What I Would Do for a Glass Bubble
My daughter is an alien.
She was speaking in full sentences before her first birthday, drawing houses and flowers before her second birthday, writing her name and making lists before her third birthday, reading before her fourth, and so on. When she asked the "where do babies come from" question a couple of years ago, we got into a conversation about cell division and mitochondrial DNA. Her obsession with dinosaurs has led her to point out the inaccuracies in children's television shows, and she WILL correct you if you call a cimolestes a "prehistoric mouse". She does 300 piece puzzles, draws the solar system in her sketchbook, and has asked to "learn math" so she can design a spaceship for herself and her brother. Or become an animator with Pixar.
She is also terrified of the "mean witches" in Disney princess movies, runs and hides when the "bad guy music" comes on in much G rated children's programming, and can be found sobbing in her bedroom because something sad happened in a book she was reading. People are hard work for her, sometimes. Kids on the playground don't always know what to make of her. When educators talk about how academically advanced kids are often a little bit behind in their social development, I want to smack them.
But only because I fear it might be true.
Homeschooling her was tempting, for me. She learns so quickly and so easily, I figured I could handle the curriculum for elementary school, at least. We love learning together. (And by that I mean, I love learning from her.) And it's not like I don't have a house full of kids most of the time, anyway. She would get that much-lauded social interaction from the dayhome crew.... Right?
Except, what happens if my career changes, or if the homeschooling thing doesn't serve her well, or if our circumstances no longer permit me to stay at home? What happens if she has to enter the junior high gauntlet with no previous experience, allies, or comrades at arms to support her? What happens if "that weird kid" becomes "that weird homeschool kid" at exactly the time she becomes painfully sensitive to others' opinions?
So, we found her a French immersion school with a strong academic and arts program. We opted to send her on the school bus, rather than engage in the contortionist logistics required to get six kids to three different places for exactly the same time. We sent her off and hoped for the best and established open communication with her teacher. And felt like she could probably hold her own with her classmates. And that she might even have a really good time.
This morning, I took her out to catch her school bus. She is the last pick-up, so there are no empty seats. I watched while three different older kids refused to share their seats with my daughter. Her face was resigned. This has happened before.
The driver and I locked eyes briefly, while I worked hard at not charging up into that bus, and then one of the kids was told to make room. I know it's not just my kid. I know children can be assholes, sometimes - even Danica - and that this is just part of figuring out how to deal with people out in the world. But still. For a minute I fantasized about keeping my little alien safe in a well-appointed glass bubble until she can build that ship and bring us all home to her planet. Where people can't hurt her. Ever.
And then I remembered this exchange, from the playground last summer:
Bigger kids (approaching Danica, who was on the swings): "Hey! Give me that swing you little f*@ker!"
Danica (furious): "I'm not a little f*@ker! I'm a BIG f*@ker! SO YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!"
I think she'll be okay.
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