We're Learning to be Selfish

We're Learning to be Selfish

We're learning to be selfish, my tween-ager and I.

I know you're asking why considering that  kids (and some adults too, if we’re being honest) have the propensity to believe they are the sun and the rest of us are mere planets revolving around them.

Selfishness is just a built-in perk of being human.

Our job as parents is helping these tiny Napoleons unlearn this built-in perk. So we cajole them with catchy tunes into cleaning house. We involve them in team sports. We make nice with other parents with whom we’d never otherwise give time of day as we plunk them into playgroups; and we coordinate one-on-one playdates with other kids like the President’s scheduling secretary.

If we do our job well, and I think most of us do, kids understand they are part of something larger than themselves, and soon, they understand what it means to pull together as a team.

Nice job, Us.

But how does everything we’ve taught the now recovering Napoleons play out during the post-Barney-the-Annoying-Purple-Dinosaur-Talking-Too-Loud-All-The-Time-Dora-the-Explorer time commonly known as The Tween Years? That special time when their hormone-clogged pendulums swing off tempo between the learned need to pull together as a team and the innate need to just be who they are, regardless of the team’s or anyone else’s pull.


A Case Study

Well, this isn’t exactly a case study, just my experience with my eleven year old daughter. Her litany about a certain group of girls’ pull was the accompaniment on our commute to day camp:

They say I’m a tom boy because I like drawing anime and I’m not into make-up or One Republic.

I silently thanked God. She’s a talented artist, and with her eyelashes, she’ll never need to buy mascara, and her musical leanings have saved our ears from the whine of bubblegum pop.

Her Artwork

The "Tom Boy's" Art.

She continued:

…and they say I don’t sound like a girl because (using her best Valley Girl Speak) I don’t sound like, like, all…well, ya’ know. (punctuated by a hair flip)

I added a prayer of thankfulness that she doesn’t sound like a moron when she talks.

But I knew she was riding that pendulum: needing to heed the pull, yet wanting to be herself.


On Selfishness

Every time I nudged her to be a team player, each time we talked about cooperation and every applause I meted out for sharing, deferring or giving preference in a playgroup flashed in my mind’s eye and rang tinnily in my ears.

You know, there is something you can do. This is really in your control.

For the first time in a long time, I had her full attention.

You can change. Seriously -- it’s all your face, your likes, your voice. CHANGE.

A puzzled look.

Think before you speak and decide that you’re going to make your voice higher -- like when you sing. Start using “like” and “awesome” maybe even throw in an “um” or two. Chew gum and make it pop in between phrases. It’s simple.

Her mouth hung open.

And the drawing anime thing? Stop. Just give it up. Start doodling butterflies, flowers and hearts. Ditch Cold Play and start listening to One Republic or some other pretty boy pop group. Honey, you got this: it’s all within your control.

You can do what they want you to do.

You can be who they want you to be and you’ll never get a question again.

It was the lesson of cooperation, deferring for the greater good and pulling together all over again. Somehow, in this instance it didn’t ring true and it was written on her now solemn face.

But...but...I won’t be happy.

Yeah, but they’ll stop asking questions if you change, am I right? Makes sense, doesn’t it?

It makes sense, but I’d rather be happy.

Then you listen to yourself. The things those girls pick at, that’s what makes you you. You could change to make them happy, but then you won’t be you and you certainly won’t be happy. Now is the time for you to be selfish...and it’s perfectly okay.

And there ended the lesson.


Talking to Myself

Our little conversation was as much for myself as it was for her.

How many times have I found myself at one of those after work glad-handing events where people are more concerned with what I do instead of who I am?

Related Posts

3 Plans to Eliminate the Musty Smell in My Front Load Washer

A minor annoyance that makes itself known to me multiple times each week is the musty smell in my front loading washer.  I have had it for about a year, and I selected it over a top loading washer because of height.  No, not the washer's height, my height.  I am 5 ft. 1 in. and I have used top loading washers in the past where I had to lean in enough to bring my feet off the ground just to peel a damp sock from the bottom.   Read more >

How To Boost Your Site with a Blog Series

One of the best ways to become THAT blog to people is to take a page from the world of television and create a weekly or monthly series on your blog. I’m talking about a topic that you cover every week, every other week, every month etc., that your readers can look forward to. You can also consider a mini-series, where you choose a topic and create a certain number of entries that you will spread out over a period of time. There are several ways your blog can benefit by including a series.   Read more >

5 Reasons I’m Unqualified to Teach My Preschooler about Her Private Parts

I recently read a blog post about how important it is to teach toddlers about their body parts. Apparently, simply knowing the correct words for male and female genitals deters predators who know that these children will be more able to report being touched inappropriately. Cut to me sweating profusely. My daughter is almost four, and unless "front hiney" and "back hiney" are the scientific words for the female anatomy, I think I might have failed here.   Read more >


In order to comment on BlogHer.com, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.