It’s her birthday next week. She’ll be eight. A little older, a little taller and a little more obviously behind her peers.
It’s not that she isn’t smart, you know. Maybe she’s not at grade-level, but I’m one teacher that will tell you that matters none at all.
The fact is, she is smart in so many ways. And I couldn’t be more proud.
It’s the social stuff that gets her. It’s so damn confusing for her, and her peers are getting less and less patient.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a core few that have the patience of Saints. These little ones will gently explain some very obscure playground rules to a very frustrated little girl. She'll rarely go with the flow, because the 'rules' likely sound 'all wrong' to her, and she'll let you know.
There are others, though; others that don’t have the patience and nor should they. They are just children, after all, and they are trying their best to navigate the complicated web of playground decree and they may not have time to explain its intricacies to Kate.
I can see them getting tired of her rigid moral code. I can see them scrunching their noses and deciding it might be ‘too much work’ to play with her.
That’s far harder to witness than a poor spelling test or lowered reading level.
Now, I know, I have friends who wish this was their problem. Friends who are working on toileting and self-harm. I want you to know that I fully appreciate that our concerns are not theirs and I am hopeful for them and grateful, too. There are never words to explain this divide because no one's worries need be diminished but let's be real. If you're working on toileting, than the playground is going to be a lot further down your list. I get that.
The social stuff is everything to us. Absolutely everything. The curriculum has it all wrong. A new generation of kids, kids like mine, are growing up unable to intuitively pick up on what the collective has deemed appropriate social behavior. These poor souls are left to work on numbers and letters and other such nonsense when they have yet to make a friend, accept an injustice or read an emotion on another’s face. How sad, that we are failing a whole demographic at once. How short-sighted of us.
I suppose, I’ll hop off the soapbox, for now. I know I have little authority to talk about much more than my own daughter’s experience. (But if you read me at all, you’ll know I often take liberties I shouldn’t).
Kate has made herself popular, among her school mates to some extent. She walks around with a Prince of a dog, a dog she considers her very best friend, after all, and her self-confidence has drawn many to her side. But these are friends of a superficial kind and she is growing older and yearning for more.
She deserves a meaningful peer connection and she is struggling to find that, right now.
I want to help her. Her team wants to help.
So we try with social thinking therapy, and speech therapy and occupational therapy, among other things.
And she’s come so far. She really has.
There are just times I can see her wishing she could find a way to fit into these strange and exclusive groups, with their unwritten rules and their pricey social memberships.
I can see it in her slumped shoulders, a posture she wasn’t capable of this time last year. I can see it in the way she is beginning to hang back. There was a time she would rush toward any time of potential fun.
Now, don’t be too sad for MIss Kate. She is quite fond of herself, and most times, considers these exclusions the loss of the group members that reject her and not her own.
I’m thankful for that.
It’s just that someday; she might see it a little differently, and those cracks are starting to show, and that is one of my greatest fears.
Happy Birthday my girl.
As always, if you'd like to send Kate a birthday card, you can forward it to:
27 Wellington Row
Saint John, NB
Grace and Kate's mom. (Shanell)