20 Oct
2015
Posted in: parenting
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Shaking the Worry Over the Middle Child

Our middle son came into the world quietly. He spent the first few hours of his life wide-eyed staring at us, but the quiet didn’t last long. He struggled to gain weight those first few months and refused to sleep most of his first year of life. He cried a lot, and I shed my share of tears. Those first 13 months were riddled with worry for that boy, and I never really shook the extra concern for him.

Fast forward a decade and J is still the one I worry about a little more than the other three. He still struggles to gain weight, but did discover the joy of sleep. Thank heaven for that. He’s not quick to any outward sign of emotion and rarely sheds a tear. Really, he doesn’t make too much noise of any kind. I joke that he injured his vocal chords with all the crying those first 13 months, and they’re still trying to recover from the damage caused by non-stop wailing. He’s reserved and more of an introvert like his dad.

midget football player holding a football

Part of my extra worry comes from not understanding how he thinks and processes the world. He’s the least like me of our kids. When your siblings are extroverts, loud ones at that, it’s easier for you to be lost in the madness, quietly watching as life unfolds. It’s taken work on my part to allow J to be himself and not attempt to pry words from him. He talks when he’s comfortable and when he has something to say. I’ll jump into conversations whether I know people or not.

Last year, we started asking J to do things in the family that once would have been given to our oldest simply because he’s older. We added more family responsibility to his plate to nudge him out of the shadow middle children tend to fall under. It wasn’t until a local music teacher saw talent in our boy that J’s confidence started to bloom on his own accord. He found he was good at playing the flute, which made him unique in our family. He had HIS thing that set him apart from his siblings. He’s helping his school band teacher with some of the other students and stepped gladly into a role with some responsibility attached.

midget football player on the scrimmage line

The last few months have been filled with football for our boys. Most of their life experiences, good and bad, are happening on a field hemmed in by goal posts. In our experience over the last three years with tackle football, coaches tend to be on the intense side. We’ve heard yelling, belittling comments and inappropriate language from adults in coaching positions. We pray before each season that our coaches would teach the sport while still guarding the hearts of the children who are listening and watching.

Not surprisingly, I was worried about J starting tackle football. I was concerned the confidence we’ve watched grow would be squashed by an intense, boisterous, albeit well-meaning, coach. The opposite happened. His coach is quiet and reserved on the field. He gently leads his team. I’m not sure coach is aware how grateful the parents of those boys are for his positive manner. J has been asked to use his voice at times on the field, even standing in the role as one of the captains. He rose to the expectations set by someone who simply felt J could handle certain tasks.

boy jumping into a pile of leaves

Football is almost over, and our boy’s confidence has continued to grow. This last year has proven, yet again, a couple parenting truths for me. Worrying is a waste of my finite amount of time. It doesn’t help the situation and hinders me from seeing the good that may prevail if I’m willing to see the positive possibilities instead of jumping to the worst-case scenarios. Don’t underestimate the power of how you choose to treat people, adults and children alike.

J came off the field last week during a game after his second fumble. He was visibly upset. His coach didn’t raise his voice, but approached him calmly on the sideline, gently placed a hand on J’s helmet and  said something to him no one else could hear. I expected (worried) J would be upset after the game, but he wasn’t. He said he was concerned when he came off the field after that second fumble because if his coach was ever going to yell, it was going to be then, and it was going to be directed at him. Instead, coach told him everyone makes mistakes and try not to do it again. J emphasized that he said “try” not “don’t” do it again. That simple one word choice shed positive light on a rebuke.

Word choice is important, along with tone-of-voice. That’s hard for me. I can be intense, and my family is hit with my full, unguarded emotions at times. My words are not always filtered. My village of parent support is filled with a myriad of teachers, office staff, coaches, parent volunteers and friends who are truly wonderful to my family. The power of encouragement can speak directly to a person’s heart. My children expect to hear encouraging words from their parents. It’s more powerful for them when someone not blood-related speaks highly of them. I’ve literally seen J’s face break into a smile after being praised both by his music teacher and his coach. Witnessing moments of confidence with the child I worry most about is the best gift another person could hand me.

 

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