Posted in Inside Lane

We Don’t Hit


Dementia surprises me on the regular. I meet aspects of my mother’s personality that were previously hidden to me. We have conversations I don’t think we ever could have had before, but now, I’m having those conversations with someone who cannot understand what they do or mean to me.

The week we moved my mom into memory care, she had a really hard time. After helping her with a shower that she did not want, I started helping comb out her hair. She’s tender-headed and I was being as gentle and slow as I could be.

She just fussed and snarled, and complained. I flashed back to the number of times she had left knots on my head, cracking me hard with the backside of a plastic Goody hairbrush for complaining, or moving, or–God forbid–crying while she teased my hair into a bouffant style. For a second, I hesitated and considered whacking her with the flat side of the comb. Her scalp looked so pink, though. That would really hurt.

I told myself I didn’t want to hurt her, but an ugly little part of me reared its head and said I did. I pushed that part of me down and satisfied myself by threatening it instead. “Hey, now. Do you want me to do what you used to do to me and whack you on the head every time you fuss?”

My mother scoffed and pouted. “I didn’t do that to you! Your mother did.”

I was still in the memory of sitting on my knees on the toilet lid, trying to cover my head and getting my knuckles cracked for my trouble. I laughed, “Yes. My mother did.”

Mom sighed then, and shook her head, making it harder to comb. I urged her to be still and she said, “I used to tell her, “Don’t you hit that little girl!” But she never listened to me. She never listened to me. She just hit that little girl again and again. All the time.

“I tried to protect that little girl from her mother, but I couldn’t. Please tell that girl. I’m sorry. I really tried.”

I was frozen, not sure what to do, but she was so plaintive and sincere, and I realized I was getting an apology. Sure, it was from a disassociated personality, but at least somebody in there realized I needed one, deserved one.

Patting her shoulder, I went back to combing. “I will. I will tell her.”

She went back to fussing that I was pulling too hard.

*

It is true that my mother used to hit me.

“Don’t you mean she spanked you?”

When I worked up enough nerve to tell someone, that’s what they asked me. More than once. It was a rhetorical question. “Your mother loves you more than anything in the world. She would never hurt you. I’m sure you just mean she gave you a spanking.”

I quit telling anyone. No one wanted to hear it.

It is also true that my mother loved me more than anything in the world.

So, it’s weird. My mom doted on me, lived for me, adored me, and also beat the shit out of me on a regular basis. She did call it spanking, and she explained that I just had very fair skin and that’s why I ended up with bruises and weals. It wasn’t how hard she was hitting me, or with what. It was just that I was pale. It was normal. And face slapping and backhanding, well…I was sassy. If I learned to watch my mouth…

She had this thing she did where she would do the “spanking” part, then she would make me sit in her lap and she would cuddle me and tell me how much she loved me. It became a ritual. Family remarked on it. “Look how much that little girl loves her mother.”

*

When I was three, we lived in Colorado.

My mom tells this story and she laughs. I used to laugh with her because I thought I had to.

I wandered away from her in the fabric store in Cinderella City Mall. I remember being lost, but I knew the way to the store owned by one of our neighbors. I asked someone to take me to that store, and that’s where she found me. Along the way, I lost my little blue sweater. It had a hood. A part of me still keens for that sweater–I really loved that sweater. I know where I left it. It was on the back of a chair.

I don’t remember the part between my mom finding me, and my mom taking me into the restroom. I do remember how afraid I was when I realized she was angry. She carried a wooden spoon in her bag, just in case. I do remember trying to get under the sinks in the restroom. Surreally, I remember the way the acoustics amplified my voice when I screamed. And, I remember two ladies rushing in and trying to stop her.

I remember her posture and the way her back looked when she got between those ladies and me, and I remember her threatening to flush one of them down the toilet if she didn’t mind her own business.

I also remember worrying and crying more, and saying, “I’m okay! Leave her alone!”

The ladies left and my mother resumed, and finished “spanking” me.

My mom loved this story because she thought it was so funny that the other ladies ran away, and she loved that I had defended her against them.

I was three.

I was three, but I knew the anger really well. I was used to having my face slapped. I was used to being taken by the shoulders and shaken until my teeth rattled. I was used to being slung around and just generally hurt. And I was used to being cuddled and petted, and adored after the hurting stopped.

*

I was sitting in the activity room with my mom and she was telling me about how terribly everyone in the facility treated her. “No one likes me. And they are all mean to me. They push me and they pull me, and they won’t let me go where I want to go.”

One of the first things I learned was that you can’t reason with Dementia, so I just let her talk and didn’t try to explain. She went on, her credibility dipping as she told me that my aunt had called her that morning to ask her to come fix her car, and how she had driven all the way to Alaska to do so. My aunt lives in San Antonio. She left Alaska when I was a toddler. Also, I know they haven’t spoken in quite a while.

“I’m telling you, Lane, I am telling you. I’m going to hurt someone here.” She veered swiftly away from a three-level parking garage in Juneau and back to the memory care–which she believes is a prison. “I’m just starting to realize how much…anger…I have inside of me.”

“Just now?” I laughed.

It was like that time she told me she was mellow and easygoing and I nearly ran the car off the road laughing because those are the last two words anyone who’s known my mother for more than five minutes would choose to describe her. Mellow. I’m laughing right now.

Suddenly, she was right there in the moment with me. For a second, her eyes cleared and she tilted her head and regarded me shrewdly. I picked my chin up from where it rested in my hand, and looked back at her.

Slowly, seriously, lucidly she said, “I have used that anger to hurt you. I have really hurt you with that anger, haven’t I?”

“You did the best you could,” I answered. I didn’t want to upset her, but I couldn’t deny it either.

“Oh, Sweetie. I am so sorry. I am so sorry. There is so much I would change.”

“I know.” I took her hand. “You did the best you could–and look! I turned out okay.”

“You turned out more than okay. Oh, Girl, you are my heart. You are my world.”

“I know.”

“And these people here are so jealous of you,” she snorted, and she was gone. Dementia regained possession of her and she shared her belief that her nurses were trying to drive a wedge between us because they were jealous of our relationship and wanted her to themselves.

I put my chin back in my hand and let Dementia rattle on until she tired herself out.

 

*

My son was around two the first and only time I slapped him. He was in the backseat of the car and he had been screaming non-stop in a tantrum for 45 minutes in traffic. I lost my temper, reached back and struck him in the face with my open palm. As soon as I’d done it, I wanted to die. I wanted to pull the car over, gather him up out of that car seat and hold him and love him, and beg him to forgive me. I can still see his eyes in the rearview mirror. He was so betrayed. I vowed I would never do that again. I’m still sick over it.

My son was about three the first and only time I ever spanked him. I gave him five swats on the butt–mostly hand to diaper through his tiny shorts. I’ve never done it again. He was so small, and I was so big. I made a decision to never lay a hand on him again.

Have I wanted to hit him since then? YES. Yes. That time he purposefully headbutted me in the face so hard I saw stars? He was three then. I was holding him and he was pissed off. But he was so small, and I was so big.

I handed him to his father and walked away.

He has smarted off at me as a tween in such a way that I have wanted to haul off and backhand him into next week, but we don’t hit. We don’t hit.

The last time my mother hit me, I was fifteen. We were standing in the kitchen. We were disagreeing. She said something. I said, “Duh,” and rolled my eyes. Next thing I knew, there was blood in my mouth and my glasses were on the floor.

My mother was abused as a child. She told me about it regularly. She gave me great detail about the whens, the hows, the whos of her abuse, and she told me how lucky I was that she only hurt me a little bit, when I deserved it. She told me how lucky I was that she never loaned me to other people to abuse. This, as she rocked me, stroking my head after she’d hurt me.

By the time I was three, I knew how badly my mother had been abused, and that I was lucky she loved me so much and only beat me a little bit.

I was lucky. She could have done me a lot worse. And, at least by over-sharing all that information, when I grew up and faced down the demons that were haunting me, I could understand why she wasn’t able to win against the demons she’d been fighting.

She did the best she could.

I’m doing the best I can.

My son will do even better.

*

The best I can includes sometimes staying away.

In the past couple of years, my mother’s increasing helplessness and attending neediness, clinginess, and anxious drowning-man grip have threatened my grasp on kindness and keeping of gentle hands.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Man–I feel that as an adult who is trying to give patient care to a parent whose patience was best described as thin. I have had every opportunity to do unto my mother as she did unto me.

So far, I have not given into the temptation, but I have to work against it. Old bitterness, and a Greek chorus of ghosts from my memories shove me toward cruelty like boys pushing their friend toward a fight. “Do it! Say it! She deserves it! Get her!”

I have forgiven, but forgetfulness is a challenge. I remember. I can’t help but remember, and then I want to avenge myself. For a very real moment, I want to fight for the child who could not fend for herself.

But then I look at her. She’s so small now, and I’m so big. She is so weak and frail, and I am so strong. I could break her. It would be easy to break her.

But, we don’t hit. We don’t hit with hands, and we don’t hit with words.

So, I hand her over to professionally trained caregivers and I walk away.

*

My grandfather didn’t have a father, and from all accounts, his mother did not care for him very well. He was the love of my life until he passed that torch to my husband, and Thor came along. I’ve often wondered what he could have been if he’d had a loving family.

When I had Thor, the goal I set for myself as a parent was to be the kind of mother to him that I thought my grandfather had deserved. I figured the best way to honor my grandfather was to treat my child the way I wish he had been treated. I wanted my son to have the chances my grandfather didn’t have.

I wanted to parent into the past to make a better future.

My mom was grossly abused. Grossly. Shamefully abused. I have often wondered what she could have been if someone had protected and cherished her.

When I took over care for my mom, the goal I set for myself was to be the kind of mother I wish she’d had. Because, if she’d had that mother, my mother might have been able to resist those demons that always got the better of her.

I am parenting the moment to heal the past–hers and mine.

 

(My mom did the best she could. And this isn’t the whole story of who my mom was. A big part of that story was told on the stage of Listen to Your Mother Austin, when I shared how my mother’s love shaped some of the best parts of me. Watch the video at the link above, or read the story on Scary Mommy here. My mom had issues because of untreated trauma, but she tried really, fucking hard to do better than had been done to her. And I always knew that I was loved. She’s not a monster or a saint, just a human mom who sometimes failed, and sometimes knocked it out of the park with parenting.

If you know a child who is being abused, this is a great resource.

If you are abusing your child, or if you are afraid you might abuse your child, this is a great resource. Call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) then push 1 to Talk to a Hotline Counselor for help.)

 

 

 

Posted in Dealing with your Olds, Explaining the Strange Behavior, Inside Lane

The Call Is Coming From Inside


Hindsight is 20/20. 

 

Looking back, my Mom was exhibiting behaviors symptomatic of dementia as many as five years before the day I found her wandering around her house in a state of pantsless confusion, and hijacked her out of the 3-bedroom house of my childhood and into an independent senior living community. 

 

My mom has always been a little…weird. Her behaviors have never followed any kind of norm, or been at all regimented. Her moods have always swung wildly between delight and despair. She has always been unusually paranoid. She has always been abnormally unpredictable, careless and scatter-brained, and sometimes frighteningly in denial of reality. It was all part of her charm if you weren’t living with it.

 

So, the night she called me from a stranger’s phone because she had lost hers and then gotten lost in Dallas, I just chalked it up to my mom being her kooky, forgetful self. If she hadn’t had my son with her, I wouldn’t have given it another thought.

 

The stranger gave her directions to get home, and I met her at her house to pick up my son and take her a burner phone to use until we could retrieve or replace hers. She was as distressed as I’ve ever seen her. 

 

Before we did anything else, I started dialing her phone to see if maybe it was just under or between a seat. We could hear it, which was great. But we couldn’t see it. Finally, when Mom and I leaned into the same space, I realized it was coming from her. The call was coming from inside. Inside her blouse. It was in her bra.

 

We laughed, sort of. She was embarrassed and angry. I was worried and angry. And, we were both in denial that something was really wrong. 

 

I told myself that maybe her chest area was still numb from the heart surgery she’d had the year before. Maybe that’s why she couldn’t feel the vibration that accompanied the sound? I mean, she’d always gotten lost while driving. Half of my childhood was my mother being lost and us having to stop and ask directions. 

 

It was easy to ignore the problem because I didn’t want to see it. The problem inconvenienced my life. It meant I had to have hard conversations with my mom about moving out of her house. It meant hard conversations were coming about whether her driving days were over. It meant confrontation about how she couldn’t take my son out anymore, and inconvenience to me because she was my best babysitter. It meant hurting her feelings and insulting her sense of dignity. And, it meant confronting my own mortality. 

 

The writing was on the wall, though, and I started trolling the internet for information about how to ease cranky seniors out of their homes into Homes. I narrowed my search from Everywhere down to 3 potential places.

 

Then, in September of 2017, after she hadn’t answered her phone in a few days, I went to her house to find her wandering through her hoarder’s nest dressed in only a t-shirt. She was confused about what day of the week it was and why I was there, and I couldn’t be sure the last time she’d eaten. 

 

I took her to IHOP and fed her, which seemed to help clear up her head, then took her to my house, where she stayed until I moved her into the Independent Living community a mile away.

 

Since her official move-in date of October 31, 2017 and her official diagnosis of Vascular Dementia on November 13, 2017, I’ve learned a lot about Elder Care, Independent versus Assisted Living, and Memory Care versus nursing homes. I’ve learned the differences between hospitalized rehab and skilled nursing rehab, geriatric psychiatric units versus geriatric behavior units, versus geriatric care. I’ve learned about Powers of Attorney and Medical Directives. I’ve sold my mom’s house and researched the best way to save her money. I’ve also freaked out a lot about her money.

 

I’ve dealt with doctor’s appointments, and insurance, and the Department of the Navy, and the IRS. We’ve been through multiple stays in the hospital, a stroke, surgery, and recovery. I’ve managed her friends and family, a full-time job, and a teenager, and perimenopause.

 

I’ve learned tricks to manage medication and mental illness, while trying to take care of my own physical and mental health. I’ve learned to do what is necessary and let the rest go. I learned to let the internet carry my load, and let my friends carry me.

 

I’m kind of tired of learning right now.

Posted in Howling Sea Lane

The Why Behind the Howl


I’ve done a lot of talking and typing lately that I don’t normally do.  I’ve gotten into internet scraps and blown pretty hard at some people over issues that mean a lot to me.

When it comes to making decisions, I have two filters.  I have my James 3:17 filter and I have my Thor filter.  The Thor filter was born the day my son was, and I looked at him and thought, “I am going to do my best to make this world a better place for you, starting with me.”

My ultimate litmus test is this:  If this were happening to my son, what would I do?  I work from there.

I believe we all want the best for our children.  Our troubles begin when we think the best for our children has to be at the expense of someone else’s child.  Our troubles end when we look at other children and ask ourselves how we can make the world better for all of them.

I want my son to grow up in a world where people work together to see that everyone has enough.  Where, to paraphrase Louis CK, we are all making sure our neighbor’s bowls are full.

I want my son to grow up in a world where you are free to love any consenting adult, who would like to love you back.  I want my son to grow up in a world where you can be any color, or gender, and be the leader of our nation–without people calling you by racial epithets, or genitalia slang.

I want my son to grow up feeling free to worship as he chooses, knowing that if the next guy prays differently, he is no more, or less good, moral, or human than my son.  I want my son to grow up with an open mind, an open heart, and a solid understanding of when to close both of those functions against bigotry, racism, and unkindness.  I want him to stand tall with compassion and empathy, and carry a big stick of intolerance for cruelty.

The world is a scary place, full of anger, and hatred, and abuse.  It is full of people willing to oppress, degrade, and dehumanize others for power and financial gain.  I want my son to stand against that.

So, I have to stand against that, not just agree to disagree with it.

I don’t have any power, or prestige going for me.  All I have is my voice and my ability to type really fast.  But that’s why I post about religion and politics.  I’m trying to stand against a tide, hoping my toehold will make my son’s footprint deeper, so he can raise the next generation to do even better for humanity.  It’s not much, but it’s all I’ve got, and shame on me if I don’t use it.

Posted in parenting

Just Say NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!


 “It is hard to spend all day with a 2-year-old, and they don’t really want to spend all day with you anyway.”  Harvey Karp, pediatrician and author of Happiest Baby on the Block a/k/a Lane’s Early Parenting Bible.

I love the recent wave of articles and comedy stemming from toddler tantrums.  I’ve had a toddler, and he had his tantrums, and while some of them made me laugh (freaking out because I cut his cereal bar into bite-sized bits), some of them made me want to tear out my hair (freaking out because I cut his cereal bar into bite-sized bits–yes, I know it’s the same tantrum.  What is funny the first time is crazy-making the 35th time.)

Like any parent, I wanted to be absolved of a) responsibility for the child’s behavior when it did not mirror my desires, b) guilt for wanting to turn the child upside down, dip the top part of his head into the toilet bowl, and flush, and c) the need to discipline my little cave man.  However, if done, then my child grows up to be some wretched, entitled moron who cuts you off in traffic and gives you the finger for daring to be on the road–can’t have that.  Also can’t have CPS coming to take my child away because of the swirlies.

What was most important to me was to remember that I was dealing with a toddler who barely spoke English, who couldn’t reach anything he wanted to have, who lived in a world full of No, and who wasn’t even allowed to do what he wanted with his own bodily functions.  I tried to remember how frustrating life was for him, and how often I would like to throw myself on the ground and scream bloody murder.  My job was to get him from the point A of doing exactly what felt right, to the point B of controlling himself and channeling his emotions into something that wouldn’t get him arrested later down the road.

While I had days of miserable failure, B and I were both always very aware and careful not to subject the general population to Thor’s worst moments.  Toddlers are going to tantrum, just like haters gonna hate, but meltdowns can be avoided or curtailed, or at least removed from earshot.  So, here are my top bits of advice for anyone with a howler of his or her very own:

  1. Always have some kind of healthy, toddler approved snack available (it helps to trick them into liking healthy things early on by not giving them any other choices.  If they believe apples are the only snack in the world, they will covet the Golden Delicious.  Babies are insanely easy to fool, given they have no idea what all is out there.  I would strongly advise against just springing celery on a kid who has cut his teeth on pop rocks and pixie stix, though.  You think he’s mad now…)  It’s hard to howl with your mouth full.  I know food isn’t a solution, and we don’t want to make our kids associate eating with anything other than hunger, but hunger is frequently part of the problem.  Growing kiddos have different hunger cycles than we do, and having something on hand to fill the belly can help.  That’s also why I advocate for healthy.  You don’t want to hand Junior a Snicker bar every half hour, but a small piece of cheese, or fruit, or a carrot stick–not going to hurt him.
  2. Snacks don’t always work, though, so I kept a rotation of toys in Thor’s diaper bag, and later in my purse.  He loved cars, so I always had at least 3 of them.  When I thought about it, I would grab a $0.97 car and keep it in its packaging.  Then, if he was showing signs of meltdown (for him, it was eye rubbing, snuffling, and scowling–and God forbid I mistook those for sleepy signs!) I would whip out the new toy and he would forget he was upset.  Babies have very limited short term memory.  Kind of like me.  Shiny!  Ooh!
  3. Thor liked pictures of himself and mirrors (also like me.  Dang.)  So I carried a small, soft photo album with pictures of him in action, of him with his daycare teachers, and of him with us.  If I could distract him with the photo album, we could head off a meltdown.  If he was mid-meltdown, I would pull out a mirror and he would be fascinated by the sight of himself.  The wail would trail off into sniffles–until he tried to eat the mirror, then it started all over again.
  4. I also carried finger puppets.  I’m sure that needs no explanation.
  5. Sometimes, nothing is going to work, and you are just going to have to leave the restaurant, your grocery cart, the line at Ross, or the theater and take your kid out of gen pop.  Maybe this is my best meltdown advice.  Here’s why:  Other people will appreciate that you aren’t letting your little air raid siren pierce their eardrums is a biggie, but also, remembering that Suzy doesn’t process stimulation the same way we do will help us understand that being in the middle of a restaurant for her is like standing in the middle of a superhighway for us.  It is loud, unfamiliar, intimidating, and can be frightening.  Once that meltdown has taken hold, getting her to a quiet place can help her focus enough to calm down.  Thor used to freak out when we would go to Chili’s.  It’s one of his favorites now, but we could absolutely guarantee he was going to cry at the table there.  That place was just overwhelming for him.
  6. There will also be times when all-else-fails, and when you are so frazzled and raw that you are having a hard time focusing.  Right at that moment, it’s going to be hard to remember to be a good parent.  Put the child down somewhere safe, and walk away.  If you have a parenting partner, give the child to them and get out of earshot.  If you are a single parent without help, pick a safe place (like you would for a tornado–drill if you must!) to put down Johnny and step away.  It would be better for him to sit in the bathroom and eat toilet paper than for you to do something you’d regret for the rest of your life*. 
  7. Read Happiest Baby on the Block, and Happiest Toddler on the Block, or watch the DVDs.  I swear on these.  They will help you understand where your baby is coming from, and why your toddler is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and give you tools to combat the desire to just let Darwinism take its course.

Above all, stay calm and don’t escalate (oh how easy to say and hard to do!)  Don’t negotiate with the little terrorist if the meltdown is in full swing, just get him into a quiet place, love him, and let him know that while it is safe to express himself with you (because it needs to be if you want him to talk to you when he’s 17), he needs to find ways to do it without biting (because that hurts.)  Help him channel the feelings he is having.  Love him, love him, love him, and understand he’s just doing his job. 

I used to tell Thor that out loud.  “I know you are just doing your job being a baby, but let’s work to get you promoted, okay?”  He had no idea what I was talking about, but it helped me keep perspective, helped me keep my sense of humor, and sometimes confused him enough to stop crying for three seconds–long enough for me to distract him with something shiny.

Good luck.  Lots and lots of good luck to you.  If you make it through the toddler years, you’ll have a lot of great stories to tell your kid’s prom date and future grandchildren.

*Bonus:  We’ve all been there.  There is no shame in feeling like you want to do something awful.  You should be ashamed if you have done something awful, and you should seek help so that it never happens again.  If nothing else, or if you can’t afford anything else, go to one of those Safe Place places and tell them you need help–they’ll know how to get you to the necessary resources. 

Bonus Bonus:  If you know a parent who needs help to avoid doing the awful, go help them.  Imagine it’s you and act accordingly.

Posted in Explaining the Strange Behavior, Family, Friends of Mine, parenting, Thor

What Kind of Pizza do You Like?


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:

  1. Explain to Thor that there was nothing wrong with him and help him maintain his self-esteem and self-confidence.
  2. 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.