Doesn’t Play Well With Others


I’ve always felt like I’m lingering on the outside of things, as if I’m more the observer than the participant.

Somewhere along the path of childhood, I decided the other kids had a secret language, one I could not understand. They were included in a club in which I had no place.

I was at Sacred Heart in first grade when my mom brought me an elaborate packed lunch. She was angry because she found me hiding in the coat closet. Early that morning she told me not to get near the other kids’ “dirty” coats because they had lice. Coats were all around me. For whatever reason, I simply did not care about lice.

I liked hiding among the coats in the closet. It was dark. No one could see me. No one could laugh at me. No one could bother me.

I listened to excited kid voices muffled by heavy winter coats. I vaguely recall the other first graders in my class. I don’t remember interacting with them.

I was a stubborn child. Teachers often called me “independent.” I didn’t understand the easy laughter of these children, the way they naturally played amongst themselves.
I’d try to blend in with them, but they’d ignore me. I’d get mad. Other little girls were especially mysterious because the contact I did have with children was limited to the boys I played with in our neighborhood. My only school friend was Danny who lived down the street. We were often in trouble together in school. We liked to break the rules.

The few female children in my neighborhood were not allowed to play with me. I was a bad influence. I did not have the self-esteem or the social skills to interact.

I understood adult anger far easier than I understood how to play well with others.

13 thoughts on “Doesn’t Play Well With Others

  1. But…you’re one of my favorite playmates, Sweets. ♥♥♥
    Don’t be so hard on yourself.

  2. Alaina says:

    Oh my goodness… while you were hiding in the coat closet in the first grade, I was talking talking talking talking talking… and I could not shut up!

    I am usually a quiet person so when I look back on my first grade experience I don’t know what in the heck was wrong with me! Maybe I acted like that because I was an only child until the year I turned 7. Most of the time during my first 6 years of life I was entirely alone. My mother did not want me to “bother” her, so I had to stay either in my room, alone, or outdoors, alone. (I preferred outdoors, but sometimes it rained.)

    My first grade escapades are emblazoned in my memory. I still remember how ECSTATIC I was when I got to school and discovered an entire room full of children! WOW OH WOW!! I was so excited, I suddenly became hyper-manic. I wanted to be friends with everybody, all at once. So I talked to all of the kids around me, trying to make friends with every one of them.

    At first, the other kids were talking to me, too. It was like an all-day party with twenty 6-year-olds! But then the teacher made us stop talking. That is, she made everyone stop talking… except me. I was super obedient as a child, so disobeying the teacher was very out of character for me. I tried to stop talking like she said, I really did. But I kept thinking of just One More Thing that I had to say or else I would BURST.

    So the teacher moved me to another part of the room. Apparently she thought that I was friends with the kids I kept talking to, and maybe if I were sitting next to different kids, I would not talk to them. But it made no difference, I wanted to be friends with everybody, equally.

    Then she moved me into the middle of the boys’ section (the class was divided with all the girls on one side of the room and all the boys on the other.) “I’ll bet you won’t want to talk to the nasty old BOYS, now will you?” she said with a smirk.

    But I liked boys just as much as I liked girls. Boys are kids, too, right!

    So the teacher moved my desk up to the front of the room right next to her desk. THAT put a stop to my talking, right?

    Nope… I turned around and stage-whispered to the kids in the front row every time the teacher went to write on the black board.

    At that point, my poor teacher completely lost her mind and moved me, desk and all, out into the hallway, shutting the door behind me.

    I cried. I felt so ashamed!!

    Here’s what I learned in first grade: there’s such a thing as being TOO friendly when you are a kid. None of the other kids in my first grade class wanted to be friends with me after that, and why? Because now I was known as a “trouble maker!”

    Dysfunctional families really do a major number on a kid, you know what I mean? Whether you’re hiding in the coat closet trying to avoid being bullied or you’re talking and you can’t shut up — either way, it totally messes up your social life.

    • bdlheart says:

      I see this a lot in troubled children. Big hugs to your child self! Ironically, my brother is seven years younger than me. Wow. You should write a post about this story. I would love for other teachers to read this so they understood why the talker is the talker.

      • Alaina says:

        Lack of love really does feel like a type of starvation, doesn’t it? Especially when you are a child.

        Imagine having a child in a classroom who is literally starving for food, who hasn’t eaten anything in days, and you have a buffet table covered with all kinds of food sitting right there — but you won’t allow the starving child eat any. How is that child going to keep from trying to sneak some food?

        That’s how it felt to me, anyway. Later, when I got older, I was more like you, hiding from my peers. I was still starved for love and attention, but the attention I got from the “normal” kids who couldn’t understand why I was “different” was a negative attention that only made me feel worse. Better to hide in a coat closet.

      • bdlheart says:

        I love the analogy here. It is so spot on. It does feel like starving because once someone gives you a little you want more and more. I too was different. I stayed away from kids and often ate alone in the high school cafeteria and read a book or studied. If I wasn’t there I’d hide out in the newspaper office. I was the Editor so there was always something I could justify working on.

  3. Alaina says:

    Reblogged this on Diary of a Mad Scapegoat and commented:
    ***A DYSFUNCTIONAL HOME LIFE CAN RUIN A CHILD’S SOCIAL LIFE***

    I just read a post on bdlheart’s blog which describes how it feels to be a social misfit all of your life, starting with when you are a small child. Although my grade school behavior was the opposite of bdl’s, I ended up being a misfit, just the same.

    Here is my (slightly edited) comment to the original post, followed by bdl’s post. After you read them both, I hope you will come back and tell me whether you can relate to either of these dysfunctional childhood experiences. Thanks, and thanks so much for reading!

    First, here is my amended comment to bdlheart:

    OH MY GOODNESS… while you were hiding in the coat closet in the first grade, I was talking talking talking talking talking… and I could not shut up!

    I am usually a quiet person, so when I look back on my first grade experience I don’t know what in the heck was wrong with me. Maybe I acted like that because I was an only child until the year I turned 7. Most of the time during my first 6 years of life, I was entirely alone.

    My mother did not want me to “bother” her, so I had to stay either in my room, alone, or outdoors, alone. (I preferred outdoors, but sometimes it rained.)

    My first grade experience is emblazoned in my memory. I will never forget how ECSTATIC I was when I got to school and discovered an entire room full of children! I was so excited, I wanted to become friends with everybody, all at once. So I talked to all of the kids around me, trying to make friends with every one of them.

    At first, the other kids were talking to me, too. It was like an all-day party with twenty or thirty 6-year-olds! But then the teacher made us stop talking. That is, she made everyone stop talking… except me. I was usually super obedient as a child, so disobeying the teacher was out of character for me. I tried to stop talking like she told us to do, I really, truly did. But I kept thinking of just One More Thing that I HAD to say or else I would BURST.

    So the teacher moved me to another part of the room. Apparently she thought I was friends with the kids I kept talking to, and maybe if I were sitting next to different kids, I would not talk to them. But it made no difference, I wanted to be friends with everybody, equally.

    Then she moved me into the middle of the boys’ section (the class was divided with all the girls on one side of the room and all the boys on the other.) “I’ll bet you won’t want to talk to the nasty old BOYS, now will you?” she said with a smirk.

    But I liked boys just as much as I liked girls. Boys are kids too, right?

    So then the teacher moved my desk up to the front of the room right next to her desk.

    THAT must have put a stop to my talking, wouldn’t you think?

    Nope… I turned around and stage-whispered to the kids in the front row every time the teacher went to write on the black board.

    At that point, my poor teacher completely lost her mind and moved me, desk and all, out into the hallway, shutting the door behind me.

    I cried. I felt so ashamed!

    Here’s what I learned in first grade: there is such a thing as being TOO friendly, even when you are a kid. None of the other kids in my first grade class wanted to be friends with me after that, and why? Because now I was known as “the trouble maker!”

    Dysfunctional families do a major number on a child. Whether you’re hiding in the coat closet trying to avoid being bullied or you’re so starved for love and attention that you keep talking and you Can’t Shut Up — either way, it completely messes up your social life.

    ~END OF MY COMMENT. Here is bdlheart’s post:

    • bdlheart says:

      Just seen that you did share this comment. Thank you so much for reblog!

      • Alaina says:

        You are welcome, but yikes, I didn’t realize it would post my entire long comment twice. I am new at reblogging.

      • bdlheart says:

        No worries. I’m not very techy honestly. This has been a big learning curve for me. I’d so much rather be writing, reading, painting, or traveling. Yeah, anything but learning technology. Guess we must though considering the day and age we live in. I’ve had older people chuckle when I expressed total irritation and confusion regarding technology. They usually say, “Hey you’re the young one here. Aren’t you supposed to know this?” I’m thirty-six. Suppose I should, but then again I’ve never been one to jump on new things quickly. lol. I’d like to reblog some of your writing, but it seems like you don’t have a reblog key?

  4. giasuniverse says:

    This: “I’ve always felt like I’m lingering on the outside of things, as if I’m more the observer than the participant.” I totally relate to that, I have always lived in my head.
    I remember how happy I was to get away from home, when I started pre school at 5 years old. (It was a second establishment I attended, the first one was a different story -nasty kids, and teachers that force-fed me.) I absolutely loved my new pre school, a relaxed atmosphere, nobody screaming at me etc.
    I often cried when my father came to pick me up early. He was livid, that I caused a scene, then I had to spent the rest of the day in my room by myself. And I also played with boys, heck I wished I was a boy! Maybe my father would love me if I was more like my brother, right? Hugs to you ladies. xx

    • bdlheart says:

      I’ve always found it safer to disappear inside my head. I have to be careful though because as an adult if I allow myself to stay in my own head too long I can spiral. In a sense I’ve always felt more male than female. Guess I understood them more. lol. My younger elementary days I hated it, but Junior High and beyond, school became an escape for me. It was peace and solitude. Yes, did it ever feel wonderful not to hear the blasted screaming. To this day I cannot tolerate screaming. I don’t allow it in our house. Hugs

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