Thursday, July 19, 2018

"When the social world is a puzzle"/ "My kids has no friends"

Jun. 7, 2017 "When the social world is a puzzle": Today I found this life essay by Erin Pettit in the Globe and Mail:

When my son turned 9, his dad and I gave him a science kit for growing crystals. He loved it. With help, he mixed the packaged chemicals to start the process. After school, he would burst through the door and rush to his room to see the new formations: rich cobalt blue and bright yellow growing in unpredictable angles and directions.

At 13, Ben still rushes to his room after school. He craves time alone to recover from the onslaught of the day. Even with a skilled teacher, staff and supportive peers, moving through busy hallways, staying calm and focused enough to learn is an enormous challenge.

When my son and his twin sister were little, we’d take them to the neighbourhood park. My son would approach other kids with awkward hellos. But he would stand too close, speak too softly or run away in the middle of another kid’s sentence. Most of the time, children would drift away, not knowing how to respond.

Eventually, Ben learned that it was easier not to approach other kids. He retreated to the company of adults, who are more indulgent and predictable conversation partners. He spent his recesses walking and talking with teachers and school staff.

Social groups, school and many interventions over the years have helped. But the social world is more complex than those of us who navigate it with relative ease realize.

The stark difference between his own social life and his sister’s is not lost on Ben. His sister is in the midst of a swirl of early-teenage friendships. Daily drama rushes along with gale-force intensity. Snapchat, texting, sleepovers, late-night digital conversations hidden from parents. Status and popularity rise and fall with reckless frequency. This is the social terrain of a 13-year-old girl.

In the eye of the teenage sea-swirl around him, my son watches and learns. To his mind, this social world is an illogical puzzle, with all of its complex, unwritten rules.

When he sees his twin going off to another sleepover, another birthday party, another movie with a friend, he craves those connections that his parents can’t give him.

His own voice is emerging, perhaps too much so at times. A burp or an edgy comment can get attention – but not friends. He is learning though. He’s on Instagram now, posting pictures of Mr. Bean with funny captions: “They’re called memes, mom.”

His conversation skills are sharp from years of conversing with adults. He understands why it’s not okay to ask a grownup how old they are, although often he can’t resist. He’s astute enough to know that if an adult asks you to guess their age, you shave off 10 years.

As we approach the end of elementary school, Ben is wondering what’s next. He will likely separate from the group of kids he has been with since kindergarten. At night, as his classical music plays, we are both kept awake by thoughts about what it will be like in a place where nobody knows him.

Ben asks often what school he’ll be going to next year, and what the kids will be like. He wants to know how busy it will be in the hallways, if it will still be all right to take walking breaks when he needs them. I wonder if he will find a teacher who understands him.

Our weekday worries are countered by a weekend development: a new friend from his social group. He’s a boy from across town who has similar challenges. He is the Stan Laurel to my son’s Oliver Hardy.

They bond over things any boys do: Minecraft, cycling, muddy walks in the creek out back, YouTube videos and a shared dislike of Donald Trump. Every time they see each other, they have a big hug followed by a rousing yell of “Dump on Trump!”

They’ve attended a season of classical concerts at Roy Thomson Hall, marvelled at Ripley’s collections of oddities in Niagara Falls and dined on many A&W burgers.

A few weeks ago, my son, his friend and I took our dog for an evening walk in the neighbourhood. It was dark by the time we made our way through the windy suburban streets. For a while, the boys walked in comfortable silence, their energy spent after a long day together.

Then, as we rounded the top of our street, a tentative question came through the dark: “So how was your weekend Ben?” My son’s hearty reply, “Well my weekend was great. Absolutely great. How was yours?”

In the chill air, their clear voices hung suspended like crystals – a gift I know will remain in my memory to go back and unwrap often. The gift of connection, of commerce between two souls.

As their conversation continued, I realized I was holding my breath so I could hear everything, the sweetness of the back and forth. Turning for a quick sideways glance, I was struck by the beautiful profile of two boys becoming teens.

The dog and I took a few steps away from the happy duo. Then a few more. As their voices mingled in a comfortable back and forth sprinkled with laughter, I drifted farther from my son and his friend.

Under a soft street light, they walked and talked: two crystals connecting and growing into their own true nature as crystals do. They are each other’s catalyst: growing slowly, miraculously into something unexpected, a source of wonder.

Erin Pettit lives in Dundas, Ont.

My opinion:  I really like it.  It's very heart-warming.

There are 3 comments.

Thanks for not using any judgmental diagnostic labels. Many of us have similar difficulties. It takes all kinds to make a world. Your son is intelligent and will be fine.

I have learned through our children that others can be cruel, not understanding and empathetic with some of the social differences in their peers.
Some of what I've witnessed and heard has led me to wonder many times the teachings and attitudes of their parents.

What a wonderful essay and beautifully written. I had many difficulties and challenges growing up in social situations, but I tried to use them to develop my character, humour and voice. All the best to your son! :)

May 29, 2018 "My kid has no friends": I found this article by Anthony E. Wolf in the Globe and Mail on Mar. 4, 2011:

"Every weekend, when I know most of the kids in his grade are out doing stuff with friends, my Ryan is always home. Nobody calls him and he seems to have nobody to call. He's a nice kid. He just doesn't seem to have any friends. It breaks my heart."

One of the hardest things for a parent to watch is their teenage child seemingly having no friends. Week after week - when not in school - there he is in his room by himself again.

There are many reasons why a child may not have many, or any, friends. She might be noticeably different, either physically or intellectually. He may lack social skills or a have a personality that puts off others his own age. He might not share the same interests as his classmates (for example he may hate sports). Or maybe the family has moved and their teen has never been able to break into any social group.

And of course there is the phenomenon of early adolescence, where kids seemingly divide into two groups. There's the popular kids - usually kids with outgoing personalities and advanced social skills - and then everybody else, who often feel left out. This situation has a built-in cure, for by the middle of high school, though the popular kids remain, most others have formed smaller groups based on similar interests, and these groups usually hold up through high school.

But what if it is pretty evident that your teenager just doesn't have friends? What if you have known all along that your kid is seen as different by his peers? What can you do?

Certainly you want to try to find activities where your teen might meet others his age. Often the most available source can be school clubs. If that doesn't pan out, you'll want to keep trying. If your kid has poor social skills, you may want to seek out resources that provide social skills training. Again, your kid's school can be a good resource. But often there is not an easy or fast solution, and you are stuck with the reality that your child is mainly alone.

That said, you still have an important and very useful role. First off, you need to deal with your own pain at seeing your child's plight. Grieve, feel badly for him - but privately. Communicating your pain to him can only make him feel worse.

"I don't have any friends and I make my mother feel bad. Now I really feel like a loser."

You need to recognize that his solitude is not necessarily a tragedy. Recognize his pain, by saying things like, "I know that maybe sometimes you feel bad being alone a lot." But you also need to help him build a life that he can feel good about.

What helps build self-esteem? Having numerous friends certainly does. So too can having a sense of accomplishment after you've tried something and met success, as it creates the belief that you have the potential for a good life ahead of you.

Self-esteem can also come from having hobbies you care about. No, I am not Ryan with lots of friends. No, I am not Ryan who is really good at ice hockey. But I am Ryan who is the biggest Maple Leafs fan in the world.

How do you help with this? Focus on what can build him a better life. Make sure he does as well as he can in school. Encourage him to get into activities that seem best suited to his interests and skills - a sport, a musical instrument, an artistic endeavour, a job. Share his enthusiasm.

It is a paradox, of course, because for many teens sharing anything with you is the last thing that they want. But persist. Also, though she might not always want it, be there for her as a companion. Your company may be her second choice, but it can still be an enjoyable and sustaining one.

I don't want to play down the sadness that a teen who is often alone may feel. But I want to emphasize that it's not necessarily a disaster. Nor does the kid himself want to see it that way.

"Yeah, I miss having friends and sometimes that gets me down. But most of the time, when I am just by myself, I have a good time. I really do. The last thing I want is to always feel sorry for myself."

Lastly, one of the most important things you can do is to reflect a joy for his life as it is, so that he may see it that way, too. While you may want to cure him of not having friends, it's important to support him in creating an enjoyable life. For there is another way of looking at kids who are often alone. Being able to have a good time by yourself is a strength. We call it being self-sufficient.

Clinical psychologist Anthony E. Wolf is the author of six parenting books.

My week:

Jul. 14, 2018 "Alexander Chee, unmasked": Today I found this article by Marc Weingarten in the Globe and Mail:

I like this part:

Chee remarks that “Girl” was about the “uncanny experience of covering up your identifying features and suddenly being happy with yourself. A lot of us are the person we’ve agreed to be and you’re reluctant to do anything about it. That’s what makes masks and dressing up, exciting – you suddenly come into a relationship with some other self. There’s lots of ways in which gay culture plays with those different possibilities.”
This is a funny part:

“It’s important to remember that Trump supporters represent a shrinking minority, trying to impose itself on a majority that doesn’t necessarily agree with Trump’s attitudes.” After all, Chee adds, “we went to a Six Flags theme park dressed in drag once and they wouldn’t let us in at first. But then all the people wanted their picture taken with us! Drag queens are superheroes, too.”

Jul. 17, 2018 Think outside of the box: I have been doing this for awhile:

I read about careers that I know I will probably not go into, but it's good to expand your mind.  What if there is an aspect of the job you like?  You can find that aspect in other jobs:

Should I get a smartphone to look for jobs?: Here's another out of the box idea.  

I was reading this article in the Globe and Mail and they mentioned a restaurant job app called Staffy.  There are lots of job apps like Uber.

Jul. 18, 2018  Chicago school teacher gets donations: 

Chicago schoolteacher Kimberly Bermudez has always been the chatty type.
So when she was on a Southwest Airlines flight to Florida to visit her parents last week, and her seatmate asked her what she did for a living, she told him about her first-grade students, all of whom come from low-income families. Some students at the school are homeless, she said.
He asked her: “What’s the most challenging part of your job?”
When children come to school hungry, she said, and seeing hard-working immigrant parents struggling to provide basic necessities for their families.
The seatmate replied that his company donates to schools such as hers, and she enthusiastically said her charter school, Carlos Fuentes Elementary, would welcome it. All the teachers and administrators in the school go into their own pockets to help the kids with whatever they need — underwear, soap, school supplies — because of how much they care, she said.
A moment later, she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to see the man seated in the row behind her, who had a baby on his lap.
He apologized for eavesdropping. Then he handed her a stack of cash.
“Do something amazing,” he told her.
Bermudez looked down and saw a $100 bill on top. She remembered from her babysitting days that her parents said never to count money in front of anybody. She accepted the gift and thanked him. She felt her eyes filling with tears.
“I said, ‘You have no idea how much this means. Whether it’s books or backpacks, I’ll make sure I give something to the children,’ ” she said.
As the plane landed in Jacksonville, a man in the aisle across from her told her he was listening to her conversation as well.
He said he didn’t have much money on him but handed her a $20.
Then a third contributor: “As if my heart couldn’t be any happier, the man in front turned around as well,” Bermudez said.

My opinion: Aww... You should also donate to the Edmonton Food Bank or other food banks.

Drop your Gonch: Donate underwear or money for underwear to the homeless.

Mon. Jul. 16, 2018: It was so busy at work.  Work ended at 2:30pm and my boss Y said he will text me later if I were to work the next day.  At 8:30pm I called and asked if he needed me.  He said no.

I talked to K who recently started working here.  She told me she watches The Office and That 70's Show.  I have seen a few eps of both shows.

Tues. Jul. 17, 2018: I woke up early and then I got a call at around 6am to come to work, because the new girl K wasn't here to be a hostess.  I got there by 8:30am.

Social event: I went to one last night.  

Law of attraction: K talked about That 70s Show yesterday.  Today at the social event I met a guy named Fez, and it's a nickname for Fazil.  Someone called him Fez because it was like the character from That 70s Show.

He's part of a DJ group called Epic Fail.  I'm listening to it right now:

Wed. Jul. 18, 2018 Job interview: I applied to this catering place and then set up an interview in the morning.  It went well.

Arby's: After that I went to this place because I got a coupon for a free meal from my friend/ old co-worker R.

My manager Y texted me to come to work on Fri.  That's good.

Thurs. Jul. 19, 2018 Blog: At the social event, this guy T remembered meeting me back in 2015 and me telling him about my blog.  I then was able to remember that he then typed it into this smartphone and saw the blog. 

West Edmonton Mall:

1. Shoe Comfort closed down.

2. Artrika closed down.

3. Bubba Shrimp opened.  My co-worker H went there and liked the food.  There is a little store beside it selling t-shirts and souvenirs. 

4. Regis Salon will close by Aug. 23, 2018.  Buy your hair products.

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