Sometimes Friends Let You Down

Just before dinner he grabbed my hand and told me that he needed to take a walk. It was a little after 6 P.M. and still very warm out. As the day headed towards twilight there was a nasty glare so I grabbed my sunglasses and followed the big guy out the door.

Third grade is in full effect and he is experiencing a million different things. I listen to him tell me about his day and I wonder when he got to be so tall. He has always had an exceptional vocabulary and he does an excellent job of explaining things to me, most of the time.

Every now and then he runs into that habit that children have of jumping into the middle of the story with the expectation that you know everything. Since he alludes to the bullying incident of the summer I wonder if I am going to have to beat up an 8.5 year-old.

This I cannot do and it frustrates me. But it also contradicts my philosophy of trying to give him the tools and resources to deal with his problems. It is a moot point because it really has nothing to do with that boy. In fact it appears that particular problem has been handled. I am more than a little pleased about that.

Now we have a different issue. He is upset with a good friend. He feels like he has been let down and wants to know what to do about it. So I give him some fatherly advice that goes something like this:

Sometimes friends let you down. Sometimes they don’t come through. Sometimes they disappoint you. Sometimes even the best of them do things that make you sad or make you angry.

He looks up at me and asks, “why?” I smile at him and say I don’t know. He offers a couple of ideas and then asks me if I have ever experienced this. I forget for a moment about how well he knows me and I sigh and say yes.

The look on my face gives away that I am disappointed with someone and he asks me who I am unhappy with. It takes a moment for me to figure out why he is asking and I tell him that it is nothing to worry about. He smiles and says that he wants to help me the way that I help him. I thank him for that and tell him that someone is acting in a way that makes no sense to me and I am frustrated by it.

He laughs and says that it must be a stupid girl because only girls are that dumb. I tell him that I don’t want him to call people dumb or stupid, especially when he doesn’t know what is going on. So he asks me to tell him. I smile and tell him that it is adult stuff.

It is a good answer or at least good enough to satisfy him. A few minutes later he asks me to race him. I agree and the little negotiator suggests that since I am bigger he gets a head start. Again I agree and I give him 25 feet.

He calls off the mark and then we take off running. I realize that I am exhausted and that I have enough energy to catch and pass him, but am not sure I have enough to finish the race. That is a game changer for me. As I am huffing and puffing I realize that my time as the dominant male is limited. One day he is going to be faster than I am and I am not ready for that.

I want him to do better in everything. I truly do, but my fragile male ego isn’t ready to let my son win that sort of contest. So I resolve to double my efforts to improve my general fitness. I am going to fight to maintain my position for as long as I can.

The race ends and as I recover he hugs me and says thank you for the advice. He doesn’t understand why friends disappoint each other as well as he would like, but he feels better about it.

I feel good. I helped him feel better and I won the race. Two hundred and thirty pounds of five year-old stands there grinning. In a moment we’ll go back inside and eat dinner. But for a moment longer I’ll hide behind my sunglasses and take pride in a boy who is growing up to be a real mensch. Some things truly are priceless.

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