Friday, April 01, 2005

Getting Along With Tomboys

One of the most important skills I think I can equip my kids with is the ability to relate to many different kinds of people. This has been easy to teach to Princess because she has a natural empathy with her fellow human beings. And it's been good so far. Princess has an impressive variety of friends and gets along with most of the students in her class. There are a few that I permit her to refuse to be friends with, because she has tried being friends with them and found them to be lacking in character. But I don't want her to reject anyone out of hand, or be actively mean to anyone.

So I am searching for ways to help Princess relate to K------, a tomboy. K------ is always doing things like shoving Princess or marking on Princess' paper. I've watched how they interact, and I interpret that as K------ trying to get Princess' attention. K------ has a lot of older brothers, and I believe she is trying to get Princess' attention in the same way she gets her brothers' attention. Also, K------'s behavior and Sonshine's behavior are very similar, so if Princess can learn to relate to K------, perhaps she'll get along better with her brother.

I talked with Princess about it, and it transpired that K------ is good at basketball, and Princess believes she is no good at basketball (but is good at skipping). Part of that is my fault-- I think she must have overheard me telling people "She'll never play professional basketball" because of her height. But people of any height can learn basic skills like dribbling. So I advised her to try asking K------ to teach her some basketball skills, and maybe teach K------ some skipping skills. I'm hoping that if K------ gets her attention in a positive way, she will back off the acting-out and recognize Princess' request as an overture of friendship. I know that the one thing Princess shouldn't do is ignore K------, because that will only escalate K------'s behavior. It would also be unproductive to continually report K------ to the teacher, because not only will that turn Princess into a whiny tattletale, it will probably heighten any sense of not-fitting-in that K------ may already have.

When I was a girl, I was something like K------. I didn't fit in with the other girls. While I was never a tomboy (i.e. never behaved totally like a boy), I had a very different set of interests from the other girls. I did like wearing dresses, but I eschewed tea parties in favor of exploring and computers. I wanted to be an astronaut; they wanted to be debutantes. So I can relate to K------ and I believe that if she doesn't already feel a sense of isolation now, she will very soon as other girls reject her.

We have always taught Princess to befriend the downtrodden and the isolated. Now our challenge is to teach her that not everybody who's isolated is off in a corner crying.