My middle son tried out for a rep soccer team the other day. It wasn’t the team he’s been playing with the last few years, but one in a town close by where the coaching had been highly recommended to us. There were a couple of kids there that we knew from previous teams he’s played on, but most of the other players were strangers.
That’s not normally a problem for my middle guy. He’s quite outgoing – a talker, a performer, and a joker. It usually takes him no time at all to introduce himself, find some topic of interest (skateboarding, video games, or hip hop), and become fast friends. He’s very good at making friends. It’s one of his skills.
In this case though, one of the kids my son knew already happened to mention to some of the new kids that he was adopted. It wasn’t mentioned maliciously. It wasn’t intended as a slight. It just came up in conversation. But two of the new kids latched onto the fact and wouldn’t let it go.
They started to tease my kid relentlessly. They didn’t just make a comment or two and move on. They kept on him, all the more when they saw that they were hurting his feelings. When he tried to speak up for himself, they mocked him. When he tried to walk away, they followed him. When he confronted them, they pushed him down.
At that point the coach saw what was happening and intervened. The parents were all brought into it, and the other kids were forced to apologize, which they did, grudgingly. But the damage, for my kid, was already done.
As soon as we were out of sight of the other players, he burst into tears. First they were angry tears. Then they were sad tears. Then they were resigned tears. He raged about how mean other kids are and how unfair it was to be adopted and how stupid people are. He alternately threatened to kill the other players, run away from home, and never play soccer again. He raged and wailed for something like 30 minutes.
And it’s hard to blame him. It pisses me off too that he’s in this position. It makes me angry and sad that he didn’t have parents who could look after him like he deserved, that there are kids out there who are willing to make fun of him for something he couldn’t help, that there are parents out there who haven’t taught their kids to respect people who are different from them, and most of all that I can’t do much to fix any of that. Too much of it ends up on his 10-year old shoulders.
All I can do is love him the best I can, listen to him when all those emotions become overwhelming, and encourage him to be the best he can be despite them.