Feed on

[Note, this was originally written nearly a month ago, right before our site went down and as beginning-of-year distractions were piling up.]

Our lives are often sorted, measured, or arranged by age groups. Market researchers, educators, marathon organizers, and camps all create somewhat arbitrary age groups by which they order and divide people from one another.

I just changed groups myself: Were I to enter a race, I’d now be in the 45-49 category. In fact, now would be a great time to get back into longer distances, as I’d probably do OK in my age group. Last year, however, it would have been harder. Those 41-42-year-olds who are still running marathons are fierce, disciplined, and can beat the pants off of many. Whereas I might be able to outlast a few nearly 50-year-olds if I really put my mind to it.

Unfortunately, Simon is at a distinct disadvantage these days in the age divide. Most soccer camps and programs have a clean break at 10, with the 10-and-ups playing together in one group and the under-10s in another. As a boy of 8 years and 10 months, being with under 10s should be fine. And if the under 10s are girls, it IS fine. But with boys? Unless they are a pretty select group, it’s not fine. Which puts me in my least favorite position: that of the parent insisting that her special snowflake requires special treatment.

Last summer, Simon had only a so-so time at the hyped and expensive University of Louisville soccer camp. The reason for this was that he was with other 7-year-olds, only one of which was as good or better than he was and several of whom weren’t that serious and/or were discipline problems. I should have insisted they bump him up.

This year, at Shakespeare Camp (about which more later), Simon was in with 18 7-to-10-year-olds. He liked the girls just fine. He found 1 or 2 of the older boys to be tolerable. The rest he complained about and avoided like the plague.

And today, at a Louisville City F.C. weekend soccer clinic, we showed up and learned the kids would be divided along familiar lines: 6-9-year-olds on one field, 10 and up on the other. His school friend Jacob was with him; his soccer friend Aidan was in the 10 and up group. We hoped for the best, but the report when we picked him up was as follows:

“I didn’t really like this camp. None of the kids except Jacob are very good. And a lot of the boys were mean. I’d put a little shoulder into them, and they’d get mad at me and be really mean. Or I’d score, and they’d say I was cheating. But I wasn’t cheating!”

After he told me this, I went and found one of the coaches, Illija Ilic, a 22-year-old Serbian player on The Louisville City team. Did he see any of this? No, he didn’t, but he was sorry it happened and he missed it. I explained that I know Simon doesn’t play rough, but maybe some of the boys aren’t used to any contact at all? Maybe he could explain that a lean was OK?

“No, that’s not it. They’re probably just mad because Simon is by far the best player in this group. He’d probably do better over there [gestures to the 10-and-up field].”

“Great,” I said, “Then let’s put him there tomorrow. He’d be thrilled to be with his friend Aidan anyway. Here’s the thing about Simon: He played U-10 ball when he was still 7. He’d rather be the youngest, least experienced player with the older boys than be the best, most experienced player with kids mostly younger than him. He likes the big pond and doesn’t mind being a little fish in it.”

So tomorrow Simon will join kids at least one year older than him, and I can guarantee that he’ll have a better time sports-wise and socially. But for it to happen, I’m going to have to be THAT MOM again the morning, the one explaining that her special snowflake can’t possibly be lumped with his peers.

Then next week Simon will begin the annual challenge of finding one boy in his class to be friends with. He’s solid with the girls: he’ll be in with Brooklyn, Aerin, and Bella, who are three of his best friends from school. But of the 37 boys in his cohort, he’s only found seven that he really gets on well with, and one of them moved to Washington state a year ago and the other six are in different classes than he is. I only need one, and there are some new boys I am optimistic about, but I can’t shake the feeling that if Simon were going into 4th grade this might be easier for him.

It’s hard to be a serious, introverted, competitive almost 9-year-old, and I don’t see the situation improving any time soon.

One Response to “Across the Not-So-Great Divide”

  1. blg says:

    Catching up with Simon, and wondering how the school year is going for him, socially?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.