I’m happy to say that it’s now unusual for Savannah to avoid eye contact and silently scowl when I attempt to speak to her after school. But yesterday she reverted to that posture. After several fruitless attempts to find out what was causing her sourness, I told her to let me know when she wanted to talk about what was bothering her. Apparently, that was the finesse she was waiting for.
Savannah muttered that her class had earned a party, and her teacher had asked the kids what sort of party they wanted to have. “The rest of the kids didn’t like my idea,” she said. “They thought it was dumb.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I told her. “That has happened to me before too—I offered what I thought was a good idea, and nobody liked it. It’s rough when you feel like no one likes the things that you like. . . . What was your idea, anyway?”
Savannah hesitated for a moment and then said, “A reading party.”
It didn’t take much creativity on my part to imagine what kind of response Savannah’s suggestion must have elicited from her fellow third-graders. It’s a bummer when nobody else seems to appreciate your preferred activity. I have a similar problem: I happen to enjoy working—for reals. I like all sorts of work: mental, physical, outdoors, indoors, in the morning, in the evening, when tired, when not tired. When I have the chance to listen to music, I listen to NPR or a podcast. When I have leisure time, I read the Economist. I am boring as all getout, I tell you!
I’m the kind of vacationer who would rather be sweating away in dusty ruins or hiking mountains than baking on the beach or losing my lunch on a rollercoaster or trudging around Disneyland. I love work so much that I make my husband look bad—I beat him to the lawn mowing every week, I fix plumbing problems before he knows we have them, and I prune the trees in full sight of our male neighbors. It’s shameful . . . especially when I’m roundly pregnant.
I have all the negative characteristics of someone who likes work too much: I’m bad at throwing parties, I’m bad at visiting friends out of the blue, no one invites me to girls’ nights out unless they don’t know me well, I don’t paint my toenails, and I’m bad at attending sporting events (I almost prematurely ended my dating relationship with Joey years ago when I told him I’d rather have thumb screws than go to a football game with him—luckily, he thought I was kidding).
The thing Savannah has got to learn is to embrace her weirdness. Then she’ll be wise enough to seek out complementary company—people like my husband, who’s content to let me be who I am and who encourages me to balance my weirdness with a smidgen of normalcy. For example, Joey encourages me kindly to be sociable, to get to bed on time, to pause to recognize the good in people who “unwind” by watching TV, and to notice when my little girl has had a bad day and needs some empathy. I’m not always great at these normal-people types of things, but I think I’m getting a little better at them all the time. And speaking of time, it’s late as I write this, and I need to get to bed or Joey will think I’m not on task.