By Shannon Ralph
Reason #4: We worry about our children.
Ruanita and I take turns worrying about our children. I’ll obsess about Lucas’s lack of vegetable intake in his limited diet, while Ruanita worries about Sophie’s shyness at school. I will worry about Nicholas spending too much time playing video games while Ruanita worries about Sophie not reading as well as her twin brother. Typically, we will worry about different children at different times, thereby protecting our kids from the double whammy mommy fret.
On rare occasion, however, we will both focus our energy on worrying about one child. Right now, we are in the midst of just such a vortex of anxiety. It began recently when we had a parent/teacher conference with Lucas’s fourth grade teacher. All went well, for the most part. He had scored slightly above average on his state reading test and well above average on his state math test. He had a little trouble staying on task in the classroom and there were instances where his anxiety issues had been apparent to his teacher when he wasn’t sure what he should be doing. These reports were not unexpected. And she raved about what a sweet, kind boy Lucas is. We were fairly happy with the overall report until his teacher broached another topic with us.
Basically, in no uncertain terms, she indicated that she was concerned about Lucas being bullied in middle school next year. She recalled an incident in class where another boy had his feet propped up on Lucas’s seat and would not move them. Lucas just stood there looking at the boy’s feet saying nothing. Looking anxious. She made the boy move his feet, but was concerned that Lucas said nothing. She was concerned that some of the boys with “stronger,” more testosterone-infused personalities may see Lucas as the perfect–silent–victim.
Here’s the thing. Lucas is completely 100% non-confrontational. He is not an assertive child. He does not speak up. As a matter of fact, he lives most of his life in his own little world. A world where everyone plays video games and builds robots from cardboard boxes and walks around singing show tunes. He lives in a happy world filled with Einstein and science documentaries and choir and Legos and Goombas and Myth Busters and grilled cheese sandwiches with the crusts cut off. He is the quintessential geek. And I absolutely love his geekiness. He is incredibly sensitive and sweet and gentle. And nerdy. And Ruanita and I adore him just the way he is.
Lucas has always had friends in school. He is a pleasant, engaging kid who I think people like. The fact that his sensitivity and non-assertiveness would cause him issues in life simply was not on our radar. We have always relished the fact that he will likely grow up to be a sensitive man. Women love sensitive men, right? I guess we always knew that he wasn’t like other boys, but to actually hear his teacher say the words, “He’s not like other boys” was a bit of a slap in the face. But it is the truth. He’s not rough and tumble. He’d rather sing you a song than wrestle with you. He’d rather watch a documentary about the Earth’s core than ride a bike or play baseball. As a matter of fact, he is almost 10 years old and does not know how to ride a bike. And has no desire to learn. And he has absolutely zero interest in learning to play any sport. Unless you count chess as a sport.
This weekend, Ruanita and I were shopping for Christmas presents for the kids. In the toy aisle as Target, Ruanita turned to me and said, “Do you think it’s because we don’t let him play with guns? That we won’t even let him have a Nerf gun? Do you think he’d be more assertive if we let him play with toy guns like other boys?” Ummm….no. I don’t think arming him will make a difference. I think he is who he is. I think it is in his nature to be completely, unapologetically Lucas.
Does this mean we will not worry about him? Does this mean we will not obsess over him? And fret about him? And ache in the deepest, darkest parts of our souls for him to have an easy life? A happy life? No. We are his parents and we will worry about him and for him until the day we die.
Worrying about our kids is one more way that my marriage is just like marriage.