So I don't usually do the actual serious posts, but I need advice from some of the most wonderful and well-adjusted weirdos I know. I have a 7 yr-old niece; I'll call her Moo (mostly because I actually call her Moo as a nickname). She is fabulous. Exhibit A:

(this was taken a few years back to protect her childish identity).

She and I are very similar. Everyone — my family, my SIL's family, accquainances— notes it. Except that Moo is a little more different than I am. In that I think she's probably I genius. I'm not going to go into that here.

Anyhow, she hears people compare us a lot, and we're close, so she tends to confide in me. Last week she asked me very softly if people ever told me I was weird.

Oh man. All the time! Like, every day!

Does it bother me?

Well, no. Mostly not. Sometimes if it's someone who doesn't know me well, or who I think is saying it be mean, then yes. But mostly I think it's part of who I am and what makes people like me.

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"Well I think it's part of what makes people not like me." Cue my heart actually physically, painfully breaking and falling into an abyss.

So let me describe Moo (in an obviously biased way): She is, as I said, different. She is wildly intelligent, incredibly sensitive (she once gave a letter to the mailman that said "You are the hope of the world" and asked him to give it to a stranger who looked sad) and artistically talented, goofy, funny, strange, and beautiful. Like, gorgeous. She is also humble and, a major attribute we share, entirely clueless. Like, she would leave with a stranger if the stranger looked sad just to make them happy, and she has no idea what other people's perception of "normal" is. She is also the oldest in her family, so while I think I was toughened up as the youngest to the point of not caring — I was probably going to be made fun of or not liked by someone, so I may as well just be me and be happy (for the most part)— she is taking it hard.

"No one will play with me at recess because I don't play the right way. Marcy said Amy (her best friend) doesn't really like me and says I'm weird, too. I should just act like Ann (her straight-line, "normal" cousin of the same age). I don't think they're being bullies. I think I really am weird and should be alone". Her parents are concerned that she's alienating herself and sitting alone in the woodchips singing at recess. They tell her very often that she can't act the way she does, that it's not normal, that if she wants to have friends she needs to be x.

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I don't really know what to do. I remember a few times in my life when I felt like I didn't fit in because of some thing that I did or didn't like or did or didn't do. But I wasn't as sensitive or attune to things as she is. Chances are no one liked me and I was just oblivious. But I really don't think that she could ever be like the other kids, no matter how hard she tried, and I also don't want her to torture herself by trying.

I've given her the obvious pep-talks. Look, stick up for yourself, say well I think you're weird. Do your own thing, be yourself, everyone else will come around. Would you rather be friends with someone who is interesting and different and kind and wonderful, or someone who's boring and scared to be themselves and mean to other people?

"I want to be me, but I don't want to be me with no friends." Heart stomped on and set on fire. And then "At least everyone says I'm pretty." Ugh. She is, and after I grew out my 'fro, I was, too. People have told me "You get away with being so weird because you're pretty." And I fucking hate it. I told her that was baloney. Being pretty does not matter. She doesn't want to have friends based on that. I don't know. This whole thing is a big confusing ball of wax onion.

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Any advice or similar situations? I wonder if, because I had some shit happen to me at an early age and I had been in therapy for a while by the time I was her age, I had more of a shell? Everyone is asking me what to do, since we're similar, and I am just at a loss.

*Not that I think this would be mainpaged, but obviously no mainpaging.