Trust Me, It’s Not All About Winning

I’m not going to lie to you, the first few months in our new town weren’t the easiest, especially for my third grader.  My outgoing, chatty, confident boy wasn’t used to being the outsider.  Not that he was popular in his old school, or that popularity even mattered to him, because it didn’t.  He was the boy, who was content to roam amongst his peers, curious to see what was going on, not needing to be a part of one group, but part of many.

He backed away from some cliques, like the boys who threw him down on the ground, in a “friendly” game of football, and spent a little too much time, in my opinion, with overly-aggressive girls, which in the end turned out to be school girl crushes.  But everyone knew him and liked him.  He felt comfortable.  He belonged.

Then, we moved, into a small town, characterized by tight neighborhoods, and long standing relationships, and suddenly, he was an outsider.

We had our share of “I want to go back to my old school,” moments, which frankly, was shocking to me given the fact that I never felt like he had developed any strong bonds with one particular group.  We had tears, and anxiety, and some not so nice comments, like “I wish you never moved here,” from boys whom he would come to be friends with.

I don’t know how much was in his head and how much was real, but he was struggling.  As his mom, I struggled too.  No one wants to see their kid in pain.  For me, the worst night was the Fall Book Fair, an event in an of itself.  The boys, that I had already come to know by name, from his numerous stories, were running in a pack, through the school, all in their travel soccer uniforms.

My son tried to approach them, but was greeted with lukewarm waves, as they all took off to see what other fun was to be had.  He was left standing with me, and his brother and sister.  The four of us strangers in what seemed to be a sea of commonality.

After that night, fueled by his desire, I decided I would find a way to get him on a team, whose tryouts we had longed missed.  By springtime, the second half of the season, I had resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t going to happen, until, as luck would have it, I ran into a friendly mom, who told me that they had just had a boy quit their soccer team.

And, so, my son found his place. The spring season was pretty pathetic.  They lost all but one game, and tied two, but none of that mattered to my son.  In the end, he was part of a team and once again, he  belonged. His smile says it all.Sports, chess, Lego league, band, art club, whatever, never underestimate the power of a club to give kids the sense that they belong.

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