Not Even the Godfather

“Look how they massacred my boy,” The Godfather, Don Corleone cries. In this famous scene from one of the great movies (and book, of course) of all time, The Godfather is distraught because he could not save Sonny, his oldest son. This powerful man, who controlled politicians and policemen, weeps with the knowledge that his son’s fate was beyond his control.

It’s summer and therefore, school’s out. There is no homework, teacher conferences, behavioral charts, and bagged lunches. It’s camp time which means trips, games, and swimming. Summer camp is stress free – well, it’s supposed to be.

Deciding where to send SJ to camp was a pretty simple decision for my wife and I. Last year, he attended the town camp and LOVED it. He was smiling and talking about it all the time and was wishing for camp on Sunday. He wore the camp tee-shirt throughout the year, and in February, SJ began asking how much longer till camp? On top of his sheer delight, the camp was very reasonable. Kid loved the camp, and it was reasonable – we were set. Or so we thought.

When camp began this year, SJ was out of his head with excitement, and his joy was our joy. On the way to his third day of camp, SJ and I were taking.

“Who do you play with at camp?”

“I play by myself.”

“Really, how come?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you sad about that? Don’t you want to play with the other kids? Wouldn’t that be more fun?”

“Silly Daddy. It’s okay to play yourself. You can still have fun.”

While I found the situation upsetting, SJ was clearly okay with it.

As the first week came to an end, SJ was no longer okay with his new situation. His excitement for camp was clearly lessened. As I dropped him off, his counselor remarked, “Why aren’t you smiling today?

He is one of the youngest kids at the camp. Last year, that did not matter because he happily played with two kids who were in his age range. This year was different. One of his friends from last year returned, but he is playing with a kid who is two years older than SJ. The older boy is not interested in playing with SJ. In fact, he is ignoring him.

SJ is the most gregarious (once he gets over his initial shyness) person in our family and very much enjoys playing with other kids. He thrives in the company of others – always smiling and trying to make others smile. However, he is on the immature side and tends to do better with kids that are younger. SJ sometimes misreads social situations. In addition, his low muscle tone causes him to shy away when horseplay gets intense.

My wife has spoken to SJ about the social challenges he is facing at camp. She has encouraged him to play with those who want to play with him. We have both spoken to the counselor. My wife has knocked her head against the wall trying to think of how to make the situation better. In other words, she has been a mom.

Maybe, this situation can’t be made better. Maybe SJ will have to deal with it and find other kids to play with.

Regardless of what my wife and I do, SJ (and BR) will go through situations in life where friendships change and no longer work. They will face rejection. Their situations will upset us, their parents, but we will just have to do our best to support our children and give them the strength to deal with whatever comes along. Even the powerful Don Corleone couldn’t make it all good for his children.


32 thoughts on “Not Even the Godfather

  1. SJ sounds a lot like my youngest. He is still more on the introverted side and he has yet to make a friend at his new school (first year of high school) but he is at ease with himself and his social skills. Communication is the key. No, love is the most important thing, then communication. Knowing when to step in and when not to is difficult but you are conscientious parents. Parenting is mostly joyful but, boy, when our kids hurt, there is nothing much worse than that.

    • That when to step in thing is one of those lessons where I think we will be learning and relearing all the time.
      In terms of the last line you wrote – I pretty much know how you feel based on today’s poem.

  2. On the stepping in thing, listen to your gut but take time to listen. Don’t be impulsive, and do make sure you take your child’s wishes into consideration. You can usually tell if they want your help beyond advice. (I’m offering this advice having learned from my mistakes; not because I think I am a parenting genius.)
    As far as my poem goes, rest assured I didn’t actually have murderous thoughts but came close enough to empathize. I didn’t even hate but that’s simply because I’m not inclined to hatred. It’s just that some emotions can’t be portrayed in pretty language, you know? 🙂

  3. What can I tell you that you dont already know, it hurts when your child is left out inthe cold but more so when they realize it. SY will be ok, Just be there for him when he needs you (which you guys are). I empathize with you guys greatly.

  4. It is hard when you can’t protect your kids from the hardship of, well, being kids. I worry about my boys and their social interactions too, especially Cody who is a little different from the other kids because of his CP. For the most part they have to find their own way and learn as they go and some of the hard knocks will just make them stronger. At least that is what I tell myself…

  5. You know, when I was a kid and my bestest friend all of a sudden found someone else to hang out with and play and I wasn’t her bestest friend anymore I was devastated.
    And then I got an excellent advice. One even I being a child could understand: “There are all kinds of people crossing your path in life. Some of them will go with you for only a limited part of the way. But some, and those are your real friends; they will walk by your side until the path ends…”
    Maybe this is the way a child will learn how it is in life – to meet friends – and lose them again… an eternal circle…

  6. I relate to every word. My anxiety about my kids’ social interactions is palpable. I imagine it’s because I have insecurities about my own social abilities. It’s so painful to get out of the way and let our kids learn and have painful experiences. I think you’re right – it’s more painful for us as parents. My kids seem to get through things just fine. Letting go today … Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Hi,
    I really enjoyed this posting. No, you cannot make it all right for SJ and it hurts. I have never had children, but I have a lot of godkids and every now and then I am faced with the same thing. One of my Godkid’s girlfriend changed her mind about marriage, after the engagement party. That hurt. He came turn to me for advice, and in such cases I can only listen and pray that he comes through it okay.
    When it comes to the external outside world of your children, there is nothing anyone can do, but pray and hope that the values, ethics, morals and whatever else you have taught and shown them have taken root.
    I like the way you and your wife are handling this.


  8. It’s so tough stepping back and letting our children go through these situations on their own. It helps them grow and it’s the best thing for them (most of the time), but it’s still so darn hard for us.

  9. Ugh. I feel for you. And SJ. And your wife. This post resonates with me. I used to think that holding a sick kiddo in my arms all night long, and watching her be sick, feverish and miserable was the worst… then we had our first encounter with “friend drama” and that’s when I thought, “No, this is the worst.” I’m sure there will be more instances of this before I’m done (as if you’re ever “done”). Hang in there!

  10. Sounds like my son. He’s immature, too, and has low muscle tone so doesn’t get involved in horseplay and isn’t athletic, which seems to be such a focus of camp and society. Camp has been tricky. We are on our 2nd camp this yr and next yr we will probably look for another one. But I’m learning there is only so much you can do as a parent. I’m looking to his strengths and interests to help him develop hobbies and foster self-esteem. Good luck – it’s never easy is it?

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