Susan's Blog

Monday, April 9, 2007

Survival of My Kiddles

When Max was Ben’s age, I had the same worries, about who would be his friends. This was not because of anything intrinsically wrong with Max’s personality; it was because Max did very few of the typical afterschool activities. We pretty much pleaded with/forced him to play soccer for several years, and he was so blase about it that he became the only kid who would walk across the field towards the ball.

As boys get to be ‘tweens and then teens, it appears to me that most of them veer off into sports of some kind. If not a formal team, they seem to want to be moving quickly, outside, with some kind of ball. I remember watching as, one by one, Max’s friends became less and less available to him. It broke my heart for him and it also angered me, that everyone seemed so unoriginal, that sports was the only thing they seemed to want to do and it was the main thing parents encouraged them to do. Parents did not encourage them to work on their art, or anything else.

The same thing is happening with Ben’s friends now. More and more of them want to play sports. It is very difficult finding him a playdate, and I worry about him finding friends. But maybe it will be the same for him as it was for Max: eventually they find kids whom maybe they didn’t notice before. Kids who seem a bit quirky, or geeky. Max found a boy who was into Flash animation, and that started him on his whole technology hobby. Max eventually identified with this kind of kid, the nerd. Now he has a very nice group of boys he is friends with at the high school, who are into Star Wars, computers, the Matrix movies, and Manga.

That might be in the cards for Ben, too. I look around and notice the boys who don’t do sports, who often go home with their moms instead of riding with their scooters or bikes with the other kids. There is one in particular whom I think is a real sweetheart, but for the longest time he has not wanted to play with Ben because in the fall Ben punched him. Yes, punched him. It was terrible. Ben had become really frustrated with this boy, who was kidding around and kind of teasing him, and before he knew it, he punched him in the stomach. This boy has been really unnerved about the idea of playing with Ben since then, although they often do team up in school projects. I have been talking with the parents about what to do, but they don’t want to insist. I can’t blame them, but I really feel for my little B. He made a bad mistake, but he is so sorry about it by now.

Anyway, B told me today that this boy said he wanted to play tomorrow! I was so happy I nearly cried right there, but of course I didn’t. I felt so proud of Ben, working hard to resolve things. Social life does not always come easily to him, that’s for sure: he is very strong-willed, impulsive, oversensitive, and can sometimes be mean. But he is also brilliantly creative, funny, and talented. It’s a good thing his positives are so strong.

Sometimes I think: If Ben could only survive childhood; and If Nat could only survive adulthood. And If Max can survive all of us.


When Rachel was about 10, she said to me, upset, that it looked like 95% of her peers were interested only in things that held no interest for her — and what could she do about that?

I told her to seek out the other 5%. To let her own interests lead her to that 5%.

Which she has done, splendidly.

Her current group of friends is vibrant, eclectic, intellectually and creatively slightly unpredictable, very diverse (from the Mormons to the Muslims), and good kids all around.

Jeremy has done the same thing, in his own way. He is learning to value peers who operate on his social wavelength, and to differentiate between those whose engagement with him is constructive and those who do not treat him well.

This is as much as I could ever ask for, as a parent, regardless of kid-diagnosis.

— added by Phil Schwarz on Monday, April 9, 2007 at 7:56 pm

I so know what you mean. I never pushed sports with my kids-I hate the gaggles of “soccer moms”. I hated the groups of moms at the playgrouns socializing and talking about meaninless crap (to me) while I was chasing my now 7 autistic son. His 8 year old brother is so darn cool-into snowboarding and so good at it, BUT no organized sports. No soccer-no t-ball-nothing. He would rather do his magic (he is addicted) or read ghost stories. His friends are all into the spring sports now-and no one wants to play. My 7 year old is not coordinated enough to do it even though he wants to. I guess the bottom line is that at these ages they either do sports or are considered “wierd”. It does not help that I hate sports. they bore me to tears. So my kids do not have a chance. Buy hey-they WILL be so cool as young adults and have some DEPTH to their personalities.

— added by Anonymous on Monday, April 9, 2007 at 8:11 pm

Heh, I never did sports either (I had to take medication as a child that had a side-effect of making me uncoordinated), and it is astonishing how much sports dominate children’s lives. If you’re not good at them, it’s like you’re a second-class citizen. Yet, what do we use more of in life – our conversational skills, ability to read, or…sports? Granted, I think physical activity is something we should continue to do as adults.

Whenever I meet kids/teens that are more into the nerdy stuff, science fiction, roleplaying games, stuff like that – they have a warm spot in my heart. I just try to tell them that there is hope – they will have friends, probably after surviving middle school, they will meet the other people like them in high school or college – once people are brave enough to be themselves instead of being afraid of anyone who is different.

Won’t it be funny if my kids turn out to be All-American sports fanatics? I’ll be all prepared to counsel my little nerdlings and I’ll end up with jocks. I guess whatever they like, I’ll support – but I hope I don’t have to go to too many football games. I went to enough when I was in colorguard (really, the ultimate nerd-girl activity).

[can’t seem to do the word verification today….argh – third time is the charm hopefully).

— added by Shannon Brooke Davis on Tuesday, April 10, 2007 at 2:38 pm

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