Last night I had one of those tough parenting moments. I was talking to Sebastian about some praise for him that his teachers had shared with me, but quickly the conversation took a turn from positive to not-so-upbeat. He started telling me about being in class, and how not many kids in his class are willing to work in partner groups with him. He didn't seem to indicate that the kids were mean about it, but simply that they preferred to partner with other people instead. In essence, he feels like an outsider.
He said, "The other boys all know each other from football and baseball and basketball and stuff. I just don't fit in with them." His eyes welled up with tears, and try as he might to hold them at bay, a tear or two slipped out to betray just how much this hurts him.
As you can imagine, as a mother, I want to be able to FIX this for him. But I can't. I can't say anything that will make these boys see him differently. I can't do anything that will immediately change his circumstances. BUT. That doesn't make me powerless. I can listen. I can support him. I can offer words of wisdom about life and friendships. And I can offer up examples of others who have been through this too, so he knows he's not alone in this struggle.
Well, this morning, that's just what I did. Of course last night I listened and hugged him and gave him encouragement. But this morning, I was able to give him a real-life example of someone Sebastian admires who admittedly has gone through these same struggles.
In the past few months, we've watched the documentary It Might Get Loud more than once, and Sebastian has watched it every chance he's had. He's taken a liking to White Stripes music, particularly Seven Nation Army, and has tried to teach himself to play it on his cello. This documentary has been a source of inspiration to him to explore musical and artistic avenues which he seems to enjoy so very much. All great stuff, although none of it is main-stream-America football and baseball. In the documentary, Jack White spends a few minutes talking about his childhood. He tells about growing up in Detroit, and how he struggled at times because playing an instrument was about as uncool as you could possibly get in that area. He was just not on the same path as everyone else. He was different. He was 'uncool'. And now he's an amazingly talented and successful musician. When I pointed out to Sebastian this similarity between himself and Jack White, he smiled. He seemed pleased. I like that.
So thanks Jack White for being different, and for taking the time to say so. Thanks for following your own path instead of the path everyone else was beating down. While you may seem like an unlikely 'roll model' for a 6th grader, you have provided a very real example of someone willing to stand out in a world full of chameleons.
I think in raising our children, one of the things I have said and will continue to say repeatedly is this: "You can't get to your own destination if you're trying to follow someone else's path." I hope and pray that someday he grasps this and truly embraces the awesome that he is.