I vividly recall a conversation Tim and I had before we had children.  It was during a road trip where we had time to conjure up names for our list.  We talked about issues we might face (we had no clue!).  The inevitable question arose, “What if our kids is the last to get picked in gym class?”

It’s weird…but isn’t easy to remember what that feeling was like in when you were a kid?  I hated picking teams in gym class.  It was like the most obvious sign of being popular or NOT.  I most certainly had that feeling of being a ‘LOSER!’

I was in fifth grade.  My parents had just gotten divorced.  My mother moved across town which required my brother and I to transfer to a new school.  I spent more time in the nurse’s office that year than I probably did in class.  I was not welcomed into the student body with a great deal of warmth.

Polo (aka Ralph Lauren) shirts were the rage.  Preppy was in.  And, money was tight!  Luckily, Marshall’s, a discount store, had just opened up nearby which stocked out-of-season or slightly irregular Polo attire.  I was thrilled…well, at least until I went to school.

I walked into my fifth grade class feeling very cool with my bright pink shirtdress with citrus green Polo.  I figured I might just fit in.  I put down my folder when from behind came a classmate (she will remain unnamed) pulled the back of the collar down to see that horrid and obvious sign that this Polo dress was, in fact, from Marshall’s.  For some reason, all of the Ralph Lauren attire sold had a cut down the center of the tag.  She knew instantly that it wasn’t a ‘real’ Polo shirt, and exclaimed such absurdity quite loudly.  My hope of fitting in instantly diminished.  Off to the nurse’s office…I was starting to feel sick again.  Fifth grade was a retched year.

Fast forward to Tuesday night.  Briggs and I were at the kitchen table studying for a math test.  I gave him some sample problems to complete.  <Sidenote:  My level of math is coming to a quick close.  It is shocking what he is already learning.  He is about to figure out that his mother is numerically-challenged!>

He instantly became agitated. Pushed the paper away and proceeded to his room in a fury that I was giving him ‘extra work.’  But as he was ascending the stairs he blurted out, “AND I DIDN’T EVEN GET PICKED TO BE ON A DODGEBALL TEAM!”

Clearly math was not the underlying cause for his anger and frustration.

I let him stay in his room for about twenty minutes without addressing the issue.  I do have three other obnoxious kids and a traveling husband.  Besides that, I suddenly had flashbacks to the aforementioned road trip and fifth grade horror.

It probably isn’t a big secret that I am not the most soft-hearted or sympathetic mother.

Once I played twenty-questions with Briggs, I got out this much.  There is a dodgeball tournament coming up at the middle school.  He did NOT get picked for a team.  All of his friends were already on teams.  NO ONE else was left in the ENTIRE student body that was not already on a team.  In fact, he was the ONLY one not playing in the tournament.  And, NO WAY was he going to be playing on a team with ALL GIRLS!

I told him in two years he will probably wished he picked the team with all girls.  He didn’t think I was very funny.

My heart hurt for him though.  My brain was certainly trying to figure out a way I could fix it for him but…my fifth grade loser experience contributed significantly to me being who I am today.  I hate to say it…but I think everyone needs to feel like a loser in their life.

Being faced with this dodgeball challenge can only enhance his resiliency, independence and confidence knowing that Briggs has a cheerleader behind him that loves him unconditionally.  And, to be honest, my kids lead a life of luxury.  We live in a beautiful area.  They have clean beds and clean clothes. They have plenty to eat.  They are enriched with activities and sports.  I often worry what it is that is going to build their characters.

So my hard and pointed advice to Briggs was this…

“Well you can certainly lie in your bed and feel sorry for yourself that you don’t have a dodgeball team.  That is pretty easy.  Or you can take some initiative, walk into school tomorrow, find some other kids that haven’t found a team, and build your own.  Be a leader.  Build a team with girls and boys.  You know…girls can be pretty good at dodgeball.  Or how about this…you can talk to your friends currently on a team and tell them you want to play.  Explain to them that you are willing to be a substitute.  Make something happen for yourself because no one else is going to.  I want to know what you did about it after school tomorrow.  I love you.  Good night!”

He came home with the parental consent to be in the dodgeball tournament.  Just like they say in the Dodgeball movie (which is hilarious, by the way), IF YOU CAN DODGE A WRENCH YOU CAN DODGE A BALL.  I think Briggs dodged a wrench.  He should be ready to dodge a ball with ease.

5 Responses to “dodgeball”

  1. Jennifer Siouville Says:

    I loved reading your blog post today. It spoke to me in so many ways and reminded of those days of polo shirts, trying to fit in, being picked last for gym class. Those memories are etched in our brains. But as you so eloquently pointed out they are etched in our brains so that we may help our children through the same rites of passage. It is painful to watch them have to endure some of those same memories but it is also a way for them to see us as human and make them feel like they are not alone. I love the advice you gave to Briggs and I love the advice if you can dodge a wrench you can dodge a ball. Good advice for us all! Thanks
    Jennifer(Schneck) Siouville

  2. Betsy Roeder Says:

    You are a great mom! You remind me of another great mom I knew! I’m glad it worked out for Briggs. I dread those times ahead. I will have to put your talk with Briggs in my memory bank.

  3. Colleen M Says:

    Trying to think of who your unnamed 5th grade colleague was!! So funny, because in my eyes you were always the ultimate nonloser- beautiful, funny, cheerleader, etc!

  4. Susan Sedita-Parker Says:

    I remember that wretched year well. I missed you terribly and wanted desperately to have my best friend back. What an amazing woman and mother you have turned out to be. Your advice to Briggs was spot on. He will thank you for it someday. Probably at his acceptance speech into the Dodgeball Hall of Fame!!!

    ps-next time we talk I’m gonna guess who that girl was!

  5. Molly Says:

    Oh, you can bet we’ll be talking about this over the weekend! Of course, I’m pretty sure I already know the answer. Great post.

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