This summer we have had to deal with some unexpected social struggles. Maybe not so unexpected, Benjamin had trouble early on at camp making friends. I was beside myself- he said no one would sit with him at lunch, and when he would ask to sit with other people they would say, "I'm saving this seat for someone," even though that someone never came. As a former social outcast, it broke my heart, imagining how it felt for him. He was withdrawn at night (often at bedtime, when he is especially tired), and every time we reprimanded him for behavior at home, he would begin to say, "No one loves me!" One night I found a picture drawn on the white board of Eric's office; it was a stick figure, crying, surrounded by a lake of tears, and the words "no one likes me." I did two things: first, emailed the camp director about the counselors and making sure they fostered a more inclusive environment; second, got in touch with the therapist who helped Asher through his fruit-phobia and scheduled an appointment (not until September, unfortunately).
Soon after that, Benjamin seemed to ease into friendships and made a "best friend" at camp. I never heard another word of complaint from Benjamin, and he seemed to get along just fine with friends. Until this week, when he started at a new camp, and the complaints began again. He has always struggled with transitions. Is that what is happening? Today we got called to bring Benjamin home because he had a stomach ache, but once home, he ate food (an entire bag of baby carrots), and seemed just fine and happy.
The other part of this problem is Asher- he is not being a good friend or brother. At the first camp, he made no effort to include Benjamin when he knew Benjamin was being excluded. Asher quickly made friends with two other boys and spent all his time with them, not making good choices. My general impression is that Asher got in with the "cool" kids and loved it, and Benjamin was not-so-cool, and therefore didn't merit care or attention. This is not at all the philosophy Eric and I have taught our boys.
Not only was Asher not a good friend or brother, he wasn't a good citizen. There were FOUR incidents that I was made aware of at his camp:
1) He was swinging his lunch box at Benjamin's head and whacked him hard, sending him to the nurse for an ice pack. The swinging was not an accident.
2) He climbed a piece of furniture (the nurse said bookcase and Asher said it was a podium, but whatever) to be "king" and the furniture fell on top of Benjamin, leaving him badly bruised on the leg.
3) He got pulled out of his group for a time out in the director's office because he was too wild and "physical" and couldn't calm down despite numerous warnings and requests from his counselors.
4) On the last full day of camp, the director called to tell me that Asher and his cronies were swinging their lunch boxes over a balcony and despite numerous requests to stop, they continued, resulting in a counselor getting hit on the head by a falling lunch box which had a frozen ice pack in it.
Asher's attitude related to all of these incidents was not one of remorse. He had an excuse or way to avoid blame for every single thing. I could not stay patient and understanding with him- I know he is smarter than that, and he has been a model student and friend for years. At home, he is the one child I can count on to do the right thing. I remain deeply disappointed in him, and I let him know. There were some consequences (no dessert), and now we are hoping for better behavior from here on out. I am also perusing parenting books at the library for guidance. This mommy thing is HARD.