*Rachel has been Simon Cowelled, she doesn’t know it of course. She loves One Direction. I accept she needs something to love which she can use to mark herself as separate from me, and identify with her peers, and she thinks the one with yellow hair is someone she may possibly marry one day. She believes them to be handsome and very talented, and has spent many hours perfecting her ability to sing the song ‘You don’t know you’re beautiful’.
You have to understand for the next part, that when someone you think is the most beautiful thing in the world, sings that song, you do think they are beautiful. After so many hours of dedication you have seen, you think it is a most lovely thing and say so. And as children use activities like this to seek validation from their parents to build self-esteem, you find you often have the opportunity to say so. So Rachel may have come to overestimate her own ability to sing this particular One Direction song.
I think the One Direction thing was about reinventing herself, according to her changed environment and different social stature after moving schools. Validation from her peers at an age where she is just getting used to playing outside the confines of a universe she was at the centre of. She found another little girl at school and they made a One Direction singing group, specialising in a combination of this song and skipping. The school announced a talent show, along a Simon Cowell theme, and now this earnest little two are a four with an eager group of helpers.
I became aware that Rachel was telling a lot of tales about a little girl she had liked a lot, this girl was now troublesome and had a tendency to get other little girls into trouble and refuse to play with them and really didn’t sing that well and didn’t understand the group. Behaving in a way Rachel would of course, never behave.
I picked her up from school this week, and her little One Direction skipping song group were ready to showcase their act. And it became apparent that this ‘troublesome’ little girl had a beautiful singing voice, and the other new girl danced and knew more than one One Direction song, and one of the songs had no skipping. Rachel didn’t know that while they had not practiced in their bedrooms and played to delighted captive audiences quite as much, one little girl attended her dance classes diligently and worked very hard and the other had a big sister who was a huge One Direction fan.
I began to realise that what had happened was that Rachel had been cross that her friends, who she had brought into the group which was her idea, had turned out to be better than her at this thing and had highlighted flaws in the way she had been doing things, She was jealous and insecure and had lashed out as a result, to protect her pride. As this little girl sang, I congratulated her on her lovely voice and her dancing.
I could see Rachel’s face sour at this point, and on the way home Rachel told me this little girl had done something dishonest. I already knew the story from a very different perspective, and it was not quite how Rachel told it. Rachel knows how I view that particular thing so knew that was the thing to say to bring her friend down in my esteem, even if I didn’t get her in trouble. So I asked her how she had felt when she realised her friend was a pretty singer and knew all those One Direction songs and she looked away.
She’s very honest, because she’s five, and she told me it made her feel cross in her tummy, and she told me how it wasn’t fair for me to say her friends were lovely singers because I was HER mummy and I knew how much SHE loved One Direction and it her HER group. And she wanted her to get into trouble. Now you have to understand, a child’s attention from their mummy is quite important and this kind of outburst happens at this stage. They are making major adjustments to a much wider world.
So I asked her why she sings One Direction songs. And she said it was because she likes them, but that she was also brilliant at it and had spent ages practicing and that she had started the group etc etc. She was the best in her world, but she wanted to sing One Direction songs to a bigger world with more people in it. So this is what I told her.
That I couldn’t wait to see her, and her very talented friends singing that song, and I liked all the different things they brought to it.
If you want to be the best in the world at singing One Direction songs and that is the only reason you are singing them and you don’t want to ever find out that you might not be, then you should probably only sing them in your own world, at home with me or daddy and definitely not in a group.
If you sing Direction songs with other people and you want them to think you are the best in the world, there may already be someone as good as you, or possibly even better than you, who has worked harder, or just has natural ability. You may find that no matter how hard you try, you can’t be like them.
Or you might find think people have better ideas than you, and know more. And it won’t be that you weren’t good enough, or you could have done better but you will have to face up to not being the best at everything in everyone’s eyes because the world will not pretend. Someone might come along and show you that you didn’t know as much about One Direction songs as you thought, and they think the way you misunderstand the words is funny.
Sometimes you will find that being very good at something plus working hard, mean you get to really shine and some things you will just naturally be better at than anyone you know and be lucky at, and you should grab them with both hands. But you cannot be the best in the world at everything in everyone’s eyes, just because you want to. Mummy and daddy won’t and can’t make the world so that you can forever. You need to get over it.
We all get that cross feeling in our tummies when we are disappointed in something, or ourselves. But, I explained, when you feel that cross feeling in your tummy because someone makes you remember you might not be the best or know as much as you thought or they get something you think you deserve, you take a minute. And make sure you know that when you choose to hit out, tell a lie, try to hurt person or try to damage that person in the eyes of others, just because that person makes you look smaller by existing, then everyone who sees it knows why you are doing it.
You choose how you behave at that point, and if you choose to lie, attack, and do something else as spiteful, because you feel that way, there are always consequences. You might not notice this for a little while in your One Direction singing club, but it is unavoidable in the long run.
People around you will able be able to tell straight away that you don’t really think you are very good, and they might agree. They will also know that is all that matters to you, and that One Direction was just a means to an end.
I would guess they would take a look at that little girl and realise she must be very good to scare you so much that you would behave that way. And even if you find that your own little group tell you it is ok to behave that way, you are unlikely to find people outside who will pretend with you. People also know from then on, that is the type of thing you do when you feel like that, and that makes you look small.
And they might think anyone who needs to do that can’t be a very good One Direction song singer, or a very good friend, and that if you needed to do that there is you probably don’t have much to offer in the One Direction stakes. And because you did that, even though you are lovely the rest of the time and some people don’t know you do that, they would be right.
One Direction is bigger than all of them. She would be foolish not to consider their reach and importance to other people. The absence of her rendition of One Direction group would barely be noticed among all the other One Direction renditions chirruped inside and outside school talent shows across the country but that kind of behaviour always stands out.
Rachel has invited several of her friends for a sleepover. Now that she has invited her friends into her house, she may find she gets an unexpected additional lesson. While her friends are here, she will not have the privilege of being the only little girl in her house who can sing a One Direction song. And she may find that she is expecting the house to recognise her privilege because I love her, and it will not. I think it’s best to make sure standards are applied consistently. And at that point Rachel will have to decide how to behave for herself, like a big girl.
We remember Chloe from ‘Sleepovers’. If she chooses to behave like that, then she knows she will probably learn from the consequences. With little girl’s it’s like Lord of the Flies, and if Rachel pulls a Chloe without house recognition of her privilege, she may just find no one wants to come over in future, her sleepover doesn’t go quite as she imagined and she doesn’t get invited to many more. This isn’t likely, she is a clever girl and a kind one who loves her friends when she isn’t competing with them, and if it does, she’ll learn. She’d have to unlearn it if to work with a political media gang, but I imagine descriptions of our current set up will be a cautionary tale by the time she makes her way in the world.
A parable for little girls.
*Some or all events in this story may be made up, or a bit made up. Simon Cowell has managed to market successfully to someone in my house, it has pissed me right off, and I do know ALL the words to that song and they make me smile. I do know a child called Rachel. I have to not mention the marketing monster paranoia level feelings I have about the Cowell machine when I am in my house. It was always going to spill over here somehow. That much is all absolutely true.