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Parenting the little girl with the crazy eyes

I’m quite introspective at the moment, going through that usual crisis of just your bog standard futility of life. Most nights I go to bed just after eight and sit with my back against the wall and spread out across the huge expanse (I got a king size version for my birthday recently) with laptops and books and notes and pencils. I have pretty good intentions to write, or at least outline, but mostly I end up watching old Red Dwarf episodes. Then I jot down Christmas shopping lists that include things like ‘everything the girls have ever asked for’ and ‘whatever the girls say they want’ because I am caught in a deep mother guilt and am reasonably sure that the reason Georgia doesn’t have any friends is because I didn’t buy her enough things when she was a toddler.

Here she is at her recent school disco. The dress is a fluoro number I bought from Seed, for Lily actually but she cried because she hated it so much, and the rest is Georgia’s creative license in the photo booth. I love this kid so much that the first thing I did when I saw this, before I groaned at her obsession with Gangnam Style (she showed it to me on YouTube) or the fact that she seems to have stolen everyone else’s glow sticks, was cry. A lot. Because all I see in this picture is her aloneness. I see a little girl so excited about being at the disco that she doesn’t know how to push the excitement out and has eyes that are flashing with hysteria. I see a little girl trying to do the things that will make the other kids like her, and I can imagine her asking them to join her in the booth because she knows how cool it is to wear feather hair pieces and them looking at her like they can’t even hear the words she’s saying.

I’ve started taking the time to finish my afternoon’s work early so that I can pick her up from school. Yesterday I saw her walking towards me with another girl, and my heart lurched clean out of my chest because I thought she might have a person to confide in and to feel good about it, and my brain in denial took all that time to realise it was just Lily. While Lily informed me that she had outgrown the nickname she’s had since infancy, Georgia held my hand and said that she thought a girl in her class had invited her to visit their farm, but now it turned out that she didn’t want her to come after all. ‘Maybe she hadn’t checked with her mum, and she’s not allowed to take people to the farm,’ I said, but Georgia told me that she knew it was because this girl didn’t like her anymore and maybe never had liked her.

Now I crumble with every step of my day of parenting this girl, my first born baby so blonde and soft and bleating inside a tiny body like a kidney bean; my mirror and my friend. I don’t know how to punish her when she misbehaves, because what can I take away from her that could be worse than being on her own? and what if this was the day she would meet her new friend at the pool and I stopped her because she hadn’t cleaned her room? and what if she doesn’t know how to talk to other people because she uses her brain spaces to remember how to pack the dishwasher? This morning she read a book of science experiments instead of getting dressed for school, and for a moment I yelled at her to Get Dressed, and You Can’t Take Your Book To School, but later I gave her the book anyway because maybe the other kids would like to do science experiments with her.

I don’t know how to help her make friends because she’s spent 9 years without any, and now when the other kids do show an interest in her she grabs them like a favourite toy and won’t let them go, until they slide out of her grasp like mercury and she says ‘people don’t like me’. I am hard up against a wall that shouts that it’s true, the other kids don’t like her, but it’s not because she’s not clever or funny or pretty or generous or considerate because she is all of those things. How do you look your child in her enormous crazy eyes and try inelegantly to explain that it’s the others who are missing out, not her, when you know from experience that all she wants is to be a normal kid and not give a shit about the needles in her heart and just have one friend – just one – who will cross the road to say hello to her.

On the night of the disco, when she got home, I asked her who she danced with and she said “myself”, but not in the comfortable bohemian way. Just the regular alone way.

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Anna Spargo-Ryan

I’m Anna, a digital strategist and writer who likes to drink 'Ice Tea' but doesn't understand why it's not called 'Iced Tea'. By night and occasionally morning, I eat things, write things, berate my children, walk my dogs and hug my chocolate.

  • Michaela C (@FiveFrogsBlog)

    Oh hon.

    Tears.

    There’s value in being an outsider but shit, it hurts to see your kid hurting.

    I have no answers other than you’re doing a great job by loving her so damn passionately.

    xxxxx

    November 22, 2012 at 5:39 pm Reply
  • Yvette

    My heart just broke, over and over for your gorgeous little girl. She will find a kindred spirit soon enough!

    November 22, 2012 at 5:40 pm Reply
  • Carly Findlay

    Wow Anna, your writing takes me on a journey, this is a beautiful piece.
    I hope your girl finds a friend soon. I was a lot like her at school, alone, no one wanted to get to know me. It was really hard. I wouldn’t want to be back there. But then I got friends, outside of school, as a late teenager. I worked so hard to keep them, I used to be all like “so this is what having a friend is like, wow”. And now, as an adult, with lots of friends, that alone/lonely time as a child has made me so comfortable to be by myself now.
    Much love to you and her.

    November 22, 2012 at 5:43 pm Reply
  • Melis

    Oh my heart is aching for your precious girl. I have a daughter very similar to yours and its hard. I so want her to be herself but sometimes I catch myself thinking – try not to be yourself so much – but geez I don’t want her to change.

    They are unique little people and full of life and love? What’s not to like?

    It’s hard, so hard and if I was your daughters age I know I would be her friend, she sounds fantastic.

    Maybe the next year will be different and she’ll find her other half, I hope so, so much.

    She has you and you are her champion, she’s a lucky little one.

    November 22, 2012 at 5:48 pm Reply
  • Kelly Exeter

    Wish with all my heart I had something useful to contribute here. As you know I didn’t have any friends in primary school. And it was hard – really hard (at school – at home I was happy).

    But things got better in high school. Which I know is not any comfort to you right now :(

    November 22, 2012 at 5:50 pm Reply
  • Kate

    Your daughter sounds exactly like me. I wish I could say it’ll get easier for her. Keep her busy (there’s nothing worse than boredom when you’re lonely) and make sure she knows that you’re proud of who she is. Definitely encourage her independence. You probably know all this, but as a survivor of being the weird, excitable one, I felt it needed to be said.

    November 22, 2012 at 5:54 pm Reply
  • Nathalie Brown

    Child friendship dynamics shouldn’t be this hard but they are for many. Sending you and your beautiful daughter hugs. I’ve dm’d you x

    November 22, 2012 at 6:07 pm Reply
  • Alison

    Oh, dear heart, I am so sorry. How terrible for you both. I wish I could offer advice. Instead I can only offer tears.

    November 22, 2012 at 6:24 pm Reply
  • Brando

    Uh, it made me feel so sick reading this, my little sister has no friends & it’s heartbreaking.
    I have thousands & I know that upsets her so much.
    When she was little she would only wear boys clothes, have boys toys & short hair, we went to a small private school, she was really different to the little girls & they were horrible, the boys liked her.
    She had one boy best friend until highschool they fought over him cheating on one of her girlfriends but when they stopped being friends the girls stopped being her friend too.
    I think after highschool she realised she looked quite pretty in girls clothes & she surpassed me in girliness. She still doesn’t have friends. She sucks with social cues & it upsets her but she still tries.
    She’s much better than me at most things & mum & I get so distressed that people don’t see her the way we do. But she gets by & she’s ok & she has us.

    Your little girl will be ok. She has a sister & you. And one day she’ll meet a friend, probably of a different age & she won’t even remember all the years before. Be strong for her & don’t stop telling her why she’s amazing x

    November 22, 2012 at 7:06 pm Reply
  • Karen

    Far out. That was hard to read, I can’t imagine how it would feel to actually be this sweet, misunderstood girl. It will work out, probably as soon as she stops wanting friends, they’ll just show up and everyone will forget how hard this time was.
    Is the school doing anything to help the situation?

    November 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm Reply
  • Sandra

    She is beautiful. I have a 15 year old son, who was the same. So when he told me about things he liked to do, I made sure he did them, I got him to places and into groups where there were others who liked doing those same things, I encouraged him to try whatever interested him (because I hoped he would make friends). He still does not have a best friend, although now he has different groups that he moves between and feels confident to do so. Because while I ferried him around to science days, basketball, dancing, soccer, Tball etc for my own secret longing of a friend for him, what I didn’t realise was how well rounded he had become, how self assured and confident in his own skin because he had been able to hold his own in environments where he may not have made friends, but he had had fun! Just be there for her (like u r), stand beside her when she asks you to, love who she is, as you do, and know that what you believe deep in your heart is true … She is an exceptional little girl and she will find her way. xo

    November 22, 2012 at 10:12 pm Reply
  • Caroline

    Oh lovely. This is BW’s story too. All I wanted was for him to have one friend who ‘got’ him. He’s finally made a friend aged 11, but in 2014 he’ll go to high school and that link will be broken. It’s so scary I don’t even want to think about it. Sending you love and hugs and for your beautiful girl xx

    November 22, 2012 at 10:32 pm Reply
  • Anna

    There is one vital flaw in your thinking. Your little girls DOES have someone who cares about her and that is YOU.

    She will get through this stage of her life because you care and you see her and you make sure she gets to be who she is. You will be the one to tell her not to change because that special friend (or friends) will come into her life one day, and good things are worth waiting for.

    You will get to see a compassionate (because she understands what it feels like to be left out) young lady grow and blossom before your eyes. You will get to enjoy a centred young woman who had the space to figure out what she liked as opposed to one who mimics her “friends” likes.

    You get to bear witness to the wonder of a child who trod the road less travelled and I personally thing they are pretty damn special.

    November 22, 2012 at 10:36 pm Reply
  • jdo

    Sometimes, I wish you’d stop breaking my heart, but then I remember that part of why I care is because of the very fact you have that effect. I just hope that we can strike a balance between a heart that is broken, but still functional.

    November 22, 2012 at 10:37 pm Reply
  • Catherine

    What a beautiful piece of writing, and such a heartbreaking issue. I hope she finds someone special soon

    November 22, 2012 at 10:39 pm Reply
  • Twitchy

    Anastasia I hear you and feel you on all this. Not only was I an exciteable, odd one with a ridiculous vocab, but I’m also a Spectrum parent. This places me very well in the empathy stakes. I loved Sandra’s comment very much. I would ask whether there’s a course or class Geogia would like to do after school, and if she is encouraged to journal, take drama or even make her own movies. You can’t force friendships, they take two sides. But self-expression in the meantime, is really important to prevent future shutting down or internalising. Love to you both xxx

    November 22, 2012 at 11:07 pm Reply
  • Johanna

    This could have described my childhood, and even now. Nowadays, I have various psychiatric labels attached to me, but as a child, I was just described as: highly intelligent and creative, but easily distracted, my mind ran too fast, and I was on a totally different wavelength to my peers. In primary school, I was always wildly distracted by writing stories about fairies or wondering what happened to Amelia Earhart or how many types of stars there are. I didn’t understand the ‘why’ behind playing tag, and I especially couldn’t figure out the inner workings of the girl cliques.
    I tried so hard, thinking that the answer must be in wearing the right butterfly clips in my hair, or using the right slang. It didn’t work. I wasn’t being bullied, I just didn’t fit. My teacher told my parents that the other kids ignored me – they couldn’t understand what I was saying (I had an overdeveloped vocabulary) or what I was talking about (I was interested in things that were too ‘old’, too ‘weird’ or simply not ‘girly’).
    In Grade Six, I made a friend – another outsider. And then it didn’t matter anymore that the other kids didn’t like us, because we had each other. I’m in my mid-twenties, and she’s still my best friend.
    I wish I could say that it all got easier from there, but it’s still hard. I still don’t know how to magically make friends. I still can’t find that balance between being too aloof and too eager. I’m still so hypersensitive that I freak out about every interaction with people I wish were my friends. I still automatically assume that people I meet won’t want to be my friend, because they already have friends! And I still don’t understand how some people find all this so easy. But the world is no longer my primary school class – it has opened up so much as I got older, and now I know that my ‘tribe’ does exist.. but we’re just rare, and scattered far and wide. So it’s a precious friendship when we do find each other.
    I’ve also found solace in different types of relationships and activities. I have a little dog that I love like crazy – we have an incredible bond, and I never feel lonely knowing how much she loves me back. I grow things in the garden and get a buzz out of nurturing plants from seeds. I write poems and stories where I can do/be/feel anything I want. I play the piano and no matter how many prodigies there are on youtube, I feel wonderful knowing that my fingertips can create music. For me, these things fill the lonely gaps.
    I hope Georgia finds a kindred spirit soon, some other wonderful unique crazy-eyed child. It’s lonely and hard until that happens, and I know that it must be excruciating for you to watch. But in the meantime, all you can do is wait, hope, and love her as fiercely and wholeheartedly as you do.

    November 22, 2012 at 11:21 pm Reply
  • Sara

    Oh boy. The heartbreak of a mother. My own heart is breaking for you, and your daughter. Do you know, every one has areas of deficiency and of difference. And of genius. And of heartbreaking beauty. Your daughter has things to learn in her life that will make a very big difference to her later. There is a big picture to her life that you just don’t know yet., but all this will make sense one day. In the meantime, what does she like to do? Is she going to the right school? Is there after school, weekend, school holiday things she can do that take her out of the normal? And remember this – she has a sister and a mother who loves her -at the very least. xxx

    November 23, 2012 at 9:53 am Reply
  • Bert Maverick

    I just want to hold you.

    November 23, 2012 at 4:45 pm Reply
  • Maxabella

    All I see in this picture is a little beauty with cool feathers in her hair. The light in her eyes is shiny enough to light her way for as long as she needs. It sux that her peers can’t see that right now, but they will. Kids are dumb about a lot of things, but luckily most of them grow up eventually. More important than someone else getting us is us getting ourselves. x

    November 26, 2012 at 10:28 pm Reply
  • Sarah

    I keep writing a comment explaining about a girl I grew up with – who had no gang for so long and then finally found one but then I deleted it because you’re not looking for answers. I dont know how to teach kids to make friends. I think its a fluke but when you miss the boat its hard to help them to catch up. I would have danced with her if its any consolation, my Poppy would have hung with her in the photo booth because she hates to see anyone alone or sad (which is a whole other problem) but that doesnt fix anything. Fuck parenting is hard and so is childhood but Georgia has a mum that gives a shit which is better than one that doesnt.

    December 1, 2012 at 9:11 pm Reply
  • PHOODIE

    I feel hollow. My heart has broken into a million pieces. What a gorgeous little girl with a beautiful spirit. She will find her own.

    December 2, 2012 at 8:38 am Reply
  • Amy

    Anna, I read this post this morning. I didn’t have words then, not sure if I do now. I do know that it saddens my heart so much and I cannot stop thinking about your beautiful girl and you. She is incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful mum. As she grows up and meets more and more people I’m sure she’ll find the bestest of friends. I did. Amy xx

    December 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm Reply
  • magda

    I’m catching up on my Anna reading, and this one was a bit heartbreaking! But, you know what, I was a girl like Georgia once, dressed in fluoro and posing/dancing all on my own – and look at me now! Friends out the wazoo. Maybe these more creative/insane types just take a little longer to find one another xx

    December 6, 2012 at 5:00 pm Reply
  • Sophie

    Oh my god, this just broke my heart. I was a little like your daughter during primary school, and as a result I guess I learned the value of self-reliance early.
    I didn’t really have any school friends until my final year of primary school, and didn’t make any good friends until I went to boarding school at the age of 14. It was tough, but I’m sure it was even tougher for my mum having to watch it.

    December 13, 2012 at 1:52 pm Reply
  • Panos

    This was heartbreaking to read, but the photo was very cute and, like a few other people have said (along with you yourself), this was pretty much me at her age. Including the science book my parents initially said I couldn’t take to school.

    Just keep loving her till she finds those people she can relate to, and the ones that will find her quirkiness and intelligence irresistible instead of anathema. They’re inevitable.

    As is you loving her so, you know, carry on :) And don’t be too hard on yourself or second guessing your decisions too often, it’s breaking your heart now but it will get better, for both of you, and she’ll make it through just fine.

    I think I’ll go put some Red Dwarf on now myself and go to sleep…

    January 9, 2013 at 4:37 am Reply

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