Frenemies

imagesR2TX8I3R Team sports were never my thing. They seemed to be for the goody, goody kids. The ones who studied all the time and still went to church as teenagers. Not that I was a bad kid. We just partied too much for our own good. Truthfully, it probably took more effort than I was willing to expend.

My son’s a likable little fella. When he was starting Kindergarten a couple years ago, I asked him how he thought he might go about meeting classmates on his first day. He said he would walk up to someone and propose, “Hey, you wanna be my friend? I’m a pretty good guy.” So sweet, and so naïve.

It wasn’t long before he was in full-on sports mode. He wanted to play all varieties of ball, which is fine until kids start getting hurt. Both physically and emotionally.

The concept of becoming a team was innocent enough at first. They learned the basics of the games, supposedly got schooled on sportsmanship, but also quickly fell into the dynamics of society at large — the fundamentals of not only the sport being played but how people act in groups. Groupthink. Behavior that became another lesson to learn along the way.

These boys already split off into factions that gang up on each other, pair up and pick on someone else they sense as weaker. A more sensitive boys perhaps, like my son. He tells me things some kids say that break a mom’s heart. I thought the stereotype fell on mean girls and didn’t appear until around middle school.

Some of the kids are great, and he excitedly went to a teammate’s 8th birthday party at a pool. Other teammates being there meant he felt a little less out of place with the birthday boy’s unfamiliar friends from school. I watched my boy making his way around the water, looking for a trustworthy playmate.

One of those so-called buddies didn’t act like one at the party. He pushed him up the stairs to the slide to make another boy laugh. My son told him repeatedly to stop it, but the other kid just mockingly parroted him. What a friend.

My gaze drifted in the direction of an older lady who ambled into the pool area in a terry cloth swimsuit cover-up. Her struggling gait made me doubt whether she could wind her way through all the short scrambling legs that rushed to the poles where pails showered water down on their heads. I wonder if the woman had a child she had worried about the way I do mine.

I realize kids can be crappy. My own son may act bad when I’m not looking. But this isn’t the first time that particular kid was a little shit as soon as his parents, whom I like well enough, had turned their heads. He curses, calls names. I kind of hope he’ll be shiftless and still living in their basement one day instead of going to college. Maybe not.

My immature and more uncivilized side urges me to suggest retaliation. Another part of me says situations like these will help guide his moral compass in the right direction and build my guy’s character. As a young girl, I had no coach tell me about being a good sport or give instructions on how to not let it bother me when people you think you know don’t act like you’re on the same team. I wish I could simply give my son a game plan to help him in all the gray areas. If only there was such a thing I could buy for myself so we could both learn how to come out victors in life.

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This week’s Studio 30+ writing prompt “shiftless.” (image from zoomwalls.com) Studio30

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4 responses to “Frenemies

  1. My daughter played team sports from kindergarten through high school, and club sports in college. I know how that herd mentality can be. For those on the outside, it can be scary sometimes.

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    Great piece, Katy. It really tugged at my heart because I’ve felt the very same struggles as you. My sons are now almost 20 & 22 & I STILL worry about their emotional well being. When my oldest was playing sports, he was a good little athlete, but in 3rd grade he had a very unfair jerk for a coach & the bad experience made my son never participate in sports again. So I tried to help him anyway I could & I started a book group & chess group at his school, which appealed to way more kids 🙂 I now coach my daughter’s high school lacrosse team & I see these very same issues. I am going to recommend they read your blog…… U & A are in my thoughts & well wishes. Hugs my friend! L

    • Thanks for your kind words, Lanea! We’ve been lucky with (mostly) good experiences with his coaches so far – great parents who stress good sportsmanship. There’s no way to keep an eye on all behaviors at all times, though. He’s even sensitive about others teasing him about his name, which I’m sure one day won’t bother him in the least. In the meantime, I just have to support him like his dad does about sports. He has a natural ability that certainly didn’t come from me. 😉

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