Dear friend and devoted reader, let me tell you a little bit about my fourth-grade self. Before school started that year, my family moved from a small town in rural PA to a suburb outside of Chicago, IL. I quickly made a new best friend, Jennifer Manos, and played with her constantly. When school started, I was the new girl. This suited me. I got lots of attention from both kids and teachers and excelled greatly in my new school. (I did well in school at home, but the new school was a bit behind so I did even better there--even scoring a 100% on the placement test they administered to determine which math class to put me in.)
Anyway, I ended up being one of two fourth-graders chosen to join this environmental group, C.A.R.E., which meant I got to go to little conventions and even a week-long camp. I was cast as the lead in the school luau's play; I was the only fourth grader to win the Presidents Physical Fitness patch; I was my teacher's favorite, etc. etc. I even turned some boys' heads at that point in my life. I'll never forget James Anastasiados (I'm sure I'm spelling that wrong; you get the point, he was Greek) and the costume jewelry he would wrap up in love notes to me. I was on top of the world and I reveled in it.
Those are the memories I have of fourth grade. Contrast that to my sweet fourth grader, Maia. She wants nothing more than to be invisible right now. I just don't get it. She wants so badly not to be noticed that she goes to ridiculously noticeable lengths in trying to achieve her goal.
For example, her ophthalmologist told her that she doesn't need to wear her glasses all the time anymore. She only has to wear them while she is at school. I thought she'd be thrilled--she'd asked for LASIK just two months ago. She took her glasses off the first couple of days but now is more vigilant than ever about wearing them 24/7. She says she doesn't want people to look at her and notice that something is different and then talk about her or ask her where her glasses are. The first Sunday at church, she actually walked around with a hood on her head and her hands over her face so people wouldn't notice anything. So people wouldn't notice anything? On the girl wearing a windbreaker like a freakin' Dementor? The one also covering her face with her splayed hands? Yeah, right. That's totally inconspicuous.
She's also starting enjoying dressing like a hobo. Seriously. A year ago we went shopping and she picked out this pretty green and blue empire waist silky top that I'd love to own. She was so tickled about it. Do you think she'll touch that thing now? Not a chance. It's too pretty. It's too nice. Just mud-stained clothes for her, please, and holey ones if you've got them. A couple of weeks ago, we were invited to the home of one of Michael's co-workers and I wanted her to change her shirt before we left. You know, so she'd at least match when we met these new people? She threw a ridiculous fit about "why do I always have to look so fancy?" Michael and I just started laughing. She was wearing stretch pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt! Call social services on us, why don't you? We wanted our daughter to wear a non-stained, well-fitting t-shirt to match her "fancy" stretch pants. Can you believe the conditions under which we make her live? Deplorable! I was just glad Michael was here to see it since he misses the day-to-day dressing process before school. I'm going on and on I know, so I'll cut to the point: she doesn't want to look like she's trying to impress anyone. She says it over and over again and we assure her that, no worries, no one is going to look at her bum-crack hanging out, mud-stained, holes in the knees jeans and ridiculously large hand-me-down night shirt and accuse her of trying to dress too fancy or trying too hard to impress anybody.
When I look at my darling Maia, who seems to live in fear that someone is actually going to notice her or talk about her, I don't even see a shadow of the fourth-grader I was. Maybe being the fourth of eight children gave me more of a thirst for attention than being the eldest of four gives her. I don't know. In the meantime, if you see my sweet girl, please don't tell her that you notice her glasses or her hair or her anything. Oh, and pass all your stained hand-me-downs this way; I know a little girl who'd love them...