My seven-year-old daughter is having a difficult year. I’m not even totally clear on why, but yesterday the reality came out that I’m not popular. She’s in first grade for heaven’s sake! The popular girl in question is very pretty, dark haired, adorable. According to my daughter, all the boys like her. According to the boys’ mother’s the boys have no idea what liking a girl even means. They still rank wrestling and playing games with boys far above any “like” of girls.
So I’ve spent the last twenty-four hours thinking about what it was like to be a seven-year-old. I remember caring a lot about boys and about what other people thought about me. I don’t actually remember worrying about the popular part until we moved to the big city from a very small town when I was in sixth grade. Then the whole popular/not popular thing was absolutely devastating. I remember the warm feeling that you got when you held a boys hand and what a wonderful thing a play date was—enjoying coloring, playing Barbies, playing with toy horses.
But I also remember the immense pain when someone didn’t like you anymore or teased you because of your teeth or your clothes. As her mother, I completely come to her defense. Mama bear in action! She’s gorgeous and has long blonde hair with highlights that people pay huge money in salons for. She’s skinny, and tall—a tall, lanky blonde—how could she not be “popular”? Because that silly statement is as random now as it was when I was seven.
The first words out of my mouth to my daughter were “ignore them” and “popular isn’t important” but I realize how completely hollow those suggestions are. Frankly I can’t really say I follow that at my age. I still care about what people think and if someone says something hurtful (which thankfully happens less at forty) it hurts.
So if I were seven what would I do? I think I’d make some wonderful best friends. Not the “coveted” popular girls, but the normal kids … like me. I’d share our thoughts and feelings and then try to understand if they weren’t my friend when they were trying to be popular. I think I’d try to love myself. That’s what it’s all about—if you love yourself then those people can never completely tear you down. I’d also come home and confide in the ones I love at home more. Tell them how much I love them and bask in the comfort that is home.
As for the boys, hmmm, girls will always be more interesting than boys at that age. I guess I’d realize that they can just be friends that I enjoy and like to be around. Not love, just friendship. I’d try not to obsess about the “cute one” or the “smart one” and just enjoy playing with them, cars, crazy mystery games, and dress up.
As for the “mean girls”, well, don’t become one of them and remember to treat people the way you want to be treated, but stand up for yourself. I would also understand that the “popular” kids don’t usually choose to be popular and that their lives revolve around having people like them. I would try to remember that this isn’t the meaning of life nor should it be. It’s great to have people like you, but it is always the most important to like yourself. “Popular” kids are always up for scrutiny on what they do and what they like. Most often the popular kids don’t even know they’re popular. They feel as alone and outside as anyone else.
So what’s important at seven? Enjoying life, enjoying your friends and enjoying who you are. I know it’s probably an unreachable goal, but now I just have to figure out how to try to get her to believe me! Wish me luck.
Photo Courtesy of Frequently Wrong but Never in Doubt