Friday, November 21, 2008

It Girl

Two years ago, the Matron suffered one of her recurring bouts of temporary insanity, and decided to surprise her then- third grade daughter by having lunch at Scarlett's elementary school. Insanity? That place is LOUD.

Scarlett was delighted to see her Mama show up at lunch!! Smiles and glee! So the Matron tucks in by Scarlett's side--the right side--on the long lunchroom benches and a small diplomatic summit ensues.

Eleanor: "Scarlett's mom took my spot, so I get to sit on the other side."

Four little girls sit up and shift over.

Ava: "Hey! It's my turn to sit across from Scarlett and now I'm on the edge!"

Eleanor: "Wait! I'll write that down on the seating chart."

Matron: "There are rules for lunchtime?"

Eleanor (Scarlett's soul mate, sister and beloved friend since birth): "Not really. It's just that I get to sit on one side of Scarlett and either Jordan or Rachel sit on the other side of Scarlett. Ava gets to be across or to the side, sitting next to either Jordan or Rachel, who are ACROSS from Scarlett. Every once in awhile, Ava gets to sit on the other side of Scarlett--not mine--just to be nice. It's like art class, only there we pick numbers because just one of us can be by her."

Scarlett beamed and nodded.

This was the first time the Matron was exposed to hard core realities of her daughter's social hierarchy. Readers? The egalitarian Matron was embarrassed. She's never been the most popular so she didn't know this dance. Her daughter, on top with complete disregard for any other? Caused the Matron pain.

A couple of weeks ago, the Matron was discussing Girl Culture with Ava's mother, Bebe, a woman she adores.

Matron: "I have NO idea what people are talking about when they say girls can be mean and petty. Scarlett has never, ever complained about her friends talking about each other or being anything other than 100% IN LOVE with and supportive OF one another. I think the whole mean girl thing is completely overblown."

Bebe: "Well, I think we're lucky. You're right. Ours have a little circle that full of nice. The only hard part is when somebody falls out of favor or takes the second spot."

Matron: "Oh that's horrible!" Slight pause while realizing she had absolutely no idea whatsoever that sentence meant. "What do you mean, fall out of favor? Second place?"

Bebe: "You know! With Scarlett! I mean, she's only 10 and she doesn't understand it, but it's hard on the girls when she has a clear favorite. I mean, besides Eleanor. Then there's a definite ranking of preferences for play dates and everybody is subject to the flow of Scarlett's mood and desires."

Matron: "Oh."

She suddenly underst0od that she'd heard no complaint from Scarlett only because everything was going her daughter's way. The Matron recoiled while her cells reorganized: she had spawned the Queen Bee!

Yesterday, talking with Scarlett's teacher about the one million weeks of school that child will miss because of her performance schedules, the teacher and the Matron both decried the prinicpal's suggestion that the Matron pick up her daughter and Home School, leaving the system behind.

Homeschooling would be wonderful if the Matron didn't have a full-time tenure track job at the moment. She really hopes to get one year of homeschooling, at one point, in under her belt. But not this year. In addition, Scarlett is in year two of a three year classroom. She's not just part of a community, she's in the midst of that community experience.

Matron to teacher: "I can't home school her. She'd be devastated not to be part of that classroom community. She totally sees herself as part of the community. She'd fall to pieces."

Teacher: "Mary, the community would fall to pieces without Scarlett. She's sort of the center of the action."

Now, the Matron's highest point of praise for her daughter has been -- for like, oh, the past 10 years of Scarlett's decade on Earth --- for being a good friend! Kind to others. Thoughtful. Your own self? Should be in service of a greater good. All those qualities get high praise! In fact, in the midst of all the theatrical accolades, right after strangers and family and friends have swooned over Scarlett for her stage presence, the Matron has made a POINT of saying:

"Do you know what I'm the most proud of you for?"

Scarlett: "The friendship and kindness thing?"

Matron: "That's right. I'm so proud of you for being such a good friend. You're a kind, good person. That's the most important."

Scarlett: "Whatever."

But she is. So far. Still, the Matron has seen a few Red Flags flying these days, given all the potential for too much focus on the daughter doing the deaf-blind stumble and Ramona squeal.

More than anything else? The Matron VERY much hopes her child does not peak at age 10. To that end, she will keep her eyes on the prize. How do you cope when you're not the It Girl? How do you carve out a meaningful life if --when--you don't get the lead role?

It Girls often grow up to to be-- washed up. Even if growing up is just hitting 12 and never getting the callback or the best friend. That's what Scarlett needs to prepare for.


thefirecat said...

I think it speaks wonders that Scarlett is all those theatrical things AND still manages to be the Queen Bee. It's not just the actress the others are drawn to. Little girls are not idiots. She wouldn't be the center of the circle if there wasn't something truly there for the others to admire. If it were just glitz, it would have long since worn off.

The difference between your daughter and, say, Tatum O'Neal or Drew Barrymore? Is that Scarlett has a mama who has a head firmly on her shoulders and will prevent Scarlett from imploding if reality ever shifts.

Because the Matron, see? She has a soft, soft heart. And those are hard to come by. The Matron and Scarlett will both thrive, no matter what.

Even if it involves the latter writhing on the floor in agony for a few minutes.

JCK said...

I think it is wonderful that you have discussions on how proud you are of her kindness and her ability to be a wonderful friend. Those are beautiful virtues that she will carry with her forever.

As far as getting the understudy role instead of the lead, not getting the role, etc., that may not occur until college. My husband went to Carnegie-Mellon's theater program. It was an amazing experience for him to be able to just do all things related to theater, yet challenging because the best of the best came together from all over the country.

Your belief that it is important to keep her in her community for now is a good instinct, I think.

Queen Bees are the stars, that is true. :)

Anonymous said...

If she's got you, she'll always be an it girl. Really.

Nora said...

Wow! You have an It Girl in your house. I never had to worry about the peaking-early thing (still haven't) but I watched it happen to the football team from my high school. Rough.

And now they are all posting photos of themselves getting drunk in Vegas on Facebook. At least they have each other.

My money is on Scarlett rolling with life's punches with great aplomb.

Minnesota Matron said...

You guys are great! JCK-- I love having a professional actor chime in. Thank you! And yes, my dear firecat, there will be writhing.

Daisy said...

Scarlett sounds like she has her head together. She doesn't sound like a kid who craves the adoration of the masses -- at least not in school. You're wise, though, to monitor this and be ready for the potential trauma of the future.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Scarlett will always have it. Always.

And this?

"I get to sit on one side of Scarlett and either Jordan or Rachel sit on the other side of Scarlett. Ava gets to be across or to the side, sitting next to either Jordan or Rachel, who are ACROSS from Scarlett. Every once in awhile, Ava gets to sit on the other side of Scarlett--not mine--just to be nice."

Sounds like a logic game question. And it made my head explode.

Jocelyn said...

Your readiness for the future is key. I'm not sure anyone ever gets to accept, for always and ever, that they are beloved and everyone's first choice.

Or if they are, that should happen in a permanent romantic relationship. The rest of life offers up challenges that keep us appreciating the permanent romantic relationship. Right? Maybe?