Hadley had a tough school year. You see, he is pretty passive. He is not competitive by nature, and just kind of goes with the flow, or does his own thing if nothing else interested him. However, when pushed, he will eventually bust. He has that in common with his mama.
Last year, around Thanksgiving, this came out in an altercation with one of his buddies. The kid is sweet, well meaning, and fun. A little younger than Hadley (and a lot younger last year even though only one year difference…they are more equal now…), he kept trying Hadley’s patience again and again and again. Finally Hadley had enough….and the kid took the brunt of it. Now. The kid had been rough housing, pushing buttons, etc. But Hadley’s response was NOT right regardless…it was over the top. I apologized to the mom; he apologized to the boy. They are good buddies now. The buddy has learned to not push so much and respect personal space, and my son has learned that being strong means being calm and gentle at the times that is the hardest.
But recently, it is a lesson that needs some tweaking. And yet it doesn’t. It seems so contradictory, really, and is a tough road for me to navigate well because 1.) i am a chick 2.) i am not a 10 year old boy 3.) i was INSANELY competitive at his age (and not at all now go figure) and 4.) i am unsure of where the perfect line should be drawn.
My son is huge. I mean, off the charts tall for his age. Always has been, maybe always will be. He was also a beanpole…until the beginning of the school year. His shoulders came in. He went from a long and lanky 65 pound string bean, grew two more inches and gained 30 THIRTY pounds over the year. He looks skinny; it is now lean muscle, all lithe body mass. Strength, the physical kind. And he wants to play flag football at school. Play sports with the guys. And although he is athletic, he likes to let people go in front of him in line, doesn’t try to get the ball aggressively, doesn’t hustle to be the fastest. He is gentle and kind and does not care much about winning.
Thus, he is not given the ball. He is chosen last, or close to it. Because he doesn’t push to win like most boys do at that age, and if he sees someone else doesn’t get the ball, he will help them get it. Killer instinct? Yeah, not so much. Of course, I am more proud of my son for this approach and attitude than any height or physical strength. This is strength of character and heart that no skill can equal.
He is an 11 1/2 year old boy. And he does not want to be called weak any more. He just wants to play, be included. His only aggression? When someone else is picked on. When someone else is poked.
He and I have that trait in common too.
And after I went through something similar a month ago online, maybe even more than I thought.
An online adoption group in which I am involved has a sort of new member who has found it necessary to just kind of “start” things. The thing is, her approach and beliefs and opinions are good ones. They have validity. I don’t agree with all of them, but I like the different perspective. We all need exposure to ideas and beliefs not our own. It sharpens our own thoughts, or helps us see differences and perspectives we would not have considered. Heck, it is this kind of approach that has helped me change my parenting or other skills at times. And we should all be open to this kind of challenge. It betters us.
At the same time, however, once you share a view, there is no need to continue brow beating people with it, and then moreso, continue and literally put others down because they don’t believe the same or agree with you. “I don’t like red.” Ok. That’s cool. “It is a dumb color. Unflattering and ugly and reminds people of murder.” Um, oookkkkkaaaayyyyy….. “People who like red are inconsiderate to those who have been murdered. People who like red are cruel.” Wait. What??
The logic is skewed. You want to cling to a fair belief, great. No worries. You want to cling to a belief some people share and some people don’t, fantastic. You want to keep insisting your belief is right, in everyone else’s face and in the middle of conversations not about that topic at all, um. Ok. Annoying, but still, I will walk away or ignore. But you want to call people names because they don’t agree? To the point people cry and feel badly about life decisions because of your passionate insistence on their wrongness and petty need to put someone down for doing it differently from you?? Yeah, you and I are gonna have an issue.
And that happened. So after ignoring 2 other dumb conversations about it all, when it went south and people got called names, yeah. I spoke up. And I was not snuggly. But I was also not out of line.
Because that is the tricky thing about strength. People should not get their feelings hurt by anonymous strangers online. But people do. Sometimes, people don’t stick up for themselves. That can be strength. Holding back can ALSO be strength. Helping someone you don’t know can be strength. Staying quiet and uninvolved can be strength. But sometimes, speaking up is strength. Proving you have muscles is strength. But knowing when and how to use them is the ultimate strength. And I explained this to Hadley.
“Son. I LOVE that you are so gentle and peace loving. If you never compete in sports I could care less. If you let others go first forever I could not be prouder. If you end up penniless at the end of your life, because you gave it all away and were too compassionate for your own good, that too would bring me great pride. BUT. If you want to win. If you want to speak for the soft. If you want to take one for the team. Then go big or go home. Hit hard. Speak loud. And if anyone calls you weak again to your face, and pokes you in the chest and calls you a nasty name, then you have two choices. Square your shoulders back, smile, and walk away. Strength. Or square your shoulders back, take a step forward and speak, quietly, an inch away from that face in yours and assure that person you are neither weak nor worthy of that name, and if they touch you or threaten you again, you will show them, one on one, exactly how weak you are NOT. Strength. You have the right to do both. But I caution you. Taking up your own cause is unnecessary. The people that matter? They need no reminder, no proof of your strength. Or of your love, kindness, humor, or anything else of worth. Because they know you. They accept you. So save the proof. Take up the cause for others, for the ones that don’t have the confidence or the ability to show strength of their own. That can be worth it. You may or may not get thanked. You may or may not get recognition. But those things don’t matter. Always stick up for others. I can’t think of anything stronger.”
Good to write this, to read this, and to remind myself of this too. And in the midst of the Supreme Court stuff and upcoming political changes/debates/perspectives? Let’s consider kindness, and reconsider our definitions of strength.