I went to a Pinewood Derby recently. I actually have fond memories of the Pinewood Derby, which is a Cub Scout event where the boys make little wooden race cars and send them down a track and earn the Very Important Lesson about Winning and Losing merit badge. My dad was one of the only men in town without sons, so he judged the competition. It's so interesting, watching the kids cheer each other on and win and sulk. You can tell right away which kids "fit in" and which kids kind of don't. My fellow Pennsyltuckians will remember Dav!d Tegme!er. Seems every troop has one.
So I've been reading a lot of the parenting blogs. I read parents' entries about watching their children interact with others and worry about whether or not they will make friends, who they will be, which crowd they will will fit in to. I was... eh, I was always okay. "Fitting in" was really important to me for a long time. Still is, I suppose. I care a lot what people think about me, even though I'm a smartmouth feminist with a "strong personality." Still, I worry when people have to tell me I'm talking too loudly and being the embarrassing "Uncomfortablemacher." That word would be cooler if I could figure out how to make an umlaut (you know, the German vowel dots) over the U. It's a hang-up I might always have, I don't know.
I was the least "popular" girl in the popular cliche in elementary school, the one other kids said was the "nicest." I was a walking target for the Mean Girls in the 7th grade. In 8th grade, I got moved into different classes, an all-honors group of people who became of formative part of who I was academically. I met Kelly, Gwen and the Gang. Jason and Alissa got elevated from Neighborfriends to Friendfriends, and I found a new niche for myself, one that still feels the most, um, niche-iest in my life. But I certainly took my lumps, got called a "fat dyke" in the occasional graffiti scrawl, etc.
I know Joel took his lumps, too. He's smart and shortish, and I know of at least one time when some bastard-children played keep away with his yarmulke and threw it out the window in Hebrew School. I love him. :) My point is, I feel like a lot of the coolest, nicest adults I know were "awkward"-ish, misfit-type kids in elementary school.
I've always said I hope I don't end up being the mom of an UberPopular Cheerleader. I would sooo much rather be the mother of a gay kid and run the local chapter of PFLAG and advocate for stronger enforcement of bullying policies at school board meetings than be the mother of a teenage boy who calls people "faggot" for fun. I would gladly show support for my teenage daughter by signing permission forms for nose-piercing (at the most sanitary piercing place in town, young lady!) than wear a purple polka-dot bow in my hair with the AlphaMeanMoms at the National Cheerleading Championships. Except, in order for your kids to become, say, the cool, sensitive, alterna-chick editor of her high school's literary magazine, she has to get mocked for sucking at field hockey in gym class, and who wants their kids to go through that? Certainly not someone who lived through it once themselves, right?