Its been over a year since I wrote one of these and its good to be back. So much has happened in my child's life, my co-parenting agreement with his mother, etc. But, this one is about what happens when friends change and become strangers or worse yet; enemies. I heard my son getting a lot of advice from his mom on the phone. So I gently pressed him to talk if he wanted to. We had a conversation about a feeling I remember all to well. When somehow someone you were cool with or was really good friends with decides they're not going to sit with you anymore or that they don't like you now.
Awwwww man, I know this feeling. It sucks. He did nothing wrong. Kids joke around and all, but it doesn't seem he did anything to this kid. He went on to say that the kid was no longer laughing at his jokes, but rather he was dissing him. He went on to describe what sounded all too familiar for junior high school or high school. I tried to explain to him that for whatever reason kids change. Sometimes its hormones or something unseen. I tried to ask him if he'd noticed that some of the girls were starting to change externally by different parts of their bodies growing (he told me he tried not to notice that) and that boys are doing that as well; on the inside and out. I told him that he would change too, but that he didn't have to be mean to anyone. Not mean, like his friend. I didn't offer it as an excuse, but more of a factor in the strange behavior he was experiencing.
This is so tough and whether you're a parent or not, most of us have had this experience. It's a hard time when kids are starting to reach their teens and they start to become aware of themselves and as a result get very self conscious. I know I did. I remember kids who were cool, doing 180's and acting like complete assholes. I'm lucky that he has not had to get into as many physical fights as I had by the time I was his age. But it still sucks.
I told my son a story about how just one or two things said to me by one of my best friends broke my heart. I didn't get to the pivotal point in my life when i changed "crowds" in high school, too painful. But, after i listened to him I shared the story with him. I'd had a friend who i'll call Tae. He was my best friend. He was tough and wasn't scared of no one! I was, and it showed. I fought, every did. You kind of had to, but if i could avoid it, I would. Sometimes he would stick up for me just by simply kicking it. But this one time we were playing kickball and I totally fumbled a ball that came straight to me in the outfield. My best friend grimaced because he wanted to win so bad and cursed and yelled across the field at me calling me "sorry". For those who aren't hip, that means weak, slow, or just less than. Anyway, I held it together for the rest of the day but cried when I got home. I got advice from my dad and his then fiance. The next day it was like my best friend had totally forgot about it. I hadn't. but I was also too scared to confront him, I mean shit I was only 10!
I shared this with my son to tell him I had been through something similar. Not the same of course. But, that I felt terrible and confused. And that I wished I'd told him how I felt. I encouraged him to share how he felt with his homie who was acting weird. I made sure I told him I'd cried because I wanted him to know that I cry, I get vulnerable, I have feelings, and it's ok to share those. I told him that he should let his friend know that he's down to be his friend, but that he should also demand respect and only kick it with those who were kind to him. If this kid was going to be mean, than he should let him know how he felt and keep it moving. What would you say to yours or what have you said to a young child about something like this?
Sidenote: He's getting to the age where young boys are looking for rites of passage. And one of the most visible ways to show others that you are becoming a young man is to fight or punk another boy. Even though I believe in solving disagreements non-violently, I HAVE TO teach him to fight, to defend himself.