Most people like Aden. She is bright and articulate and good at making friends. She is very popular among other children and she gets along well with adults. Quinn has a hard time opening up to other people when I’m around, but once he does start talking he’s generally charming and everyone comments on how smart he is. No one I’ve ever encountered has an extreme reaction to either my oldest daughter or my son. They are likable, or at least inoffensive, and that’s enough.
Mona, however…. Well, people have all kinds of reactions to Mona. Mona behaves in extreme ways so people have more extreme responses. If she takes an instant liking to you, she may squeal and hug you and bury her face into your belly, (whereas Aden or Quinn will politely say hello). If you think such a greeting is funny, then you’d be inclined to really like Mona. If all that six-year-old energy coming at you is alarming, well, then, Mona may be too much.
Now, in very practical ways she is my easiest child. She actually listens the first time, so often I’ll call everyone to dinner and end up sitting alone for half the meal with just Mona. I never have to remind her to put on her seat belt. She never lies to me, even about things that get her in trouble. But Mona takes a deft touch to deal with sometimes, because she doesn’t take criticism well, or even perceived criticism. If I tell Aden that her hair looks nice, Mona’s face immediately falls and she says, “And mine doesn’t?” I am so glad I decided to have someone else teach her to play violin or we could have seriously damaged the love between us by now. (Her teacher earns every cent for those lessons.)
I’ve seen a couple of people lose it a bit out of frustration with Mona, and she universally wears people out. But she’s adorable and hilarious. She has a pretty big fan club of other parents who smile when they see her romping around the playground. She gives me kisses on my nose if I look sad and makes elaborate paper birds and flies them around the house. She says unpredictable things. When she met my friend Miriam’s new baby in New York, her first response was, “Oh! Cute baby! Does it have a name yet?” and then she offered up both ‘Bob’ and ‘Booby’ as potential monikers.
School was a big adjustment for Mona, but she’s done very well. Her teacher (who deserves some teaching equivalent of sainthood) is unflappable and gentle, and she’s impressed with how far Mona’s come. She told me at one point if you’d asked her to predict when Mona entered the classroom as a K3 that she’d be this cooperative and civilized by K5, she’d have had doubts. Mona’s teacher is accepting of eccentricity without letting it interfere with her classroom. She has found Mona both a challenge and source of great amusement and there have been relatively few problems, particularly this last year.
So I was surprised this last week when I got a phone call from the school asking me to please bring a change of clothes for Mona because her outfit that day was inappropriate.
I had dropped the girls off at school and gone straight to work with Quinn, then went grocery shopping, so by the time I got the message on my machine at home it was only an hour before I was supposed to pick Mona up at the end of the day anyway. I decided to let it go and deal with the issue at the pickup on the playground. I spent the next hour wracking my brain for what Mona had worn to school. I couldn’t remember, but Mona makes such weird clothing choices I don’t really see them anymore. I was sure it wasn’t anything she hadn’t worn before, so I was really confused.
When she came bounding out of the school building with her class I looked her over. She was in a pink tank top that was admittedly too large, but she loves it and she’s six. She had on a pair of thick tights with pastel colored stripes and a pair of turquoise gym shorts, and patent leather dress shoes. She was a goofy sight, but she didn’t strike me as inappropriate. (And no, I don’t have a picture because Mona refused to pose for one after all the fuss about her clothes that day.)
The teacher smiled and said, “We had a visit from the principal today, and an administrator in the classroom, and of course who was in an odd position at that moment but Mona.” Apparently Mona had been in the middle of the main rug working on some project, down on all fours with her butt in the air stretching her little shorts to thong like proportions. Her baggy tank top also chose that time to flop off one shoulder so you could get a good view of the nothing underneath. Her teacher is also sort of immune to seeing what Mona’s wearing anymore, so she said she took in the whole sight with fresh eyes and thought to herself, “Oh, Mona.”
The principal was shocked and said, “What is that child wearing?” and then the teacher promised she’d call me right away. They put a large T-shirt from the lost and found over Mona for the rest of the day. The teacher told me she didn’t really have a problem with the outfit, but that I should be careful because children who catch someone’s attention that way tend to continue to face further scrutiny. Good to know.
So Mona and I had a talk. I told her she could still wear whatever she wants at home, but that at school she should wear shirts under any tank tops, and maybe long pants for the rest of the school year. As long as her clothing choices weren’t censored completely she was fine with that. She declared, “So, I will have some things for anytime, and some things that are good for school, right? Okay!” She will still find a way to shock the principal I’m sure.
This was a girl who used to wear her bathing suit backwards, and I would point out that when she had it on wrong you could see her nipples. I figured this would help her figure out which way it went, but instead she would put it on backwards and announce, “My nipples are ready!”
We’ve got such a long, strange adventure ahead. I may not survive it, but I’ll die smiling.