Allow me to commiserate with my 9 year old son for a minute:
In my experience so far, the second worst people in the world are tweens. The worst people in the world are grown-ups who never abandoned their tween-vices, and only allowed them to harden as they got older.
Tweens are by and large herd creatures; they are cultural puritans, and--like most puritans--they are profoundly ignorant. Woe to the different and unusual. Woe to the self-possessed. And woe (woe!) to the weird kid who is a little too clever for even most adults.
My 9 year old, Spencer the third, is different and unusual, self-possessed, and is too clever; not too clever for his own good, but definitely clever enough to make many sheep of all ages at least slightly uncomfortable.
Why is he these things? My wife and I have to take a lot of credit; genetic makeup and environment and whatnot. We are oddballs, and we revel in our oddballery. Our oddballness. Our oddballocity.
We were aware when we began telling our kids that they weren’t born in sin, that they should think for themselves, that they should be okay with who they are (whatever that turns out to be), that they should always experiment and push boundaries (even with us), that they may have a hard time getting along with the sheep. We live in Cincinnati, which is a fairly conservative place. It’s the kind of place where, oh--I don’t know-- Someone like Jean Schmidt will keep getting re-elected, and will enjoy a grimace-inducing high popularity with the voting public.
We've let Spencer grow his hair long. We've supported his interest in nerd-culture (Star Craft, Star Wars, Dr. Who, Comic books, etc.). We send him to Camp Quest for summer camp--a wonderful oasis for children who are allowed to think for themselves, and are allowed to be themselves--and he is happy. He revels in himself, and it makes us happy to see.
But the tweens are coming.
As wonderful as individualism is, we are social animals, and we're never more aware of this than when we are tweens. It's when we start to realize that we don't just get defined by what we are, but also by what we are not. Spencer's starting to notice this, and I'm sympathetic to him. We usually pack him interesting things in his lunch; not to be show-offy, but because we like interesting things in our lunch too. We pack sushi, lunch burritos, veggies with veggie dip, interesting salads, falafel, hummus and pita chips, etc.
and some kids have made fun of him for it. There have been cool kids who like interesting things who have supported him, but, he's gotten his share of funny faces.
The other morning as I was standing at the cabinets brainstorming a lunch for Spence, he came up behind me and said, 'Dad, can't I have just a sandwich today?' and he proceeded to explain the situation to me.
While part of me wanted to make a stirring inspirational speech, the other part automatically reached for the peanut butter and jelly and white bread, and took an apple and a juice pack out of the fridge. 'No problem', I said.
I gave him a hug and walked him to the bus stop.