Standing on Shaky Ground
The picture is appropriate for the title, I think. There’s a kid, standing on a group of large rocks, the soil underneath made less stable by the wash of water that has just run down the creek. My son was trying to cross and simultaneously keep his new shoes clean and avoid falling into the water. The ground is shaky and unstable.
It is a metaphor, by the way.
That same boy has had myriad problems at school this year. The bigger issue isn’t what’s going on with him it’s what his father can or cannot do about it.
I have twin boys. One is a complete extrovert, a flirt, on student council, can talk to even the most silent and stoic of people. The other is an introvert, shy, reserved, likes movies and video games and would prefer to run around acting silly to running on a football field and getting tackled.
The lack of athleticism, or for that matter, the complete lack of interest in athletics at all, leads to problems. In an area where soccer, football, baseball and basketball are staples and kids are enrolled in early leagues, rec leagues, competitive leagues and . . . oh yeah, the regular school teams . . . he is the odd man out. I don’t honestly believe he’s not able to do any of the stuff it’s that a) he cannot stand when he isn’t successful instantly so screws around and b) the other kids ridicule him constantly for being unable to play at their level.
This also leads to his getting bullied at school. He’s been hit, had his PE clothes stolen (twice) and his water bottle taken, lunch taken away and eaten, and been made completely miserable.
I have to say here that I understand what he’s going through, though nothing like the degree he faces. When I was little I was sick a lot, had asthma when it wasn’t really a known illness, and truly didn’t have as much athletic ability. I played basketball and tried to play football, but I actually enjoyed it. I was made fun of because I would talk about things that fascinated me but they just didn’t fascinate anyone else.
My son would be happiest if everyone just left him to himself. I wasn’t that way, I actually did want to play with the other kids and play basketball and such. When it came to that I wasn’t the brunt of the abuse my son gets, I did try and wasn’t as upset when it didn’t go well.
My dilemma is the fact I don’t know how to help him. He hit the point of it not being safe and he’s had one situation rectified. But how do I give him the tools to get better? How do I inform him that people like this are going to be around all his life? I tell him, but how does he see and realize it? Does he learn guitar more and more and show them up in a couple years when he’s screaming a solo like Marty McFly in Back to the Future? Does he ignore it? Do I get him boxing and build up his muscles so he can stop them in his tracks?
What we came to in a middle ground was he has to be comfortable with the solution himself. He can certainly run and work out with me and get stronger. He needs more confidence, which is something I didn’t have myself at that age. It’s jr. high. Nobody has confidence.
In the end . . . it’s as much about my finding my way with him as it is him trying to survive the battlefields of middle school.
That may just be the scariest part of all.