Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Agony Of A 9th Grade Boy

I have had a rash of calls over the last week from parents of 9th grade boys. It seems there is an epidemic of weekend lethargy, which includes social isolation, empty friend syndrome, and video game overdose. Here is my diagnosis. Being a 9th grade boy is the lowest of the low in low high school land. The loss of social status is huge. While 9th girls enjoy being the youngest, newest, and therefore "easiest" girls to conquest for the older guys, the 9th grade boys have become obsolete in the social hierarchy that is High School. They often are the shortest, not having experienced the eagerly awaited puberty fueled growth spurt. It can  feel like they are living in the land of the giants. Their acne may be in full bloom, further eroding  their confidence in the daily pageant of "who's cute", that all high schoolers experience, male or female. Furthermore, they have left a middle school where they were top dogs; perhaps they were the better athletes in their school/town sports team, or the lead in their school musical, or president of their school's student council.

So here they are in High School, a place they have dreamed and fantasized about for years, and SLAM, reality hits. Maybe they make one of the schools athletic teams, but being the youngest gets little play and they end up spending most of their time on the bench. Or if they are lucky enough to be a good athlete, they get play, and the upperclassmen are resentful because this young punk gets more play then they do, and these older guys feel free to show their resentment. It's a no-win situation.

And to add insult to injury, they may be losing all their best buddies. Ninth grade year is a year of so many changes and transitions, including friends. Some kids are more ready, interested and confident enough to jump into the water, no matter how cold it is. They are ready to party, find girls, and hang with the big guys, leaving their old friends in their wake. The guys that were their steady Saturday night dates, video games at some one's house, are nowhere to be found.

The bad news is that this year will feel like the longest year for you as the parent. You are at the same time feeling heartbroken for your son, seeing him mope about aimlessly, at odds with himself, and also beyond frustrated wondering "what the hell is wrong with you, get off that damn couch and do something!"

So here it is in a nutshell. They don't know what to do!. The rules have changed and they don't have the rulebook. So when your son walks in from school everyday, and gives you a sneer and a grunt, asking him what's wrong at that point will probably garner a scream of "NOTHING". Don't be offended, just park away that a million things are wrong, things that got stuffed down all day at school, things he may not even be consciously aware of, a stare from an older student, a fumble on the field, an embarrassing wrong answer in math and the list goes on. And when the weekend comes, cozying up in his room and his safe haven of home feels like about as much as he can muster. Saying things like" why don't you call a friend? or why don't you invite someone over? only reinforces for him that he is a loser, because maybe  that "friend" he would have called is now off with a bunch of new friends, partying in the park, and this is something he is not ready for or interested in doing...thank god.

The good news is, this too shall pass. This is a moment in time, and as he gains confidence, height and clear skin he will begin to join the human race again. He will find new things he feels excited about, and new people to hang with. And for the time being, cause it won't last long, just enjoy his company. My prescription: Make a big bowl of popcorn, settle onto the couch and watch a movie!

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