“Look how they massacred my boy,” The Godfather, Don Corleone cries. In this famous scene from one of the great movies (and book, of course) of all time, The Godfather is distraught because he could not save Sonny, his oldest son. This powerful man, who controlled politicians and policemen, weeps with the knowledge that his son’s fate was beyond his control.
It’s summer and therefore, school’s out. There is no homework, teacher conferences, behavioral charts, and bagged lunches. It’s camp time which means trips, games, and swimming. Summer camp is stress free – well, it’s supposed to be.
Deciding where to send SJ to camp was a pretty simple decision for my wife and I. Last year, he attended the town camp and LOVED it. He was smiling and talking about it all the time and was wishing for camp on Sunday. He wore the camp tee-shirt throughout the year, and in February, SJ began asking how much longer till camp? On top of his sheer delight, the camp was very reasonable. Kid loved the camp, and it was reasonable – we were set. Or so we thought.
When camp began this year, SJ was out of his head with excitement, and his joy was our joy. On the way to his third day of camp, SJ and I were taking.
“Who do you play with at camp?”
“I play by myself.”
“Really, how come?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you sad about that? Don’t you want to play with the other kids? Wouldn’t that be more fun?”
“Silly Daddy. It’s okay to play yourself. You can still have fun.”
While I found the situation upsetting, SJ was clearly okay with it.
As the first week came to an end, SJ was no longer okay with his new situation. His excitement for camp was clearly lessened. As I dropped him off, his counselor remarked, “Why aren’t you smiling today?
He is one of the youngest kids at the camp. Last year, that did not matter because he happily played with two kids who were in his age range. This year was different. One of his friends from last year returned, but he is playing with a kid who is two years older than SJ. The older boy is not interested in playing with SJ. In fact, he is ignoring him.
SJ is the most gregarious (once he gets over his initial shyness) person in our family and very much enjoys playing with other kids. He thrives in the company of others – always smiling and trying to make others smile. However, he is on the immature side and tends to do better with kids that are younger. SJ sometimes misreads social situations. In addition, his low muscle tone causes him to shy away when horseplay gets intense.
My wife has spoken to SJ about the social challenges he is facing at camp. She has encouraged him to play with those who want to play with him. We have both spoken to the counselor. My wife has knocked her head against the wall trying to think of how to make the situation better. In other words, she has been a mom.
Maybe, this situation can’t be made better. Maybe SJ will have to deal with it and find other kids to play with.
Regardless of what my wife and I do, SJ (and BR) will go through situations in life where friendships change and no longer work. They will face rejection. Their situations will upset us, their parents, but we will just have to do our best to support our children and give them the strength to deal with whatever comes along. Even the powerful Don Corleone couldn’t make it all good for his children.