Sunday, June 01, 2008

Being popular is the most important thing in the world

So said Homer Simpson, and of course no one really believes that. I know that even though it seems very important at the time, being popular doesn't really matter in the long run. We've heard plenty of successful people and beautiful people tell how they were excluded and unpopular at school.

So why is that I have been able to hold my children down while they were screaming so that they can receive the medical attention they need without my emotions overriding my rational understanding of the fact that they were not in harm's way, even if they were genuinely terrified, however, my heart broke when my eldest said "I wasn't sitting with anyone."?

Last night he attended a pizza and pyjama night at school.* It ended in tragedy, for which I have to take some of the responsibility. The down side of having your kids in bed by 7:30pm (reading til 8 now) is that they don't handle late nights well. He was utterly exhausted when I picked him up at 9pm and tears were flooding down his cheeks. He had lost his Ben 10 watch which he had carefully made from paper during the afternoon, and his best friend had moved away from him half way through the night. He hadn't enjoyed the movies (people had been trying to kill each other apparently, but I don't know how much I trust his reports). And when I asked him who he was sitting next to after his friend moved away, he sobbed "I wasn't sitting next to anyone."

It was almost as bad as waiting for Charlie to come out of surgery, and worse than leaving him in the operating theatre. Apparently no amount of logic can override my deep seated fear of not being liked, and my projection of that fear onto my children. This has rather taken me by surprise. I didn't think that the "popularity is not important" thing was something I only paid lip service to.

I can only hope that I managed to keep my voice light and not pass on my neurosis. Today he is feeling better about the whole thing - it was the lack of sleep talking mostly. I knew that at the time, but it didn't stop that gut wrenching agony of rejection.

* The teachers of the school volunteer to look after all of the currently attending children as well as all of their siblings over the age of 3 on a Saturday night from 5 - 9pm. The proceeds go to the P&C. They do this twice a year. Whatever else I may feel about the principal, her dedication cannot be questioned.


  1. You know, my first response to this is OMG! 9pm! Are they insane?!!!!

    My kids are ok with late nights and have been from fairly early on but there is no way I would think having a bunch of K-2 kids out en masse that late would be a good idea. When our lot do the school disco (also twice a year) the K-2 one runs from 4:30-6:00 and the 3-6 one is 6:30-8:00. But I guess if they've been doing it all along it must work out more or less ok most of the time!

    As for the popularity thing, it's a bugger, no question. I feel that same gut twisting wrench when we have these issues. A few months ago I had a long tear-soaked conversation with Caitlin on the subject. Her best friend spent the first half of each day through term 1 at another school doing a remedial reading course returning to her normal class after recess. (I didn't envy her mum who was on taxi duty all term!) Caitlin found it enormously difficult at recess as she felt like she had no-one to be with. I told her about my experience of friendship throughout my school years - never more than one or two good friends at a time, spending most of year 3 reading in the playground, always being aware of the big groups of "popular" kids and never being part of that - and how that was ok. It seemed to do the trick, I guess she thinks I turned out ok and that therefore it'll be ok for her too.

    David is the same, when his best mate is away from school or decides to play with other friends he just wanders around on his own. Tom's the only one who seems to have a group of friends rather than just one or two.

  2. Aww... poor kid. It's so hard to be around others and have fun when you are so tired. My kids go to bed at 8:30, but they can stay up much much later when given the chance.

    I am pretty anti-popularity, genuinely. Some of the "cool kids" I went to school with turned out well, but most of them completely lacked identity or creativity and are still hanging out with the same people in the same town working crap jobs. Out of my group of friends, 3 have or will have PhDs, one is a vet, one is an amazing SAHD, and one went to ship-building school. I am by far the least accomplished of them all. And we were far from popular, but well-loved and well-adjusted.

    -radical mama

  3. As you probably know, our house is almost always in a state of revolution, there is no order here. It is 9.15pm and both her father and I have given up on getting her to sleep so she is now having maths lessons with her father. Our kid will survive the late evening movie event, but will she survive being left out?

    I feel exactly like you Ariane, I really fear my child being left out, bullied, teased or picked on by other kids. It is almost an irrational level of fear. I didn't suffer the worst bullying at school, but it still has me really rattled. I also feel that I have some baggage somewhere to deal with because I don't want to create problems with my daughter where none existed.

    I'm rambling, but basically, totally relate to you on this post.