Wump (interested in getting feedback on this one, FYI)

Day 30. 161 pages, 58,131 words.

Here’s an interesting little dilemma we faced recently in the Hatboy household. I’m interested in hearing what my blog-commenting brethren and sistren think about it. First, though, a disclaimer.

I think I’ve made it fairly clear that, in almost every case, I consider the opinions of non-parents just as valid as those of parents – and this includes opinions on the question of raising children. I know, the instinctive dumb-twitchy-parent thing to do is to reject the point of view of non-parents because “they have no idea”. Well, guess what? Parents have no fucking clue either, chuckles.

When it comes to parenting and child-raising advice, there are exactly two levels of opinion:

  1. Mr. and Mrs. Hatboy’s opinion about how to raise our kids.
  2. Everybody else in the entire fucking world’s opinion about how to raise anything.

This applies, obviously, to every parent in the world. Yeah, unfortunately, it also applies to the dumbarses. That’s why the world is a mess. Whatchagonnado?



For example (and the fact that this paragraph follows on from my thought about dumbarses is purely coincidental of course, that’s just how this flowed out), when it comes to how to raise little dreamelingling, there is the opinion of Mr. and Mrs. dreameling, and then the opinion of everyone else in the world, regardless of whose kids they happen to be structuring their opinion around. “This is what I do with my own kids” is a great way to start an opinion, as is “this is what I think I’d want to do with my own kids”, “this is what I do with my puppy”, and “this is what I think you could try with your kids”.

All equally valid.

Now, I’m not saying this to suggest that your opinions are irrelevant. Far from it. They all provide information and that information is something I want to use to develop my thinking. I’m saying there are no wrong answers here. I mean, if your answer is “give her a gun and let her start shooting people” … that’s a wrong answer. But I’ll be making up my own mind. And in this case, the issue is basically already dealt with so the exercise is more theoretical anyway.

Alright. No, that was just the disclaimer. The actual dilemma is here.

In recent weeks, Wump transferred to a new one-evening-per-week dance class. She’d been in one last year and had enjoyed it, but then that class ended and she had to start a new one.

She revealed, after a few weeks, that she wasn’t enjoying herself, because she didn’t know anybody. There had been a girl there in the first lesson whom she had liked, but then that girl had stopped coming, leaving Wump not knowing anyone. Most of the kids in the class, for context, apparently go to the same school / daycare / afternoon club, so a lot of them know each other and Wump is a bit left out.

This made her sad enough that she wanted to quit.

Now, I was definitely aware of the damage I could do with basically any solution I offered to this. I usually drive her out to class, help her get ready, hang around (and write on my phone) while she has her class and then drive her home, so I saw a little bit of the pre- and post-class interaction.

I suggested, first, that she try to make new friends in the class, because she did exactly the same thing at school and now she can’t turn around without having some new friend she just spontaneously bonded with (usually, amazingly, some kid or other who didn’thave any friends and who nobody ever suspected could be encouraged to socialise). It takes a little while, and an hour a week is a difficult exposure to develop friendship over. But still, I suggested she try.

Wump said she couldn’t, because she was too shy to make new friends.

I hear you scoffing, everyone who knows Wump even slightly. And you’re right, she’s not shy at all. She wants to go out and make friends with everybody in the world, and I don’t want to be the one who breaks that part of her. However, I figured there was probably more going on, and the relative loneliness she must be feeling as the other girls all seem to know each other … well, I guess I’m not so old that I’ve forgotten that feeling.

So I told her, a couple of weeks running, to just try to talk with some of the other girls. I did my best (at Wump’s request) to point out a few of the girls who were already sort-of-kind-of talking to her and trying to make comms contact. I even told the teacher (again, at Wump’s request) what was going on and asked her to maybe encourage some group activities and chatter, but I didn’t want to be That Interfering Parent.

All in all, I figured this was just one of those things kids have to go through. You don’t quit, you work through it and either develop social skills or grow to be comfortable with your own company. I’ve done both, in different situations. It’s sort of important to learn, I think, in order to get along in the real world.

At the same time, I knew that was harsh and of course I wanted to do what I could to protect Wump from the sort of unhappiness she was expressing. Sooner or later, I knew, we would just be forcing her to go to a class she hated, and that would make her not want to dance anymore.

Anyway, it didn’t work out and she told us she still wanted to quit after the most recent lesson (yesterday). She said, and I quote, “I have so many friends, I’m sure if I went to a different class there would be somebody I know in it.”

As it happens, not entirely far from the truth. Mrs. Hatboy found a ballet class that one of Wump’s best friends from daycare and school is attending, and signed Wump up for that class instead. I guess we’ll see how that goes.

Personally, my main concerns are:

  1. That Wump’s friend might happen to enjoy having an activity not involving Wump, that she can enjoy without Wump’s well-meaning interference and possible queen-bee-usurping.
  2. That caving before this pressure from Wump-aged-six might set a precedent for her deciding to quit anything and everything just because it takes a bit of effort to start, and us enabling it.

These remain to be seen, of course, and I’m sure I’m doing the classic Worried Dad thing where I look too much at the worst-case and make way too much of a big deal out of it.

I hope Wump’s little friend is as happy as Wump is to have her join the class, and I hope that Wump’s ability to socialise and her love of dancing don’t suffer as a result of this concession to her unhappiness.

Oh well, that was the dilemma and the current situation re: its solution.

Feel free to weigh in now.

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13 Responses to Wump (interested in getting feedback on this one, FYI)

  1. brknwntr says:

    I’m not weighing in, not because I don’t have an opinion, but because I consider you a reasonably competent set of parents, and I’m not. Sound alike you did a good job.

    However, my second brother has a name that means “Laughter”, and he was the most smiling and happy baby I can ever remember having seen. He was always giggling and laughing, well into the time when he began school. Somewhere around that time, he just stopped being so happy. He still laughs, he still makes jokes and has a ready sense of humor. But it’s not the same. And of i ever find out who or what caused that, they will feel my anger in a very physical way. And this is why i don’t offer opinions.

    • stchucky says:

      I appreciate the vote of confidence, and am right there on the page with you with regards to the murderous and helpless rage that fills me at the idea of some agency being responsible for erasing the laughter in my child / sibling.

  2. dreameling says:

    I don’t know what if anything I’d done differently. I’ll let you know if I ever run into the same situation with my offspring. But I don’t think you should worry about the other kid. Let her parents worry about her. If Wump ends up crowding her, they’ll hopefully come to you.

    Yeah. That’s my cop-out answer.

    Give us easier stuff. Like negative gender stereotypes in comics art or the semantic non-existence of G/god(s).

    • stchucky says:

      Hee, I hear you. Well, Wump reports that her friend said “yay”, so that’s a good sign (assuming Wump wasn’t lying and the yay wasn’t sarcastic). But we’ll be leaving it up to the friend’s parents to deal with issues. Important thing right now is that Wump is still dancing, and happy.

      Also, now we have a carpool option so we only need to drive once every 2 weeks, and swimming and dance class are on the same day. Win-win-win-win.

  3. aaronthepatriot says:

    A great deal of this is pretty familiar to me with Dalia…pretty interesting read, in fact! It also concerned dance class, and liking one and then disliking another, and wanting to quit possibly…just not because of friends or a lack of friends. Like Wump, Dalia makes friends everywhere because she’s just irresistable. But before I go further:

    “Everybody else in the entire fucking world’s opinion about how to raise anything.”

    Sure, Mr. Tadpole, keep talking. We tadpole lovers will #neverforget #murderer #lockhatboyup

    So here’s what I think: you did this exactly as we would have done. Yup, that easy. I think you’re worried about all the right aspects. When I read your summary here are (some of) the lessons I see you teaching Wump:

    1. You have to give hard things your best shot
    2. Try to make new friends everywhere you go
    3. Quitting should not be easy, or the first option
    4. Dad really loves me so much
    5. Mom really loves me so much
    6. I’m pretty smart too, see how I had a good solution?

    I dunno, man…imma go with “nailed it”. I don’t think most kids would get a lesson of easy quitting being a solution from what you did, but who can really say? In any case, that’s not the reality of what you did for her, so eventually that will become clear even if right now she IS thinking “quitting is AWESOME! YAY!” Which I kinda doubt.

    As for the friend possibly getting Wump-overload, I say tough titties. Munty ones.

    I guess that’s all. Nice work! Thanks for story time!

    • stchucky says:


      Heh, but yeah, again, I appreciate this vote of confidence. I really can’t think of what else we could have done, this seemed like the best and least-resistance path even if a more hardline “stick it out and make friends or be a loner” approach may have been the more our-parents-generation one.

      Hopefully this means we’re still improving the species.

      But those tadpoles evolved.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        I forgot to mention you’ll be tried here in murrica where we don’t accept evolution as reality. World Police! Nobody move!

      • stchucky says:

        I think I’m covered, I totally claimed it was God at the time, and y’all don’t have proper sarcasm either, right?

  4. I remember that feeling and situation. Wump is amazing for her age for being able to already express it. I just locked up, and didn’t say a thing. It was the worst.

    I think it’s too early to say on either front. It might be that the friends want time off, but really, how can you know? And you guys gave it multiple tries, so it doesn’t seem like a start for any pattern that might leave Wump thinking that quitting is a good option right off the bat. It really feels like (this distant to the situation) that she just didn’t want to do this alone. I respect the hell out of her for being able to say it, and you guys for not only trying to help, but acknowledging the need for friendship and allowing for a change.

    • stchucky says:

      Thanks, and yeah, this was exactly what I was thinking as I tried to deal with it the first time. I just had this feeling that I was doing horrible damage and forming bad associations no matter what I did. All I knew was that I didn’t want to put her in a situation where I was forcing her to go to a class that was making her sad. Not just because it would kill her enjoyment of dancing, but because of exactly what you say here: It’s rare and precious that she actually confides in us about these things, and if we ignore what she tells us then why the Hell would she confide in us again? There’s a point at which even a more confident and extroverted kid will go “what’s the point of you?” – especially a kid as bright as Wump.

      [/proud dad subjectivity]

  5. stchucky says:

    Anyway, it was fortunate that Mrs. Hatboy was able to find this solution with the additional class, which now allows us to carpool as well. And Wump and her friend cackled and jabbered and carried on all the way there and back, so they both seem happy.

    Plus, there’s only like four kids in the class, so they were probably glad to get a new student.

  6. thelinza says:

    Once upon a time, I was 6 and my grandparents put me on the neighborhood children’s baseball team. This was disasterous because 1- I had zero coordination at that age, 2- team was mostly boys, 3- boys that smelled weakness and decided my inability to expertly hit a baseball at the age of 6 was a great reason to hate me and make sure I knew it. I hated going, I hated the sport, and ai hated the people, so my mom advised that I quit.

    And from there on, that was her excuse for never letting me try any activity, even when I was 13 and wanted to try tennis or gymnastics. “You hated baseball, I’m not signing you up for something you’re going to quit.”

    My advice is, don’t be that parent. Your child will grow up to have resentments she expresses on other people’s blogs even 25 years later.

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