Sad Kid

Jacks started his baseball camp Monday. Alex and I picked him up that evening.

“How’d it go?” I asked.

“Man, did I stink it up!” he said cheerfully. His friend Danny (who I was bringing home) chimed in.

“I stunk it up too!”

I didn’t know what to make of it, but after Danny was dropped off, Jack started going after Alex.

“You think you’re so awesome, Alex. This is you: ‘I’m soooo awesome!’”

“This is you, Jack: ‘I’m sooo great!’”

They do this occasionally, and it can go two ways. Sometimes it ends with them laughing like crazy. But this time it got ugly. Jack kept going with an extra edge of intensity in his voice.

I’m Alex and I think I’m soooo awesome. Awesome awesome awesome look at me!

Alex fell into tears and started shrieking: “I don’t do that!”

Here’s the thing, Jack is really pushing up against the edge of kid-hood. He’s out of place. In some ways he’s still a kid. He wants to snuggle on the couch. He watches Tom and Jerry and laughs his head off. But non-kid behaviors are also common. He’s becoming awkward and self-conscious talking to adults. He wants to be alone and away from his parents. He’ll lock himself in his room and blast his music, singing ferociously and punching in the air – the hero of the story he’s acting out.

At dinner we got more into the baseball camp, which was clearly the reason for being mean to his brother.

“How was camp?” Shani asked.

“I stink,” he mumbled, sad this time.

“What do you mean?” Shani responded, a bit of desperation in her voice.

“You don’t stink, Jack,” I brushed him off.

He described missing two ground balls that came to him. He only caught one ball in the pop-fly contest before he was eliminated. He got out when he was batting even though the coach was lobbing balls to them.

And as he does this, he’s met with a relentless onslaught of positivity from Shani and I.

“Of course you dropped the pop-flies. You’re not used to catching tennis balls.”

“You haven’t played in 3 weeks – you’re rusty.”

“You’ve gone to bed past 11 for the entire weekend. You’re just tired.”

And in all honesty, I don’t know if we’re so desperately trying to cheer him up because we want him to feel better or is it really for us. It hurts us so bad to see him down – do we need him to cheer up for our own sakes? Part of me just wants to let him be sad. Part of life is knowing how to pick yourself up when you’re feeling sad – it’s a skill he’s going to needs so let’s let him learn it, right? Hell, I don’t know.

We put him to bed that night. Shani went in to say good night. He pulled her in for a hug and whispered:

“I just want to be good at sports.”

4 thoughts on “Sad Kid

  1. Loved this post, Mike. Let him struggle and fail sometimes. As long as he knows you’re there, that’s all that matters. You’re a great dad.

  2. Acknowledging, really sitting with, and *allowing* someone’s sadness…..without attempting to *change* it…..all very powerful…sometimes transformative….

  3. One of your most admirable qualities is your positive attitude coupled with a boundless energy and enthusiasm. That will rub off on Jack and Alex without a doubt in my mind. I know from experience how infectious our personalities as parents are to our children. We all go through the same things with our kids, regardless of the realm or venue (sports, school, peer acceptance, etc.). As Stacey mentions, sometimes it’s best if we just listen and empathize even if our parental instinct is to “fix” things. Like life and baseball, as Yogi Berra famously once said, “90% of this game is half mental.” And never forget, sometimes a big hug and a kiss from mom and dad, and the reassurance that you’re proud of him, is the sure cure for what ails most kids.

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