Tonight, as Zeca and I cuddled at bedtime, she told me all the gossip from her second grade class - who wasn't speaking to whom, who was on a power trip, who had been cruel. Her stories of elementary school drama are always my favorite. They are a peek into her world and a glimpse of my own distant past. At some point, she began to talk about friendship and said that she wished that she had more friends. I told her what I always tell her - that kindness and compassion will lead to friendship. She nodded and told me that she had been working on that and that she was happy to have more friends this year than last.
I kissed her on the head and held her closer. We were both quiet for a few minutes and then she said, "It's hard to be different."
It was one of those moments that we all have as parents, a moment when your child is struggling and there is nothing you can do to take the burden from them. I can't change the world right now so that it is easier for her.
But I do know a little bit about being different so I told her that it is hard but it gets easier, that you find people in the world that understand you and even love you just because of your difference. She cuddled closer and said, "I know, mama."
As a kid, I always felt like I was different but I didn't always look and act like I was. In elementary school, I grew out my hair to look like the other girls. In junior high and high school, I tried to dress like everyone else and pored over Teen Beat Magazine even though I didn't feel quite the same excitement about Rob Lowe as the other girls did.
The point is that I did my best to conform.
Last summer, Zeca told me that sometimes she gets tired of being different and thinks about growing out her hair and going back to wearing dresses. She said, "It would be so much easier." I said, "I'll support whatever decision you make about the way you look." She said, "It would be easier...but it wouldn't be me."
Thinking about the conversation we had tonight, I realized there was something else I should have told her. I should have told her that she is probably the bravest kid I know.
It is hard to be different.
It's even harder to own it at 7.
*The title of this post was taken from Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne: "You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think."