Today I am wearing three Rainbow Loom bracelets made out of rubber bands. That wouldn’t be a surprising statement coming from an eight-year-old girl or even the mother of an eight-year-old girl. But my daughter is 17. She found out about the Rainbow Loom while she was babysitting, and got “hooked” on making rubber band bracelets (pardon the pun, the bracelets are made with a crochet hook), and then she got me hooked. We bought the basic kit and then invested in more bands in other, less Eastery, colors. My daughter, of course, is more advanced than I am, having mastered the ridiculously intricate starburst bracelet, although it required starting and stopping the Youtube video multiple times. Rubber band bracelets would not usually be high on my list of must-have accessories, but I would take up any activity my daughter and I did together. She is in the process of applying to college, and I have started to tick off all the lasts: the last first day of school, the last Halloween. I can’t begin to think how much I will miss her. Maybe, as a way of keeping her close, I’ll continue wearing my rubber band bracelets after she’s gone. Especially the way cool ones that glow in the dark.
A teacher at my daughter’s high school once asked her what she did to relax— and she answered, “Babysit.” She loves to babysit. She loves kids. She’s really good with them, too. She’s the one who can make the shy kids comfortable, get them to talk. The one who got a disdainful eight-year-old boy in her summer camp group to lead a dance performance. And she’s the one who was asked by the parents of an eight-year-old girl to come over specifically to teach their daughter how to do a cartwheel. Nothing wrong with that. Except the reason this child was so desperate to learn how to do a cartwheel was because finessing it would allow her to sit with the “cool” kids at lunch at her private school. The cool third-graders. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Somehow cartwheels had become the new status symbol.
My own daughter once had been the target of mean girls. Not when she was eight, but when she was in middle school. The leader of a clique decided my girl wasn’t good enough to be friends with her and her drones—girls she had been friends with the year before. No incident preceded this. It came out of nowhere. One minute they were hugging her hello, the next minute they wouldn’t speak to her. Knowing the head meanie and her mother, I wasn’t surprised at the cruel behavior. Thankfully, it lasted only a brief time and never rose to the level of outright bullying. Thankfully, my daughter had many other friends and a strong sense of self (and loving parents) to help her through it.
So my heart and my daughter’s went out to this sweet little girl trying to be accepted by the “in” crowd in elementary school. The cartwheel sessions are coming along nicely. But there is clearly something very wrong going on when eight-year-olds are coming up with ways to exclude other kids on the flimsiest of pretenses. And the solution is not more gymnastics training.
(Thanks, Rae, for the great visual!)