Our church held a youth recital this weekend, which I think is a really cool thing to do.  They apparently started this last year to give kids who study music an outlet to share their talents and to reinforce the parents' support of music education.  It's not a "play stuff appropriate for church only" event.  It's just a recital of what they're working on if they take lessons outside of church.  It's wonderful; I'm in full support of this.  But what is even more wonderful is that the administration of this congregation is also in full support of this and not only allows this to happen, but enthusiastically dedicates time and resources to something like this.  Doing stuff like this in prior congregations wasn't prohibited, but it was almost always relegated to a back room somewhere, hit with a whole bunch of ridiculous requirements, and usually like pulling teeth to get it done since in general, the decision makers weren't musicians and didn't really see any use or importance.

This congregation is new to us since we moved and the girls have been having some growing pains getting to know the kids their age there.  There are more of them, which is one of the reasons for our move, to be honest, but, if I'm being honest, I think an unanticipated side effect of that is these kids have already organized themselves into groups and my kids aren't yet assigned to one or more of those social groups.  The Dormouse is a bit at odds with this and doesn't feel like she fits in.  She's never experienced cliques at church before.  There weren't enough kids her age to worry about that kind of thing in the last congregation - they were just all in it together.  In fact, one of the really lovely things about the last congregation we attended is that all the kids, even the teenage girls whom I worked with, were weirdly above that teen-girl, mean-girl thing that you see so much in kid groups - especially girl kid groups.  I marveled at that the entire time I held the position of Young Women's President - how even though the young women there had diverse experiences and backgrounds and went to different schools and were in different social groups, they were never unkind or snarky with each other that I ever saw.  I never noticed anyone trying to exclude anyone else in that way teen girls are so masterful at doing and I never heard any one of them complain that someone else did it to her.

I've been trying to help The Dormouse see that this is just a more difficult time to make friends in life and it takes a little longer, so just give them a chance.  I'd chalk this up to her being a pre-teen and having my DNA, but I've noticed this with The Caterpillar too.  When we go to a church event, The Caterpillar runs around, trying to say hi to people in her class and "talk to her friends" (which she considers all of the people in her class to be) and they look at her like an apparition, then simply walk off.  It's unclear to me whether they are shy and just don't get her unique brand of instant-friendliness, or if they're actively trying to snub her.  I want to believe the former, but it's been a few months now and the momma bear in me is starting to get pissed.

Last month at a church picnic, I found The Caterpillar sitting by herself under a tree.  I walked over and asked her if she was all alone.  She said no, that she was waiting for her friends, then clarified, "...my tiny friends."  I started to wonder what imaginary people she had to make up to get her through the event, but before I could ask, she told me they were in the bathroom and getting permission from their moms to come back - as if to prove to me they were real.  Turns out she was playing with the little kids three to four years younger than her because all the girls her age had wandered off and left her.  She was having a good time, directing them like a circus ringleader, so I said nothing.  It probably bothered me more than it did her so I thought it best to keep my trap closed.  But I filed it away and continue to wonder what I should do - if anything - about it and if so, when.  

I shouldn't be surprised, because the adult women - mothers of these children - are all very nice.  They consistently greet you in the hallway, they all know my name and seem to be genuinely happy we are here.  I have no sour observations to draw on, but my experience so far in having a conversation with any of them has been tricky.  I often feel like I'm talking to a robot that has been programmed to greet everyone and be incredibly friendly, but does not know the next human step to take.  I sort of get that same, deer-in-headlights-look-then-wander-off experience The Caterpillar has been getting from their daughters.  It's a little Stepford-Wife-y, but my history in making friends with adult women is sketchy at best, and this is me:

I don't need another friend,
I already HAVE TWO.

...so I'm willing to sit back and give them the benefit of the doubt -- or just not care, whichever is easier.  Seeing my children have a difficult time with it is a bit heart-wrenching.

That is why I encouraged the Shortlings to participate in this recital and sat in the audience with a smile plastered on my face last night while thirty-two - THIRTY-TWO - kids, who all needed their moment in the sun, dressed up in their best and brightest and played music they had worked on for the past several weeks.  It was long and most of it boring to everyone but parents of the one performing and some of the kids seemed to have the "one piece or two short pieces max if playing different instruments"  rule applied only loosely to them, but we sat through it all and applauded loudly each time some kid walked up and did the metaphorical, "Look what I can do."

The sacrifices you make for your children, they are many and varied.

Hey! Look what my kids can do.

The Caterpillar:

The Dormouse: