Friday, May 20, 2005

Fitting In or Sticking Out

by Anne Zelenka
There are some people who easily adapt to almost any situation. Perhaps I shouldn't be judging my own children or anyone else's, but I think my third child Laura and Marjorie's darling daughter Suzanne will fit in wherever they go. These are sociable, verbal, happy girls. Big school, little school, homeschool, unschool--they're going to do great.

Some kids and some people, more generally, have a harder time fitting in. Diana writes how she felt alone and apart at her kids' talent show. That's generally how I feel at large school gatherings. I don't socialize well in big groups especially if I don't know people well. I am easily exhausted by crowds. And I'm not good at small talk. I have a hypercompetitive streak that lights up in the presence of people who are better dressed or more well-spoken than I am. I like small groups and one-on-ones where I know people well.

I had the happy realization this morning that my nine-year-old son Henry has found a place where he fits in: his small Montessori school here on Maui. It's parent-teacher conference time at school. From when Henry was three until he was in second grade, the conferences we had with Henry's teachers were uniformly negative. He's an introvert like me, and like me, he's given to perfectionism and anxiety. He's strongly internally motivated but breaks down under external pressure. He makes friends slowly. Until he was in second grade, every conference was dominated by talks of how to fix Henry. He couldn't cope; he was too anxious; he didn't socialize enough. Then his second grade teacher realized he needed a break. He's a fine kid, gentle and caring. He doesn't need pressure to do good work. And he'll socialize when he's ready and comfortable.

We didn't know that by moving him from a high-powered gifted and talented magnet school in Virginia to a go-at-your-own-pace one-room Montessori schoolhouse in Maui we'd be planting him in just the soil that he needed.

It's a constant churn of meeting one person's needs and then another's with five headstrong members of the family. Now Rick's accelerating in his career and learning so many new things, but I'm struggling to figure out work that can balance family with my need for intellectual stimulation. Henry's thriving while four-year-old Anna still pines for her Virginia friends and can't quite accept the loss of Mr. C., her old preschool teacher. Laura, well, like I said: she'll do great anywhere.


Blogger Marjorie said...

Yay for Henry! You know I always thought he was just fine the way he is, just great, actually.

Not everyone can be Rick -- and wouldn't it be exhausting if they were? Congrats on the career -- imagine, leaving NASA and then launching and going into orbit. hehehehe

I'm like you in the large social situations, though I don't feel competitive, I feel more like 'ew, you're boring, get away.' They probably think I'm weird, but weird is not boring.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

I loved that part about the churn of getting everyone's needs met. Very well-said.

I hope Henry's new situation continues to suit him!

1:38 PM  

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