My oldest son, Luke, is not very social. He is quite witty for a four-year-old and amazingly thoughtful when he wants to be, but he just doesn't seem to feel like he should interact with most people in the general public. In a way, this is quite irritating because I don't want to be that parent with the weird kid who won't talk to people. However, I kind of admire him. There are so many people I wish I could ignore or respond to with a blank stare.
I also can't blame him for not wanting to participate in the lame-o activities at school. They had a Mother's Day Tea at his school Thursday. Of course, the teacher had prepared a little song and dance routine for the kids to do for the moms. Okay, so it was more like songs with motions accompanied by a kid's sing-a-long CD than it was singing and dancing, but you get the idea. As soon as the teachers asked the kids to come up to the front for their songs, Luke looked at me and said, "I don't want to." I encouraged him to go up, but he gave me that look and an "Uh-uh." The teachers were looking at me and I told him again that he should go up, but it was obvious that trying any more than that was going to end badly. So I just shrugged it off and let him skip it. He sat in his chair next to me and watched while his classmates performed 'Skitta-ma-rinky-dinky-dink' and 'A Bushel and a Peck' with motions that included lots of hugging themselves, throwing kisses, and bouncing with their hands on their hips.
How bad is it that I was actually proud of him for not participating? Sure, I understand that participation and collaboration are important life skills, but what is it teaching him if he is forced to do something stupid just because everyone else is doing it? There is really only one outcome I can envision from this whole attitude of kids needing to do things for amusement just because all their friends are doing it. Is that what I want to be teaching my kids? I mean, sure, if they really like singing goofy songs and want to do it, that's fine. But if they hate it, why should they have to?
Now, I'm not saying I intend to teach my kids that it is okay for them to do whatever they want, whenever they want. They need to learn manners and responsibility and how to treat people with respect. But I also want them to learn that there are things they should not do just for approval or just because other people are doing them. They need to learn to evaluate what are those things that are beneficial to their lives and what are the things that add no value. I know I'm still trying to teach myself to say 'no' to things that add no value to my life but that I feel obligated to do anyway. How much easier my life would be if I had learned that lesson starting in preschool!
Luke still gave me the big, floppy, paper hat he made for me. And the card with a picture he drew of the two of us with the dog. And the flower with a snapshot of us glued in the middle. He still served me cake and he still sat on my lap while the teacher read the sad story she chose to try to make all the moms cry. His choosing not to participate in the singing and bouncing did not ruin the Mother's Day party for me. It made me hopeful that his future will not include too much time wasted agonizing over how to say no to something in which he has no interest but that he still feels he pressured to do because all the other kids are doing it.