I see pizza a something of a perfect food. You can eat it with your hands, or with utensils. You can load it with veggies, with meats, with cheeses, with sauces of all variations and nutritional values. It’s easy to cook. It’s easy to serve. And, as a bonus, most people really enjoy it. Nothing in the world wrong with a pizza.
That said, I won’t touch one that has sausage on it. I hate sausage. I’m weird about meat, and if there is any potential for gristle, or fat, or anything that resembles where the meat comes from (like tendons, veins, you get the idea), I won’t eat it. Sausage is a gristle fest. So, no matter how good it smells, how much the gooey cheese makes my mouth water, I won’t touch it. I don’t even want to pick the sausage off because inevitably there will be a little ball of it hidden somewhere under all that delicious cheese, and I will be the one to bite into it, and it will be a hidden ball of gristle, which will ruin the entire experience for me. I just-say-no to sausage pizza.
One of my sweet friends called the other night, worried that her daughter was dealing with a pre-school mean girl. Meangirl was taunting our Princess, saying she hated her, didn’t want to play with her because she didn’t like her, and (more worrisome, even though they are all 4 year olds) that she’d like to kill her. She asked me if I would tell the Princess to confront and challenge the Meangirl, or if I would tell the Princess to try to come to some peaceful understanding with the Meangirl. My advice was to tell that little Princess about pizza.
When Thor was about that age, he had a boy he wanted to play with, and that boy kept telling Thor he hated him and insisting that Thor go away. When I was trying to figure out how to approach it, I wanted to do a few things:
- Explain to Thor that there was nothing wrong with him and help him maintain his self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Explain to Thor that other people have the right to avoid contact if they want to.
The first because he is my boy, and I want him to feel good about himself. I want him to be able to make good choices in the future, and good choices start with healthy self-esteem. The second because I never want to get a phone call saying that my son has forced himself on someone–get my drift? So I’ve wanted him to understand that no-means-no from an early age. He has the right to say no, and so does everyone else. I talked to him about pizza.
We all like pizza, I told him, but we all like different flavors. We laughed about my sausage issues, and how he hates veggies on his, but we agreed that any pizza is ultimately good pizza–just sometimes the toppings get in the way. I said that people are like that. We’re all good and worthwhile, but some of us have toppings that others of us don’t care for. You can’t argue with taste.
I told him that if Little Johnny didn’t want to play with him, that was okay. Little Johnny liked cheese pizza, and Thor was a pepperoni pizza. I told him that he should leave Little Johnny alone, to stop trying to force him into friendship (or trying to change to be what Little Johnny wanted in a playmate), and to go find himself some people who are into pepperoni*. And, I told him I bet if he left Little Johnny alone, Little Johnny might see that pepperoni pizza isn’t so bad, and maybe Little Johnny would want to come play later.
Imagine my surprise–and I’m being honest here–when that worked.
Imagine my surprise when I realized it worked for me, too.
In Dianne Brill’s book, Boobs, Boys, and High Heels, she talks about the art of creating the perfect social donut. Everywhere you go, there are cliques, or donuts of people. At the center of every donut is the social cream. The idea is to make friends with the center of every donut so that you end up as the social cream of the most awesome donut in the place–and end up as friends of all the donut rings by proxy. You can’t be that awesome donut cream if you are a follower, if you are easily led astray by peer pressure, or if you lack self-confidence.
I want Thor to always be confident in his worth as an individual, and not seek to find his validation through the approval of others. That’s why it is important for him to understand that it is okay if someone else doesn’t like him**. That’s normal. That’s the world. He doesn’t have to conform. He doesn’t have to change. All he has to be is respectful of other people, respectful of himself, and 100% Thor. The same goes for that Princess. All she needs to be is herself. It’s okay if Bullygirl doesn’t like her–Meangirl probably just doesn’t think she likes pineapple on her pizza.
What kind of pizza are you?
(I am a half cheese, half pepperoni with pineapples and green olives.)
*Note that this isn’t a situation where another child was actively seeking to hurt Thor. It was just a kid who didn’t want to play with him, and only became vocal when Thor tried to insert himself.
**It’s okay if people don’t like you because you just aren’t their taste. That is normal. If you never meet anyone who likes you, then there might be a greater issue at hand.