Buddy and I were working on his Cub Scout book, finishing up a project. He had to read a scenario and respond with how he would react. It included things like what he would do if a stranger came to the door and he was home alone, or if kids were teasing a child with a disability. We read one about a boy whose friends were trying to get him to steal, even though he knew it was wrong. The caveat was that these kids were popular, and the boy wanted to be popular too. Honestly, I had no idea at what was about to come.
Buddy sort of retreated into himself, then started to cry. He literally couldn’t bring himself to talk, so he left the room, grabbing a piece of paper and a pencil, returning a few moments later with this:
My heart tightened and I wondered why I was having this conversation with my second grader. It sort of blind-sided me, this popularity conversation. Honestly, it was something I was expected to talk about in a few years.
We talked about why he wasn’t sure if he was popular and who is friends are. There were tears and he whispered most of it, but at the end of the day, I worried more about why he was worried. He has friends and the other kids aren’t mean to him beyond the normal kid stuff, of which he is just as guilty of.
I’m not worried that he’s being picked on or bullied, or that he’s being left out. Everything I heard was normal kid stuff – one kid didn’t pick him to be on his soccer team at recess, or he didn’t get to sit with the kids he really wanted to on the bus. The reality is, sometimes you don’t get picked. That’s an important life lesson. Not an easy one, but it’s reality. As long as he’s not consistently being left out and the kids aren’t being mean to him, I’m OK with that.
My best advice to him was that what matters most is that he likes himself. He loves school and is doing well. I feel like his questioning his popularity is normal and something that everyone has to go through.
The next morning we talked about it again, this time without the tears. I’m not really sure what brought on the anxiety, and I certainly expect to have this conversation many times in the future. For right now, though, things seem fine.