May 18, 2010

May I Check Your Emotional Baggage?

I was a very shy child. Pathologically shy. In fact, my mother once told me she probably should have brought me to see a psychologist when I was younger, but back in those days, you just didn’t do that. Besides, I was the 4th kid. I feel lucky to actually have a page in the photo album, even though it is a short and blurred view into my early years.

I carry around the emotional baggage of having been the kid who sat alone on the playground every day. I did not have friends, I did not know how to interact with other kids and I was painfully lonely and sad every day at school. In 2nd grade I missed somewhere around 45 days of school because I was “sick.” I was not sick, I just hated school and having to be around all those people I just didn’t want to associate with. Every day that involved putting on a school uniform and interacting with kids my age and teachers was akin to having my teeth removed, one by one, without anesthesia.

Equally painful was any activity outside of school that involved interacting with kids my age or really, any one. I took dancing each year at the local playground, but wanted to quit after the first class. I signed up for Brownies, but found the constant interaction with the other Brownies to be emotionally exhausting. I went to one gymnastics class and when one of the kids in the class said I was too fat to pull myself up on the bar, I quit going all together. My sister says Mom’s one rule was that you could not, under any circumstances, quit dancing. But I remember her allowing us to quit anything else we did not like. Of course, I was really, really stubborn so that may have just been my perspective.

Now, I am a parent of a somewhat shy 4 year old. He is loathe to talk to other kids he does not know. He will not just go up to kids and start playing. Still, when my sister suggested I sign him up for T-Ball so we could all be out at the ball field together all summer, I thought it was a good idea. Instead, it has turned into my own personal nightmare of emotionally charged flashbacks to my own youth. It is about as fun as electro shock therapy.

We are not on the same team as my sister’s son, so I am at the stifling hot ball field alone with my son. I feel insecure and unsure of what to do. Max says he likes playing, but he does not actively participate in the games. He spends a lot of time staring at the sky, chewing his finger nails, and singing to himself. When the coaches grab him and tell him to “run here” or “come hit the ball” he goes, but, with a tiny tinge of reluctance.

I sat in the bleachers last night, baking in the late afternoon sun, hiding tear-brimmed eyes behind big sun glasses. I don’t know how to be objective about this. He seems to not enjoy playing ball at all. He does not pay any attention, he does not talk to the other kids, he bites his nails the whole time, but I think I might be projecting my own childhood angst onto his tiny little body out there. I want to run onto the field, grab him and tell all the other little wretched fuckers to fuck off and move the fuck out of the way.
“My child is not some mindless drone who chases a little white ball trying to catch it with a ridiculously oversized mitt! No, my child is creative and clever and sweet and has greater things on this mind that this bullshit, boring-ass, mother fucking hot sport.”

Of course, that seems a bit extreme and intense. No doubt it would leave an impression on 14 stunned 4 year olds, but that is not really my intention. My desire is to do the right thing, and frankly, I don’t know what that is.

Choice A:  Make Max stay in T-Ball. Theoretically, this would provide him with a sense of commitment and provide him with opportunity to be involved in a team sport, blah, blah…But, it also means many, many nights spent at a ball field that is hotter than the surface of the sun, watching my child roll around in the dirt on home plate while the other kids and coaches get annoyed with him.

Choice B: Take him out of T-Ball. Sure, this would be easier on me. I could skip frying in the bleachers, but what is that teaching him? That it is ok to quit? And what if he does actually like it and is just really adept at hiding it? Maybe something will click inside of him. Maybe. Or maybe I will have skin cancer by July for no reason other than to torture my son and scar him emotionally.

This is not a huge issue, but my deep-seeded emotional crap is surfacing and clouding my rational judgment. This is a big and painful issue for me and I would cut off my right arm to save my one and only child that same pain. Seriously, I would take a hack saw to my shoulder blade. That is how fucking painful my childhood angst was. I should say here, this WAS NOT my parents’ fault. I DO NOT blame them for my emotional issues at all. Which begs the question, could they have done something differently to help me? I don’t know, maybe, but like Mom said, it just wasn’t done back then when I was a kid…and dinosaurs roamed the land. I wish my Mom was here to tell me what to do, or at the bery least, what not to do.

So chime in, leave a comment or two. If you post something mean anonymously, I will assume you are a coward asshole, which likely you are. If you want to say something mean, grow a pair and use your real name. I have gotten over my shyness. It was replaced with a caustic mean streak.


Tim Myers said...

From one shy, introverted, ex-child to another, I'll throw in my two cents.

Maybe, its less about the experience itself, and more about the variance in sensory stimuli to which a child is exposed that is most beneficial to his/her development.

For example, Daniel, my brother, (now 27) was the flower picking, twirling dervish in the outfield durning T-ball games. He is now the most extroverted individual that I know, not to mention, an inate musician. He can see music in his head; he is amazing. I, on the flip-side, was the aggressive take-no-prisoners T-ball player (hated every minute of it) who became the introverted, book-smart child.

While parenthood, I suppose, is founded on sacrifice, you could mix-it-up as your, and my, parents did for us. While I may not have liked swim lessons, gymnastics, Latin, cotillion or etiqutte classes at the time, these activities all contributed in a positive way towards my development. When you consider the Gestalt, we are all a sum of our subjective experiences, and the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

I don't know if this helped at all Claire, but I do know that Max will benefit greatly from such a strong, sage, and intelligent woman in his life.

Being that I turn 33 next month and I still continue to fall short in the realm of friendships and interpersonal commitments, please take this commentary with a grain of salt. I hope all is well. ;)

bybethstudio said...

I think we took softball once at Girard and I was allowed to quit after one practice. I was glad to be able to quit. Can't remember if you quit too.

I never did like team sports. I took soccer in 7th grade and it was hell. I was at the nurse A LOT and sucked so bad that they only made me play one JV game! YEA! I hated the game and still remember being terrified. After that I took swimming for PE and only had to do one swim meet too as I was so terrified I almost drowned eventhough in class I could swim great.

Things like dance, yoga or areobics are much better to me. By myself but near others.

I didn't realize how shy you were or anything like that as kids. I always thought you were fun (and still do).

Ask Max how he would feel if you didn't go back to t-ball and see what he says...Perhaps there is another activity he'd like better like swimming or tumbling or gymnastics or art class or music class (something w/ AC!)?

That's what I'd do if it was Claire. I'd ask her and hope that I'll know what to do. You could also miss a game and see if he asks about it, or misses it. He may never ask and you could just tell him you weren't doing it anymore if he does ask.

Maybe he wanted to do it at first but now he doesn't because it's hot and boring.
good luck!

Fish Out of Water said...

Tim - You are so great! Beth - That is what scares me, if I was so good at hiding my angst, perhaps Max is too? Hopefully, I am the only crazy person in this family.

Therese Close said...

I'm not sure how many summers we spent at Carrollton field, but we spent a bunch. Andy wanted to play. I do remember having my childhood angst come up in just about everything I watched my son do. Lots of emotional highs and lows. And some of those parents were unbelievable! I would think a one to one with Max would be the way to go..... "Does going to play T-ball make you happy, Max?" Do you want to keep going?" It's hotter n' hell out there if he's not happy!!

Therese Close said...

Ooops! Just had another thought.... Who ever came up with the law that we can't quit something????? Isn't giving something a try good enough? We don't find out whether or not we're happy doing something until we try it. But what if we find out we freakin' hate it and it makes us absolutely miserable??? Then what? I would think that not shackling our kids with that ridiculous rule that someone we don't even know made up is the more important thing here. Max is 4 years old. I'm not sure that he's going to learn all those "how to be a team player lessons yet!"