The introverted thinker on the playground

My daughter is an introverted thinker. Sometimes this is extremely entertaining.

When she was in first grade she came home part way through the year and said, “I want to get my hair cut like a boy.” “Short?” I said. “Yes,” she said. I didn’t think about it too much but made an appointment. I thought it was because she has that fine tangly hair that is really difficult to comb.

On the way to the salon, my intuition kicked in and I realized that something was up. She was in that deep abstraction mode, thinking.
I said, “Why do you want to get your hair cut like a boy?”
Her reply, “The boys chase the girls on the playground.”
Hmmmm.
“Do they chase you?”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“They are not sure if I am a boy or a girl.”
“You don’t want them to be sure?”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“There is another class that gets to recess before us. They get the tire swing. They have a club that is all boys. They won’t let us use the tire swing.”
“You are going to fool them. Okay.” I sat back to see how she would proceed with whatever plan she had regarding the tire swing.

She had her hair cut very short. The next morning she chose hand-me-downs from her brother. A rugby shirt, a navy blue sweatshirt, flannel lined thick jeans and his old hiking boots. She had never worn any of them before and her usual preference was pink. I took her to school. She went into her class and just went to stand by some other children, not saying anything at all. They commented on her haircut.

I went to the principal and described my daughter’s plan, mostly because I thought it was quite brilliant. He said, “Oh, we have to do something about this.” I said, “I wasn’t trying to get anyone to interfere.” He said, “No, but we have a playground policy. They are allowed to have clubs, but they are not allowed to exclude anyone. In other words, no ‘boys only’ clubs. We will hold an assembly to remind them.”

So for a seven year old introverted thinker on the playground, a problem required careful thought and a plan, which she then carried out. I liked the approach of challenging gender. As far as I could tell it did not occur to her to ask for help. I do wonder at times what other plans she is implementing.

She did get to use the tire swing. Then she went back to wearing pink.

broadcast

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: broadcast.

“Were you, like me, brought up on listening the the radio? Or do you prefer more modern ways of communication? How do you broadcast your news? And how do others broadcast to you?”

I was not brought up on radio. More record player. No television until I was nine, and I think my parents mostly got their information from newspapers. And they discussed articles and ideas…

But the deeper answer to this question is that mostly I don’t.

I am introverted and shy. I also failed small talk in school very early and learned to shut up. I was comfortable talking in my family and would talk to friends after I’d known them for years. We moved every 2-5 years while I was in school so my peer friends were really my sister and cousins. When we moved, I pretty much would only talk to teachers for the first year. After a year, I might try to make a friend, having studied everyone. After a year, they might or might not be interested.

I got to know one woman from high school after we’d graduated. After a while she said, “I thought you were shy in high school.” I laughed and said, “No, I just didn’t talk.” This is really about opinions: I was way more opinionated than she realized and when I got comfortable enough to talk, I could talk a lot.

I also found that smart women are not admired, so I hid it. There are different ways of hiding it: mine was to be multi talented. I played instruments, scored equally well on the math and english part of the SAT, read voraciously, and mostly talked to adults. My parents’ house had a wild array of interesting and unconventional adults. Artists, trumpet players, singers, world travelers, university professors, rich women, poor women, beggerwoman, thieves, doctors, lawyers, native chiefs. I didn’t discover sports until college, other than hiking, skiing and swimming. My high school had no swim team.

My daughter complained about small talk in preschool. Why were kids she didn’t know talking to her? And why did they talk to each other when the teacher was talking? If everyone would just shut up and listen, they could move on to more interesting topics. I sympathize but also think that we all have to live with and care about each other. So how do we do that when we are so different?

In clinic all of my patients are smart. I treat them all as smart and the result is they ARE all smart. Now, that doesn’t mean that they immediately do smart things like quit smoking or quit drinking a 6 pack of coke a day or quit eating too many donuts….But change is incremental. It is hard to change.

Also, all of my patients ARE smart, about something. It could be car engines or church organs or comic books or Russian. I have an elderly woman who is fluent in Russian and feeling rather lonely. Another turns out to be a silversmith, though her lungs won’t tolerate it now.

I had a new patient recently who said that she didn’t understand what I was on about. I slowed down, explained the meaning of some of the words, and I think she understood. At least some of it. I am very happy that she felt comfortable saying, “I don’t know what that word means.” I was talking about a pathology report and needed to back off and define the words. I feel the same way when I talk to my accountant: wait, what does that word mean? I don’t know the language. I need bookkeeping for dummies…

I wish that we all broadcast that everyone is smart. Imagine what it will be like when we all assume that everyone has secret talents and genius.