There are so many thing about being a parent that are hard, some are even hard to put into words. But, I’ve learned over the last few years that the hardest thing is watching your child(ren) suffer in a way that you yourself suffered as a child. What makes this the hardest? Let me share…
My oldest son, Blake, is very smart, perfectionist, a rule follower, competitive, and socially awkward at times. This does not always translate easily into friendships especially in those tween years. Starting in second grade he found that he was been ostracized by the boys in his class. He didn’t understand why or what changed. We dealt with this and then he went through it again last year, but it wasn’t just within his classroom, but with a group of kids he’d been “friends” with since kindergarten. He is beginning to learn to advocate for himself. He is standing up, but he still wanted to fit in even when they were mean.
I can relate to him in this… I was the same kid. For me it started in 3rd grade. I was verbally and emotionally bullied from 3rd grade through high school. I withdrew into myself. I felt the only time they left me alone was whenever we had a school musical production going on, or maybe I was just too busy with the production to pay them any attention. But, its hard when you go from a kid who loved school, enjoyed playing with the other kids and thinking you had friends to being an outsider. I still enjoyed the learning part of school, it was all the transitions that were tough. At the end of my sophomore year in high school I switched schools, and things got better.
But, the challenge in my life if I still never understood what changed. What did I do? What made me become the target? Why did they stop liking me? In my adulthood, I’ve had the same thing happen. I am really good at co-worker and acquaintance, but this whole friendship thing is hard. I have even tried to have friends again, I thought I had made good friends a few times. And then… bam, friendship over and I don’t know why. I’m never sure if I said something, did something, didn’t say something, didn’t do something. All I know is I go from having a friend… to not having a friend.
So, I find myself putting myself in the background. I tend to stay to the edges in groups. I tend to let people walk up to me. I know that a lot of this is me putting up walls. Me trying to protect that 3rd grade girl who started getting picked on for no reason. That teenager who was bullied over her appearance. That adult who can’t keep a friend. I don’t want to be on the outside, I enjoy having people to talk to. I enjoy having people who can rely on me and me on them. I enjoy trusting people and being trusted. But, I never figure out how to make this work.
So, I worry that my son will have the same types of experiences. That he will always be on the outside looking in and wondering why he doesn’t fit. I wish I could help him deal with this, but I feel I can’t. How can I help him figure out something I never figured out? How can I help him fit in when I don’t know how.
So, I will be there to help pick up the pieces. I will be there to help him figure out how he wants to deal with the situation. Try to help him figure out a new way, and maybe break the pattern.
I can only hope that moving to the new school. That he is going to a place where no one knows who he is or who he was, and he can reinvent himself. I can only hope that he feels confident enough in himself to find a groove and not try to escape to the outside of the group. To understand that there is more groups than the “cool kids” and that there is a place for him.
And me, well I’m going to try to figure this out myself. New neighborhood, eventually a new job, maybe… just maybe I’ll find myself a friend or two as well… and keep them this time.