Different

I had an interesting conversation with an acquaintance the other day.  She was talking about how she had prepped her daughter for the first day of camp, explaining that her daughter doesn’t cope well with loud, chaotic settings, and is also quite short.  So, they’ve been going over strategies, such as bringing a quiet toy to play with, and telling the other kids how old she is when they meet.  I commented that my son, D, is also short for his age, but that I don’t think he’s noticed.

It’s hard for me to know whether it would be helpful to try to give D some social skills advice before he starts kindergarten  — try to learn the other kids’ names, don’t sit there waving your hand every single time the teacher asks a question.  As a parent, there’s a desire to protect your child from obvious traps.  And yet, it’s not clear that such warnings would be helpful.  D’s much more of an extrovert than I ever was, and makes friends easily with kids on the playground.  He’s convinced that everyone he meets wants to be his friend, and his belief often makes it true.

There’s also the complicating factor that, based on the school’s demographics, D is likely to be either the only white kid in his class, or one of just a couple.  And he may well be the only Jewish kid in the school.  So, he’s going to stick out.  I can’t help but worry that it’s going to make any social sins he commits much more obvious.

Any thoughts, stories, suggestions?

14 Responses to “Different”

  1. landismom Says:

    In both the daycare that they’ve gone to, and the school my daughter currently attends, they’re in the minority as white kids. One of the main struggles that I’ve had is not to view everything that happens in the classroom through the lens of race (ie–when my daughter is constantly called on, is it because she’s a white kid?).
    I think for us, it’s been important for her to develop her own sense of self in school that’s different from the way she behaves (or can be different) at home.
    We do talk a lot about how people make mistakes every day, because she’s very hard on herself about academic mistakes. I can’t tell you how often I spend recounting mistakes I made at work that day (sometimes fabricated ones), just so we can talk through how to deal with making mistakes at school.

  2. LizardBreath Says:

    I haven’t got advice, but my daughter’s in the same position (well, she’s the second whitest kid in her grade. There’s a transparently pale little redhead that’s saving her from being the whitest. But other than the two of them, the student body is almost entirely Latino or black.) It hasn’t been a problem at all, socially.
    I don’t think kindergarteners have picked up on racial dynamics enough to make race an issue spontanteously, unless they’re getting some aggressively weird stuff at home, which most kids aren’t. I worry a little about how the social pressures will develop as everyone gets older, but in first and second grade it’s been a complete non-issue.

  3. Jody Says:

    Ah, excellent question. I’m tempted to hijack it for my blog.
    Short version: I think the pre-prep question depends on the kid. I have one daughter who is SEVERELY freaked out about Kindergarten (for reasons that remain pretty much entirely a mystery to her father and I — it seems to be entirely a temperment problem, we haven’t been able to track the stress to a source). Anything I told her about how to behave or what rules to watch out for would only increase her stress, I think. It would be one more thing for her to worry about remembering.
    And because the other two upcoming kindergarteners would tell their sister anything we told them, they’re getting no information about possible pitfalls or rules to watch for, either.
    Although: I think it might be useful to role play kindergarten with our Little People/Playmobil, to see what the kids are worrying about, and to see if I can model some coping strategies when they’re anxious. Hmmmm. Thanks for prodding me to think about this a little more deeply.
    Given the VERY WIDE range of pre-K experiences and at-home environments reported by the teachers in orientation programs, even in our exceedingly privileged school district, I am assuming that kindergarten teachers are used to dealing with kids who don’t know social rules, need to be taught to give other kids a chance to answer, need to learn how not to hug every “new friend” goodbye (this is definitely going to be a problem for Wilder at the beginning, and the possibility for him to get teased or harshly rebuffed does keep me awake a bit at night — and it’s enough of a general social problem that we are trying our damndest, without a lot of success, to teach him about respecting other people’s boundaries). So I’m assuming that being supportive without being specific will hardly be a problem, especially because the kids have gone to Pre-K, which is more even than some of their classmates will have done.
    Our schools are majority white, so we don’t have to address the question of racial identity as a minority. I guess I would tend to wait to see what questions or experiences D brings home with him regarding that.

  4. Elizabeth Says:

    Jody, D also does the hugging new friends thing, and telling people he’s just met “I love you.” It’s incredibly cute — but yeah, I think he may get some grief about it at school.

  5. Phantom Scribbler Says:

    I know that even the most socially adept kids can learn some painful lessons about social mores in kindergarten. But D. is so good with other kids that I can’t help but think he’ll navigate it without too much trauma. I know that I’d be less worried about LG starting kindergarten in D. was going to be in his class!

  6. Phantom Scribbler Says:

    IF D. was going to be in his class. Not “in D. was going to be in his class.”
    Sigh.

  7. jen Says:

    At least at my daughter’s pre-school, the whole class had to go thru a “let’s save our kisses for our families after school” phase. (My daughter was in need of it. She always wants to kiss her little friend Jackson to death. It’s hard for me to resist giving the “never let a boy know you like him” spiel.)
    And speaking of suppressing the urge to give totally age-inappropriate and misguided advice … I find myself reluctant to say anything to my girls, because I’m so afraid of laying my own issues at their doorsteps. I see my mother do this constantly. My niece was a bit chubby as a child, and her own grandmother would hound her endlessly about not getting fat because then no one would like her. My mother perceived this as helping my niece to avoid future pain. In reality no one cared but my mom — who had been overweight as a child. Anyway, watching that whole scenario has made me think twice.
    I do try to model my behavior carefully, and I do talk to the kids when I think their behavior is rude. When it comes to racial stuff I am seriously indebted to her pre-school teachers. They did an amazing unit on racial differences (which started with a discussion of how tall each kid was, and how we’re alike in some ways and different in others) — it was masterful. They handled it much better than I ever could have!

  8. merseydotes Says:

    Oh, Elizabeth, you are getting to the part of parenting that freaks me the hell out.
    I have no experience whatsoever in this matter, other than my own growing up. I would echo the PP who said that it’s probably best not to say anything because of the fear of passing your own issues on.
    Besides, I’m sure that no matter what you would say or how well you would prepare D., he is going to have some hurt feelings, get picked on a little, see his friends get picked on, etc. It is an unfortunate part of growing up.
    As kindergarten progresses, if there’s some piece of advice you think would help him (learning everyone’s names, etc), then maybe a Socratic approach would work best rather than straight-forward coaching. That way he doesn’t feel the weight of a firm opinion/advice from Mom and worry whether or not he’s living up to that (along with whatever issues/insecurities he has on his own), but rather can feel good about having worked out some answers for himself. (Even if Mom helped him get there, unbeknownst to him!) 8-)

  9. bj Says:

    I just had my own brush with this yesterday,and was thinking through how to give my daughter social advice. She needs it (unlike your son). She’s something of a prima donna, who wants/needs things her way, and she’s temperamental. She’s also delightful (when she’s not being a tempermental 5 year old teenager) and beautiful in an eyegrabbing way. In other words, she’s a kid who gets away with stuff because of her good points, especially with people who know her well. But, she’s not always going to get away with it, and people will reject her if she treats them badly, and I want her to know that.
    Yesterday, we went on a playdate with a classmate to be in her school, who turns out to be a bright-faced non-tempermental easy going kid. But, my daughter turned into a crank (long day, hungry, hot, . . .). I tried to get her back into the game, but she really wouldn’t. I was at a loss what to do, and frankly, surprisingly mad at her for embarrasing me!
    Urgh, not helpful at all, right? but I think this is where I agonize the most, about my kids social life. I so desperately want them to have friends, and of course, we can’t make that happen.
    My family is a minority, all the time, in practically every environment (daughter is mixed race). So, that’s just something we always deal with. I suspect it won’t make a difference for your son, but it’ll be interesting to hear about as he starts school.
    bj
    PS: Advice goes over badly with my daughter, unless she’s asked for it, so really, I don’t think there’s much to do, except to more general tell her about social relationships.

  10. Jennifer Says:

    I’ve been amazed, this year, watching the kids in C’s class go from a complete rabble to an organised group following the teacher around in just a week. C has loved learning the rules (raising your hand before talking etc), and I’ve found that although he didn’t know anyone’s name at preschool, he knows everyone’s name at school – he must just have been ready for it. So the whole social thing for C has been much much easier than I feared.
    Our race issues are quite different – lots of asian kids who don’t speak english, but the kids don’t seem to notice difference if it’s just based on looks. Gender, though – the girls and the boys don’t talk to each other in the playground – it’s been quite amazing to watch that happen.

  11. Devra Says:

    My son spent the grades K-3 as what we proclaimed to be “The Ambassador of the Jewish People” at his elementary school. The other children were wonderful, it was the TEACHERS and the ADMINISTRATORS who were in deep need of diversity training.
    Much of what you might be tempted to “brief” D about, the teacher’s usually cover as social skills are one of the mainstays of Kindergarten. Sadly, these days it appears to be society which needs some kind of remedial training in the importance of social skills.

  12. Kai Jones Says:

    My sister and I were the only white kids in an entire elementary school once, for about 4 months, in Denver, CO in 1971. We were chased home (and if they caught us, they beat us up) every single day we were in that school. I was 10, she was 8.
    My advice is to check in *lots*. Talk to the teachers, other people in the school, other parents, and your kids. Don’t imply anything might be going wrong, just ask for information. What’s it like going home? What’s it like at recess? In the lunch line or lunch room?

  13. Raising WEG Says:

    Kindergarten Carnival

    Two weeks from now, the kids will have finished their first day of kindergarten…. Via Moreena’s musings on the approach of kindergarten at the Wait and the Wonder, I re-discovered Rebecca’s amusing contemplation of kindergarten orientation at The Con…

  14. Raising WEG Says:

    Kindergarten Carnival

    Two weeks from now, the kids will have finished their first day of kindergarten…. Via Moreena’s musings on the approach of kindergarten at the Wait and the Wonder, I re-discovered Rebecca’s amusing contemplation of kindergarten orientation at The Con…

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