This evening, after hearing the kid whine about something, I wearily begged her to stop, saying that no one likes a whiner. J's response, which I have heard all too often lately, was that I don't like her for who she is.
I love my child more than anything and, like most parents, more than my life. I genuinely want to be with her as much as possible (which is why for the first time in four years I am sad that school is ending). But the kid can whine better than a three-year-old, and it is getting old. And when she says to me that I don't like her, or even that I don't love her, I reply, just as my one grandmother often said, "I love you, but I don't like some of the things you do."
But that is almost not the point (though if you have any suggestions for how to get her to stop whining, I am all ears). My larger concern is her lamenting that I (and others) don't want her to be herself. I tried to explain, as best as I could, that there are things about each of us that we should want to change. I told her if every day of her life she hurt others or if she stole things, I would not like that, I would not accept it about her, and she should want to change it. But then I thought back to the many times I have told her to stop being so loud or acting goofy when in social situations. Obviously her doing those things is not akin to her whining or disrespectful (something else that is a common occurrence), and in those cases, I wonder if I am being too hard on her. I have tried to explain to her, as gently as I can, that some people (mostly grownups, but some kids) will be annoyed by the goofy behavior and loud carrying on. And even though it may be part of who she is, it might be something she wants to try to tone down.
It took me years to become comfortable with who I am. I can act a little crazy and not care what others think. I can wear comfortable clothes that I like and have had for years and not be bothered that I am not "on trend." I can live with gray hair for months because I don't want to spend the money to color my hair more than twice a year. I am over-protective of my child and can withstand the criticism for it. I can wear my heart on my sleeve because that is just who I am.
This is not to say there are no things I would like to change about myself; my close friends and long-time blog readers know of some of the things that I do that I wish I did differently (or not at all). But for the most part, I am cool with myself. So like me or leave me alone (and for sure some people have chosen the latter)!
But I am not a young girl, dealing with schoolmates, though I know what that is like. I can still recall how I felt the day that I found out a girl whom I thought was my friend actually thought I was weird. It was heart-breaking to 10-year-old me, and I am not even sure I told my parents about it. So I hate that my child is going through something like that (though I think it is a little more than that). I don't want to blog about it too much here for several reasons, not the least of which is that some school parents may read this blog on occasion. But suffice it to say, if someone had a problem with my kid or if my kid was being mean to others on a regular basis (regular being the key; most kids say unkind things to others at different times in the year), I would hope they would talk to me about it. I tried that last year, and although it did not work as I had hoped, I felt betting knowing that I tried. But one thing I am willing to bet is that my kid has probably not made any other kid cry to his or her parents more than once or twice this school year. (Again, if that has happened, I would hope a parent would talk to me.) Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about my kid, who has, sadly, cried about what other kids have said and done to her more times than I can count. :-(
So, um, I have no idea what to tell my kid about "being herself," other than pretty much no one likes a mean or whiny person, probably not even mean and whiny people (but I don't know because I am neither of those things!). Beyond that, I guess she is just going to have to try to find and feel her way and decide who and how she wants to be. With any luck, she will work through it better than I did at her age (though I am still holding out hope the person she is meant to be is not a whiner). But as I tell her, even though I may have had some heartbreak as a kid, it made me stronger, more sensitive to others, and pretty self-aware. So maybe the pain was worth it in the long run.
In any event, I like to think I turned out okay. :-)