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Imitation

Dan Thompson

Magoo informed me this afternoon that he wants me to change his name to J. J.  I was pretty sure he hadn’t seen Lost or the new Star Trek movie so I assumed Mr. Abrams had nothing to do with this choice.  I was right.

“There’s a boy in my class named J. J. and he’s my friend.  His name is just J. and J.  Isn’t that cool?”

“Yeah.  That’s pretty cool.”

“It’s so cool.  He’s my friend but he has way more friends than me.  He hangs out with like 4 guys every day on the playground.  I want to change my name to J. J.”

I tried to tell Magoo that he has plenty of friends too, that it doesn’t have to be a competition, that his name is perfectly lovely even if it contains vowels.  He would have none of it.

“Will you please tell my teacher to start calling me J.J. from now on?”

“Nope.  But when you grow up you can pick whatever name you want.”

I’m hoping he’ll decide that his name (which I assume you all know by now is not actually Magoo) is a perfectly lovely name and that he’ll keep it and be proud of it.  Who knows?  Our friends have a huge influence on us.

Laylee’s in second grade this year.  To this point she’s spent a lot of her time reading books and developing close friendships one at a time, staying mostly aloof from the drama going on amongst the girls around her. 

This year she’s discovered Silly Bands and “feuds.”  Although she says she doesn’t care about such things, she is suddenly acutely aware of what’s popular and what’s not.

Although she has yet to bring home a friend I don’t love, I still find it a bit painful that she can choose who she spends time with.  What if she comes home next week with a best friend who’s a crack dealer?

She's in a new school again so I don’t know most of the kids or parents in her grade.  She came home excited a week or so into the school year telling me all about two girls she’s been spending time with.  They’re both in third grade and she is enamored with them.

“What are they like?” I asked, feigning idle curiosity.

“Oh.  Really nice.”

“What do they like to do?  What are their hobbies?”

“Mostly they like to try and act like teenagers.”

Little red blinking alarm bells started going off like crazy in my head.  “Act like teenagers?”  So they like driving?  Kissing boys?  Going to wild parties and staying out WAY past your bedtime?

“Um.  Honey.  What do they do to act like teenagers?”

“Well, like, dress like teenagers and you know, shake their wrists and stuff.”

So it turns out that they like to coordinate cute outfits and jangle their non-existent arm jewelry.  I can live with that.  My big concern is that she not start making decisions based on what the other kids will think, deciding what she likes based on what she thinks she should like.

Who am I kidding?  I think we all went through a phase where we cared too much about what other people thought of us.  I hope we’ve all grown out of it.  I’m with Mary Beth Hicks in her book Bringing Up Geeks, where she talks about raising kids who know who they are and make decisions based on their own beliefs, values and passions.  It’s a great read.  I’d highly recommend it.  Now I need to reread it and work on implementing her suggestions. 

One of my greatest wishes for my kids is for them to feel confident enough to follow their own dreams and not be overly concerned with what everyone else around them is doing.

Now, Wanda’s the biggest follower of all.  When I smile, she smiles.  When I clap, she claps.  When I wave, she waves.  When I point to my nose, she shoves her finger up hers.  I really hope that kid develops a spine and learns to be more of a leader before she gets to Kindergarten.

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