Lonely, Left Out Warthog

I dunno. I think he's pretty handsome. I know all the girls rush to ask me about him when I volunteer at school...

This has been a really fun week with my kids so far, and it’s Tuesday, so I think that’s saying quite a lot. Between sledding and Jake’s thoughtful Shel Silverstein library book selection, I’ve really been enjoying the best parts of being a mom. And yet… Jake said a few things that are weighing heavily on my heart and I’m not quite sure how to handle them. (Consider this a plea for parenting advice, and feel free to interject any ideas down in the comments.)

This story all started late last week, when the whole family was sitting around in the living room, loosely watching television and working on various projects. Ever so casually, Jake mentioned that his friend Luke was really curious why he [Jake] wasn’t invited to a mutual friend’s birthday party, when everyone else had been. His tone was very matter of fact, and though he nonchalantly threw this at me, I could catch what he was throwing. He did not even concede the slightest hint of disappointment in his statement. I focused my efforts on not reacting to his statement, hoping desperately in my mind that Jake’s Asperger’s tendencies would become useful and he would be immune to the potential slight. I returned an equally matter of fact banter. “And what did you tell him?”

Jake responded something very generic about not being able to read his friend’s mind, so “how should [he] know?”, and he quickly changed the subject. I decided to follow Jake’s lead and let the subject rest. Later, while tucking the boys into bed, I decided to crawl into bed next to him and cuddle him, just as I used to do when he was younger. I played with his hair and talked to him about all the reasons I love him. As we were getting really comfortable, I asked him if he was upset about not having been invited to the birthday party. He reluctantly admitted that it had hurt his feelings. And frankly, who could blame him?

I tried to reassure him that birthday parties these days are rather expensive, and I was quite sure his friend’s mother and father had probably set a specific limit to the amount of people that could be invited. I hypothesized with him that if his friend could have, he probably would’ve invited all of his friends, and maybe even the whole school! But… since that isn’t a very realistic idea, inviting a whole school, his friend probably had a really tough job trying to decide just who should go. And, very likely, his friend was probably just as bummed that he couldn’t invite Jake as Jake was not to receive an invitation.

Then, I reminded Jake that last year, when he had his birthday party, I would only allow him to invite one friend for each year of his life.  He could not invite everyone he would’ve liked, and when all was said and done, he was just as upset as his little friend Sam had been that he couldn’t have more people than he did. And Jake got a little teary when he remembered how upset Sam had been. And I thought it had really eased his mind.

So, fast forward to this week, Jake and I were sitting on the couch together again, working on our various projects. I could tell something was on his mind, so I asked him if he had heard how the party went. His response almost sounded angry. He told me that all he had heard was his friends cheering, about what sounded like an inside joke. I asked him very honestly if he felt left out, and he acknowledged that he did. My heart broke a little when he admitted that, but I felt like it would still be healthy to talk about. So, I continued to remind him that these things happen in life and he really needed to try not to take it personal.

And then, Jake dropped a bomb that felt like an anvil crushing my heart. He told me that he’s pretty sure that he was left out because of how he looks. He said that he thinks when people look at him, they think he looks weird. And when he looks at himself in the mirror, he only sees a warthog. I asked him why he would say such a thing, (did someone say this, or is this self-loathing a new hobby….) but I couldn’t really get a good answer. Nor could I think of a good answer to return.

Eventually, I ended up asking him if he thought I looked like a warthog. He decided that I was pretty, sort of. (In a mom kind of way, apparently.) I tried to convey to him that I thought he was very handsome, and people tell me all the time that he looks just like I do. I also told him that every time someone tells me that they can see our resemblance, I am flattered, because I love being associated with such a handsome little guy. And that’s the truth. I think he is very handsome, I definitely see the resemblance in our faces, and I feel blessed every time I look at him. But sadly, the resemblance does not end on a superficial level. I believe he has inherited his self doubt and self conscious thinking patterns from me. Though as I age I’m getting slightly more comfortable in my own skin, I too have always looked in the mirror and found more flaws than beauty. And I feel a sinking pit in the bottom of my stomach worrying that Jake has to waste any of his time feeling as terrible as I have over the years.

I know that rejection, learning to deal with rejection and self appreciation skills are part of life lessons that we all have to experience to grow into the amazing people we will become. And yet, I’m still at a loss for how to deal with this, other than smother him in adoration, which I fear may be counterproductive. I’d welcome any stories and thoughts anyone might have to share.



About Mindy

I am a mother of two boys, a disc golfer, a former derby girl, a sonographer and an aspiring writer. Sometimes words and events replay in my head endlessly until I let them out. I am verbose. I have lots to say all of the time. If there's something you'd like to know, you'd be better off asking.
This entry was posted in Ben, Birthdays, Jake, Life Lessons. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Lonely, Left Out Warthog

  1. Heather Brockman says:

    This broke my heart and brought up memories of getting pick on when I was a kid. I remember being called elephant nose for an about 2 years before I switched schools. I think what you’re doing by cuddling and telling him how much you love him is the best you can do. Unfortunately people are cruel and it’s hard to ignore it but it’s what works the best. Till this day I’m still a little socially awkward and I know there are people that talk about me behind my back but I chose to not listen. I just try to be the best me I can be including my oddities.

    • melcisum says:

      aww, Gixx. I swear sometimes we are birds of a feather. I sure do miss you. Thanks for the encouragement. Seriously, I love who you are. I’m sorry that you too have went through this, but I’m so thankful it’s somehow humbled and molded you into the amazing person that you are. I’m lucky to call you my friend.

  2. lisa says:

    This just happened to me the other day! A mutual friend at work asked if I was going to a birthday party for another co-worker’s husband. I replied that I didn’t know about it, but I was on call anyway. I think she was more upset about asking that I was with not being asked. Strange thing is I was chatting with the hostess yesterday and she said something about the party…and I was like, ah, what we were discussing was around that time….and I told her what had happened. Again, I think she felt worse trying to awkwardly explain that she didn’t think I knew her husband very well (valid point), but I’m not sure (nor do I really care ) how much better any of the other girls do either. I just told her not to worry, I was on call anyway. But then my mind started turning. I, too, struggle with never being “good enough.” I remember never really feeling like I fit in as long as I can remember. I still feel that way a lot of the time, even though I have fantastic friends, I’m always insecure with how I’m balancing, work, family, and friends…often feeling guilty that I don’t do any of them fair justice, except for work:(
    The bonus is that Jacob has caring, understanding parents. My father’s love is and always has been conditional. That makes the second-guessing and self-loathing tougher to get out of your head. I spend many years doing what I thought would please people-sometimes to extremes. I remember one time as a child I was told I had to clean up my plate (adult) if I wanted dessert in a restaurant. Well, I managed to…albeit I got sick afterwards…but that’s just an example of how far I would go to do what was expected. I remember crying after school and being “afraid” to go home because I missed my straight “A” average by half a % point and got a B+.
    I think the way you initially explained it to him was very honest and matter-of-fact, the way it should be. My mom tried the many different things…dissing the kids I wanted so badly to be friends with…nothing really productive. I don’t know how to handle the exclusion…I know whenever there are several kids playing here and the kids try to leave someone out they get a choice as to whether they want to ALL play together, or not play at all. I wish schools/teachers were more in tune with these things…I know there’s no such thing as a “perfect” life, but the emotional scars of childhood wound for life.
    My adult life has been a slow journey of building my self-esteem, and slowly becoming more comfortable in my skin. I still think the “not good enough” part rears it’s head at times…who else would keep going to school, putting themselves through the hell that I did when I already had a great career. One thing I DID do though, was refuse to give up on having a family and living my father’s dream for me to become a Dr. Also, my tatoos, motorcycle riding, rottweiler, and hair coloring are all to MY liking:-)
    Good luck w/ Jake, he’s such a handsome, smart, and sweet young man. I know I’ll have to deal with this sooner or later:(

  3. First of all, I wanted to thank you for subscribing to my blog about a month ago. I never got around to visiting your site until now, and this post caught my attention. I’m not a mother yet, but three things came to mind:

    1. I grew up with Shel Silverstein, so I think it’s great your boys have his poetic humor to fill their lives!
    2. I think Jake is very a very handsome young man. I think as he grows up, and gets more attention from girls, perhaps some of that self-conscienceness (did I spell that right?) will reside.
    3. I was picked on and isolated growing up, too. I had my friends, of course, but I dealt with bullying. I poured myself into writing, and that’s how I dealt with much of everything. Today, I’ve learned to embrace the things that make me quirky, and amazingly enough, that’s where I’ve found my success as a published writer and journalist.

    I don’t know if any of this helps, but you wrote this encounter with Jake so beautifully and it just broke my heart. I hope he works through everything OK.


    • melcisum says:

      You know, I often find myself thinking about how amazing Jake’s life will be when he’s finally out of this stage and his peer group transitions to that point in life where it’s actually cooler and preferred to be unique. Although he seems and feels quirky now, that will translate to unparalleled sometime, I’m sure. Things seem to be getting better. His teachers have been so amazing in helping us and he’s doing a better job of expressing himself. We’re also working really hard to get him to understand that sometimes, standing up for yourself is just a necessary thing to do, no matter how awkward it feels.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. You left me with kind and inspiring words. (And so I suppose that your similar experience, which encouraged your wordsmithing, has been a reward to the entire community.) I look forward to your posts!

  4. Nancy says:

    I have always had one thought about Jacob. When I looked at him I thought “Sunshine in his smiles and blue clouds in his eyes” as I got to know him it was certainly true. He has a smile that can ease your worries, and makes smiling back irresistible. And his eyes… bluer than most skies I’ve seen lately! I, too was picked on and called names. I don’t know many people who can’t say they weren’t at some point in life. I know he’ll take empathy away as a value. He’s lucky to have a mother who asks the right questions, but more importantly listens to everything. You understand even the things he has yet to put into words. Jake has a very handsome face and will only grow more handsome.

  5. Nancy says:

    **Sunshine in his smiles and blue skies in his eyes** (oops)

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