My twins, like most siblings, are as different as night and day. They are tremendously talented in so many ways both complementary and distinct. At these tween ages, ”Tom” is more athletic than his brother, while “Jerry” shows incredible talent for all things computer science.
This winter, the boys decided to play “town recreation basketball”, everyone makes a team, all teams even, etc…. The unfortunate side is that they were playing with older players this year. Jerry is, no joking, half the size of some of these boys. Basketball is not his sport, he did it to have fun? Fast forward through a season of constant yelling, eye rolling, etc… by his coach. He took it in stride and showed up week after week. One game, the coach was in a particularly bad mood. When Jerry missed a pass on the court (since he rarely touched the ball, I think he was in shock when the ball came his way), the coach turned to Tom and said “Why does your brother even play basketball?”
I saw the exchange from across the gym, but did not hear what the coach had said. Being a Mom, I can read my children’s body language from a mile away and whatever was going on over there was not sitting well with my son. He was bent over, wringing his hands and not looking up from the floor. As we walked to the car after the game, I asked Tom, what happened on the bench? He started to get upset and jumped in the car. As my husband drove out the driveway, he blurted out the coach’s comment. “I wanted to yell shut up, and punch him, he said.” I turned to look at my boys side by side in the back seat, Jerry with his mouth hanging open, said “Coach really said that?”
I decided to address Tom first, since my heart was too broken and my mind blank as to what to say to Jerry. I told Tom, that he had every right to defend his brother as long as he acted appropriately. I told him he has our permission to stand up to a bully at any time, but not by taking a swing or swearing or doing anything to make the situation worse.
As I turned my attention to Jerry and was about to launch into my adults behaving badly, etc….when he looked at his brother and with that incredibly humorous and creative little mind said, ”Tom you should have stood up and yelled out onto the court, hey Jerry, coach wants to know why you even play basketball at all?” At that point they both started to laugh hysterically, as did my husband and I. In no time Jerry had processed the ridiculous of the coach’s behavior and comment and for all appearances had not internalized his assessment. Jerry will tell you himself that he is not the best basketball player, but he has fun with his friends, and well it’s something to do. I think either of those is a good enough reason “to even be playing basketball”.