. We used that voice in middle school and high school and college and into young adulthood. Some people still use that voice, and those words in middle-age. I’ve used that voice, and similar words, when I’ve felt inferior, unsure, threatened, not enough.”

    There is so much truth here.
    And yes, “our children are watching”, as is the child in each of us.

    A heartfelt and heartrending reminder, sweetie.

    With thanks and blessings,
    Dani

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on BonneVivanteLife and commented:

    As we head into a new school year, an old-post reminder to be mindful to share not only our stories of summer adventures, but our loving-kindness as well. Plus some questions you can ask to get your little one to talk more about how his/her day went-

    Like

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