This past weekend's Cub Camp was one of mixed emotions for both Jonas and I. We made great memories but there were a fair amount of tears involved too - for both of us. The amount of time he spent getting along well with the other kids seemed to be counterbalanced by the times when he struggled to fit in with the other kids. After a day of mostly fun on Saturday, for example, he cried himself to sleep because he and his tentmates just couldn't get along. Even though those moments were only a fraction of the weekend, his smiles and laughter were almost overshadowed by them. It's not the first time and I know it won't be the last.
Jonas is different from most of the other kids. He thinks differently, speaks differently and acts differently. While there's nothing wrong with that, it makes his social relationships difficult. There is so much about him that is wonderful and amazing but other people don't always understand him. With that confusion can easily come frustration, anger and ridicule. As his mom, I struggle to find a healthy line between letting him find his own way in his world and his relationships, and stepping in to proactively make teachable moments out of those struggles. It's a fine line to walk. Kids tune us out if we talk too much, and a child can get labeled quickly - and miss out on important life lessons - if his mommy is always running to his rescue.
It can be tough to know where the line between healthy and unhealthy peer pressure is sometimes. Emotions can run high and it's hard to know when and how to intervene, especially when it's your own child who is in emotional distress. I felt like the worst mother in the world as he cried on Saturday night. It broke my heart to hear him in the tent beside me, whimpering "Nobody cares about me" and then quietly whispering "God, please just let me be a good boy." Every instinct in my body was telling me to go to him and comfort him.
I didn't need to because Jonas and I are blessed to be with a great group that recognizes that he and I struggle with this. There is always another leader there to help Jonas, leaving him and I to have mother and son moments in private, non-Scouts time. We're not the only parent-child combo in our group and we all step in to help each other deal with our own children. This takes some of the emotional confusion out of it and also avoids to appearance of a leader reverting to parent to protect their own child. It's the best of both worlds really. I can be with Jonas in Cubs as one of his leaders, but also build memories with him as his mom at the same time.
That's one of the things I love about Scouts. It allows kids from all walks of life to find a place where they belong. Welcoming everyone and them feeling welcome is not always an instantaneous process. This is true at school and any other group they come to be a part of. We have youth in our group from all different socioeconomic, family and health backgrounds. ADHD and Autism are but two of the life conditions we are faced with and it takes time for everyone to understand and respect each other. As leaders, teachers, and parents, it's our responsibility to work together to help these kids to feel welcome, to build their self-esteem and their self-confidence. A huge part this is educating ourselves and the other youth to better understand and accept their differences, and to respect each other for them. This is something that Scouts does very well and I am so grateful for that.