Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mother Goose? Meet Mean Girls.

I wouldn't have believed it had I not observed it myself:

In Pre-K, there's a POPULAR crowd.

Wait, I need to rephrase this to ensure there's no confusion: Apparently, there are 4-YEAR-OLDS... who are COOL.

And that, by definition, means that there are 4-year-olds who are NOT cool.

I'm worried that my eldest daughter might fall into the latter group. And I'm worried that I'm worried.

It's a time-old riddle, one that will certainly not be answered here, but I'm forced to trot it out again regardless: WHAT MAKES CERTAIN KIDS POPULAR AND CERTAIN KIDS NOT?

If we were dealing with high school, there would at least be clues: The cool kids are slutty. The cool kids wear provocative clothes. The cool kids have cigarettes. The cool kids go to parties without parents. The cool kids drink, they smoke pot, they cut class. The cool kids have an air about them that makes the uncool kids just so totally and constantly aware of their lower rank.

Think back: as a teenager, there was never any confusion about whether you were popular or not; you knew. In fact, I can almost tell you the *day* when I made that near-inconceivable transition from the Nerds to the Popular crowd: it was the day that the captain of the soccer team took an interest in me. Soonafter I became his GIRLFRIEND, and bam! I was one of the popular kids. It was a lot like I imagine an apotheosis would be.

But here there are no cigarettes, no tattoos, no piercings, not even any fancy clothes that the rich kids could wear to make the less rich kids feel inferior. IT'S Pre-FREAKING-K. And there are UGLY SCHOOL UNIFORMS. And yet! I knew from DAY ONE which kids made up the popular crowd of that classroom. How is that possible??

You're thinking: Easy! It's the pretty girls and the obnoxious boys! All the other kids are intimidated by their beauty and their ADD!

But no, your theory fails. Because here, the popular crowd consists of 2 girls (though there is no shortage of spazzy boys in the class), and while yes, one girl is cute and blond, the other girl is a shrimp who is, um, decidedly not cute. What gives?

I had high hopes for my eldest daughter when the school year began: her assigned seat was at the blonde's table, and they seemed to be getting on well. More positive indications rolled in when the shrimp invited her over for a playdate. This is good!, I thought. It's not necessarily that I wanted her to be "popular," per se (in fact, I will COMMAND her to be a Nerd in high school, how else can she expect to get into a good college)... but rather, this was her first experience in "the big kids' school" and I wanted it to be great. I wanted her to have lots of friends and to gain confidence and to just generally love every minute of being four.

Then last night. I was tucking her into bed. And she said, in a quiet voice, "Mommy, do we have a list of kids for my 5th birthday party yet?" "No," I replied exhaustedly, "it's 4 months away." "Ok," she said, "well then let's make a list and let's take [Shrimp] off of it." I gasped, silently. "What happened? I thought you and she were friends." My eldest whimpered. "It's just that she's been so mean to me lately, running away from me and laughing at me and not letting me play with them."

And there it was: the decision was in. She had tried out for the popular clique, and she hadn't made the team.

I was sad. Still am sad. Not sure why. I guess because even when the popular kids are dumb, or skanky, or smell like smoke all the time, everyone wants to be one of them, right? Because the popular kids are the deciders. The ones who can make you feel like you're a star or like you're a shadow. And it's rotten and I wish it was otherwise but it's real and it's not going anywhere.

I just had no idea I'd be dealing with it in Pre-K. Sigh.


  1. Poor Shush! I'm sad too. But remind her when she's older that it's really COOL to become a grown up and to have gone to Princeton, Harvard Law, become an attorney, marry an attorney, and get to globe trip to exotic places with your family. The "cool" kids are probably still doing habitual bongs hits in their parents' they have been for the past 20 years.

  2. I think the key to making sure your kid is part of the popular crowd is for her to learn how to swear.

  3. Seriously?! Wow - unbelievable. Your poor, sweet girl!

    So how will you handle this little wench that's already a bully at age 4? I mean, there are several possible strategies here... for instance, there's the peaceful, manage-it-internally solution: "Ignore her, honey. She doesn't feel secure about herself and is picking on you to feel more powerful, because she's jealous of how wonderful you are. Ignore her. Don't give her that power" (the old, higher "you can't control how other people act, but you can control how you react to them" road). In this instance, you've resigned yourself to the possibility that this girl may continue to bully your daughter and you're just teaching her some survival strategies to protect her feelings, hoping that Shrimp will get bored with your daughter's non-reaction and move on to another target.

    Alternatively, you could go on the offensive by contacting the homely little brat's mother. This could either go the collaborative route: "I'm concerned about our girls' ability to play well together, how can we help them get along again", or the accusatory "what are you teaching your daughter that makes her such a b*tch at the age of 4" route. This is further complicated by the fact that there are also popular groups of MOMS... so you could be risking your own status (which, in turn, could cement your daughter's precarious status) if you really piss off B*tch Senior.

    Finally, you could get creative and strategic by formulating a plan to either help your daughter win over Shrimp or to dethrone her as Cute Blonde's sidekick. (As your faithful reader, I'm obviously rooting for you to go the battle-plan route based on its sheer entertainment potential for future blog entries.)

    Which door are you choosing?

  4. The "cool" kids are overrated. They peak too early in life (the rest of us get to enjoy self-discovery when we're old enough to actually appreciate it); they live in slavish fear of being ousted from the "cool" crowd (think of the pressure to always look or act a certain way just to gain the approval of peers whose names you probably won't remember in a decade anyway!); and - most importantly - they do not have a monopoly on becoming a smart, happy, satisfied adult (read: nerds rule the world. That Twitter thing that Ashton Kutcher uses all day to communicate his celebrity thoughts was developed by a horde of nerds; same goes for Myspace, Facebook, and Google; so really, who has the upper hand?. Definitely, nerds.) Don't lament the fact that your eldest isn't part of the so-called "cool crowd" - it doesn't mean she's not a cool kid, and she most definitely is. :)

  5. Number 1 - This post scares me. I cried the other day when another girl pushed my almost two year old.
    Number 2 - Doesn't sound like she is worried about being popular or not, but is more concerned with not being friends with girls who are mean. YAY. Hard choice but the right choice. Focus on the rest of the birthday party list.