Saturday, October 07, 2006

Scorned As the One Who Ran

There is a fine line between cowardice and good sense, depending upon who is doing the judging. When we are younger our mannerisms are being molded by different stimuli around us, namely our peers and our parents. I think that parental actions, or non-actions, help to shape the people we become more than any other influential factor. However, some spur- of- the-moment decisions that youngsters make in certain situations will serve to cement , in their peers' minds, the type of person that youngster is, and may leave him stamped for a very long time with the label that his friends put on him. Here's an example of what I mean.

When I was in fifth grade there was a creek that ran through the playground at the end of the baseball field. Across the creek was a hill with a wooded area, then farther up the hill was an old house. The woods were off-limits, although I don't remember any of the teachers saying much if we went just across the creek and didn't go very deep into the woods. The house, however, was well beyond school property limits and everyone knew not to go that far. One day the two leaders, a.k.a. bullies, of the class decided to take a trip to that forbidden house and recruited all the boys in class to go with them except for myself and one other boy. They all went to the house, broke in and vandalized a lot of the property inside. The sheriff was called in and all the boys' parents were called and told what had happened and that their boys were in a heap of trouble. Since I had chosen not to participate I was branded a coward from that day on. It wasn't as if the kids came up to me and called me that, but in their ten year old minds an impression of me had been tattooed so that when they saw me they instinctively knew that I was no longer part of their group, and treated me differently. Even though I didn't realize it at the time, or even later, that incident would raise self-doubts in me that would take years to overcome, and may even be minutely responsible for my ongoing panic situations.

As a parent I've tried to encourage my kids to make the right decisions, not the ones that will make them popular. It's sometimes like walking a tightrope, to help them do the right thing and at the same time trying to nurture inner strength in them to avoid some of the pitfalls I've happened into. So far I think I've done a decent job, but my youngest son is reminding me a lot of myself at his age and I hope I have the resolve to help steer him toward a path of self-assurance and not being swayed by the taunts of others.


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