We went to a cute party on Monday night. A Junior Girl Scout troop threw a Halloween party for the Daisy and Brownie troops in the area. Katelyn wore the costume that she handpicked for herself. We’ve been reading a book series called The Fairy Chronicles. The first book was about Marigold, a flower fairy. As soon as we started reading the book Katelyn got very excited, turned to me, and said, “That’s what I want to be for Halloween. A flower fairy!”
I was determined to get it right, so I spent some time looking around. I shopped online. I stalked eBay. Nothing seemed right, but I finally managed to put together a decent costume — a combination of a dress from Once Upon a Child, some matching wings (complete with a big honking flower) from a garage sale, and tights from her closet. Total cost $10. She put it on, and looked adorable. However, as we walked into the party Monday night, I was actually afraid I was going to have a problem. All the little girls were wearing such grown-up costumes.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not criticizing anyone. The kids weren’t dressed inappropriately. (Well, maybe the 11-year-olds with short, short belly shirts on were.) But Katelyn, with her gauzy, childish costume, was definitely among the minority. There were Hollywood starlets, an amazing Cleopatra, ghouls, goblins, devils, and the obligatory Hannah Montana. Katelyn, thankfully, was oblivious to her younger-than-average costume. She went in, played her Halloween bingo, made her mummy stick man, and ate her candy corn. At the end of the night we went home. The party was deemed a success by my tired little girl. I was honestly surprised. Katelyn, who is shy and has a tendency to be anxious, is one of those kids who desperately wants to fit in, and she absolutely didn’t fit in at that party. Based on past behavior, I wouldn’t have been surprised if she asked to go home, or started crying.
For example, earlier this month we had a Thing about her name. My husband and I carefully chose her name, spelling it with “Kate” instead of “Cait” so, if she eventually wanted a nickname, it would shorten correctly. She’s always loved Katelyn, and stuck with it, though. That is until one of the new girls in her class decided to call her Katie, a name I don’t like as much. Katelyn came home that week declaring she was now Katie. She asked her teachers to change all her in-class signage to “Katie.” She started writing Katie on all her work. Normally, I would have ignored it, but there was such a fierceness to her request. When we pressed her on it we finally found out that she wanted everyone to like her, and she thought that the name Katie would make her more popular. Did she like Katie, we probed. She said she did, but that she also didn’t know how to stop C., the girl who started the whole thing, from calling her Katie. She didn’t want her not to be her friend anymore. Nosy, overbearing mother that I am, I sent an email to all the parents in the class asking them to tell their kids to stop with Katie. The nickname has faded away. (And yes, I realize that I could have chosen a better coping strategy.)
When I was a little girl I was much like Katelyn. I wanted people to like me. (Who am I kidding? I still want people to like me.) Fitting in is part of that, of course. We like people who are like us. And when they don’t, it can be devastating. Katelyn has bright red hair. She’s very bright. I’m not surprised that she let some little girl try and change her name. But when I saw how well she did at that party — how secure she was in something that she liked and picked on her own — it made me happy.
I’ve never been like other people who float in my social circle. I don’t wear fancy clothes. I practice yoga. I gave birth without drugs, for goodness sake! But I am finally secure in who I am and where I belong. It took me a while, but it happened. Maybe Katelyn learned something from her foray into a Katie’s world. Maybe she realized that people who matter will love her whether her name is Katelyn or Katie. Or if she’s a fairy or a rockstar. One can only hope.
How do you help you child build his or her self esteem? Did I do the wrong thing with the Katelyn/Katie thing? I’d love to hear your comments.