One Step Forward

Wow, it's been awhile. I haven't posted here since June? That seems impossible to me since I feel like I am constantly writing. Obviously my busy schedule is keeping those posts locked in my head.

At any rate, it feels good to be back. I will need to make more time for this, this part of me, that always helps me feel better. I miss the clarity this brings me.

It is no secret kids can be jerks. I mean that as lovingly as possible, but it is true. They can be total assholes. All kids, yours and mine, will at one point or another be mean to someone. It may be intentional or it may not, but the end result will be the same. Hurt feelings.

In fact, this is true for all people not just kids. It turns out we sometimes see kids, as well, just kids. It is easy to forget that they are people just like you & I. The main difference (for my story anyway) is I'd like to assume adults are more in tune with when they are being assholes. Kids don't always have this figured out. It's easier to be a jerk as a kid and get away with it.

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I have made no efforts to keep it a secret that my son, Jack, is a tough kid. By tough I don't mean Mr. Tough Guy or that he misbehaves or any of that. I mean he is a tough kid to parent. He is incredibly hard on himself and that equates into huge amounts of frustration for Jay and I.

He may not like something, so he better not try it. He may not be good at a sport, or at least not as good as his friends, so he better not play. His math is hard and he will most likely get the answers wrong, so he just shouldn't have to do it. He might get the answer wrong, so he won't raise his hand. He just knows he's not going to be good at anything, so he is just not sure what to do. So on and so forth, it goes on and on.

We started super positive. Just try your best, I am sure you'll do great! As long as you try your best, we will be so proud of you. You can do anything you put your mind to. Those pep talks become daunting. Exhausting. Beyond frustrating. The worst part is, when he would try, he was good at what he was doing. Was he the best? No. Did I expect him to be? Of course not. Did he expect to be the best? Without a doubt. Needless to say he was always disappointed.

He would become so hard to talk to regarding this behavior that our pep talks turned from peppy to down right argumentative. This lack of self-esteem went with him everywhere. School, sports, friends. No matter how much we told him he was good, he insisted he wasn't.

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One of the things Jack struggles with his standing up for himself. We have been talking about this since he started school. Just because someone says your stupid doesn't mean you are. Just because someone says you suck at kick-ball doesn't mean you do. Other kids aren't the boss of you and you don't need to be the best at something to be good at it.

Each day was a life lesson. We kept trying to make him confident and he kept insisting he wasn't able. He plays on sports teams with friends and although he says he loves it, he never really tries his hardest. This infuriates Jason. He is huge on team sports and feels that when you are part of a team and you don't try not only do you let yourself down, but you let the team down. It would be one step forward, two back. He would pitch a good inning and we would see smiles and he would love baseball. The next game would be harder and when he would throw a few bad pitches, there would be no recovering. His head would get the best of him and it would be the worst inning ever. There were huge highs and very low lows. All along he was so afraid of what his friends would say about him or think of him. All we heard was, I am not as good as them or they will make fun of me if I don't do good. 

No matter how much we reminded him that his friends made mistakes too. They pitched bad innings and they struck out as well. We told him it happens to everyone. He would try and then get scared and back down. His head had such a grip on him.

A group of kids, some that are friends,  play football at recess everyday and have been for the last few years. Jack mentioned here and there that he wanted to play and when we asked why he didn't he would say he changed his mind or didn't think he should because they were better than him.

It would kill Jason and I to hear. Jack is a decent football player. He knows the game, he can throw the ball, they are 8 year old kids playing at recess....why was this so hard?

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A couple of weeks ago he came home from school saying he played football at recess. I remember stopping dead in my tracks and asking him to repeat himself. It has been over 2 years that he has been wanting to play but letting his head talk him out of it. Two years!

I didn't want to blow it by being over-the-top excited, but I was. I knew this was a huge step for him. I asked how it went and if he had fun. He said it was fun but most of the kids were mean. He said they told him he sucked at football and they would not allow him to play quarterback. He said no one would pass him the ball, even when he was wide open.

My heart broke. Right there in my kitchen I wanted to cry. I felt terrible that he felt sad although I was mostly afraid that this would be the excuse he needed not to play again. He asked me if I thought he sucked at football. I told him I thought he was good at the game and although other kids play football on teams outside of school and he doesn't, that didn't mean he wasn't a good player. I explained that it was okay if there are kids that are better than him, well, because that is life. There will always be someone better, smarter, richer, funnier, you name it.

I told him the best way to show his friends he doesn't suck was to keep playing. Eventually, I said, they will throw to you and you will catch the ball. Sooner or later you will prove to them you can play football, just as well as they can. I told him when the kids say mean things, he needs to stand up for himself. I reminded him no one has the right to talk to him like that and he had every right to tell them so but actions speak louder than words. Just keep playing, I begged.

The mom in me wanted to show up at recess and tell the mean kids that they weren't all that. I wanted to point out their flaws and faults. I wanted to hurt their feelings. I wanted them to feel sad for making my kid doubt himself more than he already does. I wanted to tell them to shut their damn mouths.

But. There is always a but. But, I couldn't. This wasn't my battle to fight. I am not the one with something to prove to the mean kids or myself, Jack is. It is his lesson to learn no matter how much I wanted to make it easier for him.

He played the next day and the day after that. Each day he came home with the same complaints...no one will throw to me. I kept on him, just keep trying. Then he came home saying one boy finally threw the ball to him. He caught it and made a play. He was excited but was quick to say he didn't do that great at least not as great as the other guys might have done. Two steps back.

I asked if he had fun. Yes, I just wish they weren't jerks. Then keep playing, I said.

After two weeks, with similar stories with the same boys, he came home and was beyond excited. They threw the ball to him and he scored a couple touchdowns! He was so happy. He said after that they even let him play quarterback for a couple of turns. He said he wasn't good enough to play for too long, but at least he got a turn. One step forward.

It is a work in progress, but we keep on keeping on. Every kid deserves to feel that happy about something, every day. For Jack, this week, it was that football game with those friends. It was proving to them, and himself, if even for a few minutes that he was good enough.

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Everyone is capable of being mean. Of hurting someone. It is hard to admit when we are the jerks. That's why apologies are hard to say sometimes. It is hard admitting that you aren't always right, that you can be hurtful, that you can be an asshole. Everyone has their insecurities, the thing in their head holding them back. When people know those things, it makes you an easy target.

I am certain my kid has been the mean kid. I also know the mean kids he plays football with aren't really mean kids. I know a lot of them and they are good kids. They just don't realize that they can be hurtful. That when they tell a kid he sucks, he believes them with every ounce of his being. They don't mean any harm, but that doesn't mean that none is caused.

I am sure there has been a mom at home, feeling just like me, wanting to come over and tell my kid what a jerk he is. Thinking he needs to be set straight. It pains me to imagine it, but I know it is the truth. I talk to my kids so much about how their behavior could hurt others, how their words could make someone feel bad.

Adults do the same thing, it's so easy to do. Words are tricky. Once they are out of your mouth, you can't take them back. You can say you're sorry, but still, the words were said.

I guess all you can do is keep playing, regardless of what they say. One step forward, Two steps back.
                                                           

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