Rebecca Eckler is one of Canada's most talked about newspaper columnists, the author of Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother to Be, which has been translated into nine languages. Also the author of the bestsellers, Wiped!, Toddlers Gone Wild, and Rotten Apple, the first in a YA series. Random thoughts on life in the competitive world of modern mommyhood. Blog will be loved by trendy mothers who still feel, or often feel, that the most important word in "mommee" is ME!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I want The Dictator to Fit In

Do other moms obsess about their children fitting in with other kids?

I read a really interesting post by a blogger yesterday who was contemplating whether her child should wear Dora the Explorer clothes to school. It's not that this woman was opposed to Dora (How can you hate Dora with her big brown eyes? Plus, she teaches us Spanish! And, I'm sorry, Diego is kind of cute.)

It's just that this mother knew that other kids can be mean and may make fun of her child for wearing Dora to school. (Apparently, you will be made fun of if you like Dora after the age of 6.)

She was trying to think of a good way to suggest to her daughter that she might not want to wear Dora to go to school.

Anyway, I understood where this Blogging Mama was coming from.

How do you make your kid fit in, and dress not to be made fun of, without encouraging them to think it's ok to make fun of kids for what they wear? Because it's not ok.

Yes, it is a tricky problem. Tricky is what it is.

A couple weeks ago, Nanny Mimi came home with The Dictator and handed me a schedule for The Dictator's Friday's "class."

This Friday, I'm the mom responsible for bringing "the class" snacks. (I know, I never saw this ever happening in my life. But here we are...)

Anyway, I asked Nanny Mimi what I should bring. "The teacher wants parents to bring fruit," Nanny Mimi answered.

Um, fruit? Eeesh. Really?

Hey, I love fruit. But I'm an adult and wasn't the fun in getting snacks in class that they were a special treat?

What I definitely didn't want to happen was for my child to bring in fruit if every other kid was bringing in chocolate cupcakes for the class.

I tried explaining this to Nanny Mimi. "So all the other kids brought in fruit then?"

"Well, no. But the teacher wants you to bring in fruit," she said.

Yeah, I'm sure the teacher also wishes The Dictator was toilet trained. But that's not how it's going.

See, I care about The Dictator's well-being. It's these little things that can make or break your kid, and make or break them feeling liked or unliked in class. I know she will probably feel hated in class one day. But I don't want her feeling that yet. Or ever.

It's awful, yes, but true that these things matter. We all remember that one poor classmate whose mother made them bring in carrot/cranberry/bran muffins as their school treat for their birthdays, don't we?

Face it. Kids like chocolate cupcakes more than they like fruit.

"Ok, Mims," I said. "I know the teacher would like us to bring in fruit, but are all the other kids bringing in donuts?"

"The teacher wants you to bring fruit," she repeated.

The problem is is that Nanny Mimi is also a health food nut. She would want The Dictator to bring in fruit. So I'm being ganged up on by these two fruit-lovers. Unfortunately, I think of the class.

If I were a kid in The Dictator's class, I'd be quite mad at the girl whose mom brought in fruit for snack when every other mother sent brownies (with no peanuts of course!) in. I might even call her "Fruit girl" for the rest of my life.

So I've decided to buy a fruit plate AND cupcakes. That way, the teacher and Nanny Mimi will be happy, and me and the kids will be happy. And I've aided my daughter a tiny bit, maybe, in fitting in. I don't want her to be called "Fruit girl."

This way, everybody wins! (Especially me, who will make sure I get a couple extra cupcakes.)

I just have to remember that Friday is my day for snacks. Friday. Friday. Friday.


Blogger Ali said...

oh my god.
i totally stressed about my daughter fitting in.
and then karma stepped in, bit me on the ass, and turned my daughter into the snob of her class.

the Dora clothing? it's my daugher Emily who is making the decisions that Dora is "no longer cool" - right now, in kindergarten, it's all about Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan. oh, and pre-baby Britney Spears is still pretty cool.

but Dora? Emily tells me that Dora is sooooo prenursery.

3:54 PM

Blogger Ali said...

oh, and you're better than i.
i would have ONLY sent the cupcakes.

3:55 PM

Blogger Laural Dawn said...

I can't believe you referred to what I wrote! That's pretty cool.
Just for the record - everyone in our house thinks Dora is pretty cool. But, oh the peer pressure with the clothes.
And, good compromise on the cupcakes and fruit. I wonder who will eat the fruit. The teacher???

4:20 PM

Blogger Sheena said...

What does the Dictator want to bring? She probably knows her audience better than the grownups. And really, if you think about it... there is no point in being a dictator if you can't get your own way.

4:23 PM

Anonymous Toronto Gal said...

My mom used to pack fruit with my lunch which I hated since none of the other kids has fruit. They all had "fun" foods like cheese strings, or better yet- money for the cafeteria. So I told my mom that all the kids made fun of me for bringing fruit for lunch (they didn't) and she was then at least cool enough to hold off on the fruit (but then I'd get home and she'd sneak it into a milkshake). Definitely go for the cupcakes- especially if they're the mini ones like they sell at the Cupcake Shoppe @ Yonge and Eglinton (or at Loblaws)

4:31 PM

Blogger Dutch said...

Wow, I couldn't disagree more about the fitting in part. I want my child to learn as early as possible that conforming to some bourgeois conception of what is normal will make me far more disappointed in her than if she turned into some heroin-addicted runaway. I certainly don't believe that normalization is the best outcome for my child. Not when being normal or popular means things like fucked-up body image issues perpetrated by the advertising and entertainment industries; cruelty to those less beautiful or less wealthy; materialism and obsession with meaningless symbols of status, and all of the coveting of MORE and MORE and all of the entitlement and the resulting toll on those who help create our standard of living and the environment that we are destroying to achieve it. Ultimately what is "normal" or "popular" is really highly abnormal and a deeply fucked up system of unsustainable values that I simply do not agree with. I consider valuable this advice I encountered somewhere once while tilting toward internet windmills: "Like I told my son on his first day of school 'You dont realize this yet but our whole family is very weird. You'll never be normal or be like other kids. I can't teach you how to be like other kids. But I can teach you how not to mind being unique.'"

Normalcy belongs to those with no ambition. You might think I'm going to fuck up my child, and to that I say: I hope so.

4:48 PM

Blogger Heather said...

You could always remind teacher that too much fruit makes for NASTY diapers.

4:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The young Dictator will not be dubbed "fruit girl" if you bring fruit. It's ok.
And apparently, Dora becomes cool again at 14. Check out a group of vaguely tough looking teen girls at a shopping mall if you don't believe me. At least one will be rocking an incongruous Dora knapsack.

6:01 PM

Blogger stkitts said...

I'm not a mom yet, but I'm already obsessing about this. I know what it was like to not fit in, partly due to my parents' actions/rules/etc.

I don't know if it's the same case with you, but having been the 'uncool' kid has made me want to protect my future kids from the same fate even more.

When The Dictator is older (or hell, on Friday), I'll bet she'll be glad you brought in cupcakes.

(and while you're at it, feel free to drop some off here too!)

6:58 PM

Blogger metro mama said...

Let 'em eat cake.

My mom used to take in a few neighborhood kids before school. They didn't like the healthy cereals my mom made us eat--so they'd bring their own box of Fruit Loops and I had to watch enviously while I ate Bran Flakes.

5:08 AM

Anonymous Naomi said...

I waver back and forth between worrying that The Happy Boy will fit in, and worrying that he won't fit in. See, I want him to feel confident enough to follow his own path, but yet, I don't want that path to be so far away from everyone else that he's lonely.

It's tough being a parent.

I think you hit the perfect solution, to be honest. Some kids probably aren't allowed to have sugar (my son, CHOOSES broccoli over cake, honest!!) so the fruit is a nice option.

5:29 AM

Blogger Ashley said...

hehe I was always the kid who took the cupcakes and the cookies :) But I don't remember making fun of any kids for what they brought. I'm sure the Dictator will fit in, things change as kids get older, just becuase someone does or doesn't fit in as a toddler or in early elementary school does not mean that by grade 4 or so things may change. I would have sent her with chocolate cupcakes too :-p with sprinkles!

7:09 AM

Blogger Rebecca said...

I wasn't going to respond to this because I totally know where you're coming from and that needs no comment.

I did, however, want to say to the person who said that normalcy belongs to those with no ambition, that you've obviously never had an 8 yr old begging to be homeschooled because he can't take the torment anymore. You've obviously never had your child come home in tears - every day - from THIRD GRADE - because the other kids tormented him, and the teachers allowed it. Until you have to walk in that child's shoes, you have no right looking down on normalcy. Sometimes it's about plain old survival. Let's not forget -- kids can be very, very cruel.

8:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about chocolate covered strawberries? That way you get both the sweets and the fruit.

8:13 AM

Blogger Gabriella said...

Smart choice to bring both the cupcakes and the fruit, the teacher should be ready to eat up all the fruit because we know the kids won't!!!!!

8:18 AM

Blogger bubandpie said...

I always wanted a daughter, but in the car on the way home from the ultrasound I was already feeling appalled: my little baby girl will someday have to go to high school! I think I'm more afraid of her being a horrible Queen Bee than a victim, but both are terrifying.

As I remember it, the boys tend to be a bit more relaxed about social status: their way is to choose one or two victims for extreme bullying and to let everybody else pretty much keep to themselves. As long as my son can manage to avoid preferred-victim status, he'll be okay. That said, I returned home from a Victoria Day barbeque saddened by the fact that he didn't seem to fit in with his peers. There was a posse of 2- to 4-year-olds roaming around playing indoor hockey and racing cars, but my son carefully avoided the uproar, turning his back to them so he could play quietly with his toys. I looked at it and saw my 14-year-old self, hiding behind a book so no one would talk to me. That's the great thing about having children - we get to relive all the suffering and angst of our youth.

8:23 AM

Blogger HomeFireBlue said...

What Dutch said.

*I* certainly never thought twice about what other kids thought of me (or called me) and was happy to beat anyone's arse who got in my face.

I want my kids - especially my girls - to understand that it just doesn't matter what other people think as long as you're cool with yourself.


9:59 AM

Blogger Food Mum said...

Well done for the compromise, I agree that a treat should be a treat and fruit rates pretty ordinary, though grapes do get gobbled in our house.

I think each child finds their own level of fitting-in-ness regardless of parents,(as long as you don't do anything too dreadful like forcing them to wear clothes they themselves hate). I was never one of the in crowd at school, but my five year old scares me by having the boys fighting over who is going to marry her...she doesn't do anything to court it either and if anything would rather avoid the fuss. I dread to think how it'll be when she hits the teenage years!

12:07 PM

Blogger Kristen said...

I would have done the same thing! And how come it was you guys who were assigned the fruit? What kind of crap is that?

12:27 PM

Anonymous persephone's daughter said...

What? Your kid is like TWO??!! And you're worried she'll get teased for bringing FRUIT to class??!! A class of toddlers & preschoolers??!! What kind of jaded kids are these???
You are teaching
Fruit = bland & boring
Cupcakes = fun & delicious

Uh, no! Teaching proper nutrition to your kids is basic. Teach them to love fruit. Besides being healthy, fruit is colourful, sweet & delicious. Cupcakes are TREATS. Save them for birthdays and holidays. And then make them the ooiest gooiest ones you can, cause kids only eat the icing anyway.

I know of which I speak. I have three healthy, non-fussy, non-obese kids with good teeth, ages 15, 19 and 21. Who have all said they're glad I fed them healthy. And that I splurged on the best Belgian chocolate for their Easter baskets.

10:11 PM

Anonymous Toronto Gal said...

Re Belgian chocolate comment- no one said that proper nutrition was being ignored...give the Dictator an apple when she gets home and you've still won. Believe it or not, kids (much like some Freelancers) can be mean when they have too much time on their hands and can-and will- judge a kid by their lunchbox and what's in it (even if it is a Dora one). Some people may have three healthy, non-fussy, non-obese kids but I'm sure a cupcake on a Friday fifteen years ago would't have tipped them over the edge. More importantly, many a friend has been made over the sharing of a cupcake! Rebecca- let us know what you decided to do and the teacher/parent/kid reception.

4:34 AM


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