I’m hurting for Jaben today. He’s losing his best friend.
Let me back up a bit. Jaben is a busy kid… he’s always got some activity or other going on, all summer he was gone at various friends’ houses during the day (and at least one night a week) because I work – and couldn’t see the point in paying for daycare for an 11 yr old. Just didn’t seem worth it. So, he spent lots of time this summer away from home and didn’t see his best friend, J, very often. None of this was avoidable, and none of it was Jabe’s fault. It’s just life.
Naturally, J found other kids to hang out with while Jaben was off doing his summer things. And gradually, as the summer wore on, J was available less and less when Jaben would call; he was turning down sleepover invitations, and generally just not around. I can’t very well blame him, he certainly couldn’t be expected to sit around at home alone waiting for Jaben to be available to him, and he needed friends and things to do.
Then school started again. For the first week or 2, things seemed fine. Jaben has been walking to school with J, but J no longer came home with Jaben after. Last year you could count on J always being there after school and, more often than not, staying for dinner. This year, he doesn’t even walk home with Jaben half the time. One day last week my mother went to pick Jaben up and saw J running away from the school with another boy. When she asked Jabe where J was, he said he’d gone to the back of the school to meet someone. Later, when they passed J and this other boy and Jaben yelled to J out the car window, the other boy yelled back, “Shut up, he doesn’t like you.”
Ouch. Jaben says J wouldn’t talk about him like that, wouldn’t do that to him. But I have my doubts. From the little bits I’ve seen of J in the past few months, I believe he’s changed. He’s not the sweet, loyal kid he was. He, understandably, wants to fit in, and unfortunately doesn’t have the strength of character (that I thought he had) to defy the other kids and stay friends with the one who’s not around so much. Jabe doesn’t hang around with the other kids in the neighborhood – he’s not home often enough and he’s not interested in the things they are (girls, defying authority) so he just doesn’t fit. No big deal to him because he always had J. But now…?
Jaben is having a hard time with this even tho he won’t talk to me about it. I feel a little sick for him today because he left for school 15 mins early. He said he was just ready to go, but I also know that the other boy meets J in the mornings now, and if Jaben doesn’t get there first, they simply leave without him. Seems like Jaben should forget it and move on, but he’s just not willing to let his friend go. He doesn’t get it that he can do better than someone who would treat him like that, that he’s got other friends who care about him and really wouldn’t blow him off… but he wants someone close by.
It’s really hard to watch. Jaben is so very smart, he’s got such a big heart, but he’s socially awkward and he honestly believes the best of people. He’s got very little common sense and he doesn’t read people well (he’s inherited these things from his mother – poor kid) and because of this, he’s going to get hurt quite a few times before he learns. And there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t shield him from the bumps and bullies of adolescence, I can’t change it. All I can do is ride it out with him.
Fortunately, most of this will be over soon. Once we move, Jaben will be riding the bus to school and he will no longer be living in that awful neighborhood. I know I can’t protect him forever, but I feel like removing him from the situation is what’s best for him at this time. He’s not prepared yet. He’s immature for his age and, as long as he doesn’t get hurt, that’s fine for now. He needs to mature at his own pace and not be “into” girls or anything else until HE’s ready… and not pretend to be in order to impress his “friends.”
I know there are kids in the new neighborhood that are okay to hang out with. We’ve got family friends right up the street, and while they’re not home much more than we are, I know their son at least is a real friend to Jabe. And that’s important, even if they don’t see each other much at all. Also, when we were working at the house this weekend, we hadn’t been there 10 mins when a boy from Jabe’s class rode up on his bike to see him and took Jaben around quick to introduce him to a few friends. That just made me happy. He may not end up with a ton of friends, and maybe running from an increasingly bad situation isn’t always the answer, but in this case, I really think things will be better all around – but particularly for Jaben – once we’re gone.
Still and all… adolescence sucks.