Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Every Child's Nightmare: A True and Tragic Tale

Nothing is more tragic than to find out that someone despises you. OK, there are many things more tragic than that but I've gotten very used to communicating primarily through sarcasm and hyperbole over the years so you just have to work with me.

There is a 10 year old who hates me and it is sending me into a severe emotional meltdown. I should have know this would have happened based on my history with children. Let me explain . . .

6 years ago I was a young freshmen full of ambitious goals to change the world starting with my community; so naturally my roommate and I signed up to be in one of those Big Brother/Big Sister mentor programs through the local YWCA. It sounded like a great idea at the time. And then came Joe (name has been changed . . . probably. I can't remember it now). Joe was 10 years old and excited, so I was told, to participate in this program and have his very own big buddy to rear him in the ways of life. Joe and I hung out, we went to a baseball game, played soccer, participated in some kind of arts and crafts class, etc. After about a month of noticing that Joe never seemed particularly excited to hang out, and in contrast to my roommate's experience with his little buddy which ended up looking like the model mentoring example with their matching baseball caps and dozens of inside jokes which always ended in a high five, Joe suddenly stopped returning my phone calls. Eventually I was assigned a new child when my friend who supervised the program told me in the nicest way possible that Joe was not interested in participating in the program anymore.

One month later the exact same thing happened with the new child who seemed even less enthused to spend time with me. I was stood up multiple times and finally this child stopped returning my phone calls as well. When I spoke to the YWCA, they informed me that this child wasn't really interested in continuing in the program either. When I asked if they were going to assign me a new child, I was told "um . . . well . . . we have many other service opportunities you could participate in." And thus ended my YWCA big buddy extravaganza.

Fast forward to 2008. The law school has a 5th grade mentoring program where each participant is assigned a 5th grade child to do homework with and play with once a week. I, completely forgetting that children have historically despised me, thought this would be a fantastic opportunity for me to give back (I'll spare you the discussion on how cliche "give back" sounds). It's been two weeks and this kid seems not only to be disinterested, but I believe he vehemently hates me. He won't make eye contact with me; when I say "goodbye" to him he rolls his eyes and looks away; and I can't get more than one-word answers out of him regardless of the amazing though provoking questions I ask. Of course this all looks great among all the other mentors who already have secret handshakes with each of their kids who practically sob their eyes out each week when it's time to go.

Well maybe he's just a disturbed child who doesn't really get along with anyone and you can really help him; right? Wrong. And here's the evidence to the contrary:

1. The teachers filled out evaluations of each of the kids so mentors would be aware of potential problems. This teacher wrote about my kid that he is the "brightest" in the class, "easy to work with," "friendly," "outgoing," and lastly "an absolute joy to have around!!!"

2. Yesterday, after he told me he was bored, we found the ping pong room in the law building where other children were playing with their mentors. He immediately joined the game and became the life of the party, even interacting with the other mentors.

Maybe I'm over analyzing this; but seriously, there is something wrong here. It seems that children are either terrified of me, bored with me, or just outright despise me. I somehow think this may all be linked to this picture my parents have of Micalyne and I when we were 2 and 4, respectively, where I had taken Micalyne's blanky, whose name is "Fluffy" (notice I say "is" in order to signify that she's still attached to this thing despite being 22 years old and married) away to which she was obviously throwing a tantrum. I can't really explain why but I'm pretty sure it's all connected.

I've always thought that these types of programs were an opportunity for adults to show a good example to children and really help them develop necessary social skills. It seems, however, that isn't really working in this situation, which makes me wonder if maybe I need a child to mentor me so I'm not such a terrible bore with children. If anyone is aware of such a program, please contact me ASAP; I've got my next meeting with this kid in a week and a half and I don't think I can handle rejection again.

It Just Gets Stranger~


  1. Haha! E I am soo sorry! You don't act like he's dumb do you? I want to see that pic of you and Micalyne! By the way I'm still not on your friends dare you???

  2. Hmmm...I'm pretty sure you are not boring. I just don't think a 10 year old is ready for your level of sarcasm and hyperbole. Your comedic genius is lost on them.

    Good luck next week. I hope things go better with the kid.

  3. Yah, right really hate you. Stop on by some evening and you'll get your ego fix to the contrary. :-)

  4. That's so sad! I knew that you did Big Brother/Big Sister when you got off your mission, but I guess I never heard the tragic end.

    I can relate though - I'm either hit or miss with kids. Either they think I'm incredibly entertaining or look at me through cold death-like eyes.

    I think you're brave for trying again. Me...I just take it as a sign that I'm not supposed to have kids.

  5. Just don't try too hard. Kids seem to see right through that. Relax and enjoy the experience. Oh, and I agree that the sarcasm has to go. (Just around the kid) You'll do fine. I baby-sat for most of my spare time when I was younger and I have found that the key is to come prepared with about 10 different options of things to do and then let the kid choose one. He is bound to find something that you can enjoy together.

  6. Eli, don't worry - my OWN kids (my very own flesh and blood) pinch and bite me all the time! And you know that they love NUELI! So, maybe we could pass Kaylee off as a 5th grader and she could be your student to mentor. Actually if you want, I could bring them all up to you. However, if I do that, I'll need to bring them up at 6 A.M. and they'll probably need to spend a couple nights.........but I'm sure that wouldn't be an issue.
    Just remember, its not you with the problem, its them! J/K

  7. Wow, what do you do to those poor kids?? Kidding... I can't imagine you not being good with kids, and I agree with Diana-- everything I've heard about your interaction with her kids has been really positive. And, even though your nephew tried to gnaw your foot off, I'm pretty sure he loves you too. I admire you for taking the time to "give back" :) That bratty little kid doesn't know what he's missing.

    Good luck!

  8. Thanks Kalli. I never take my nephew's interactions with me personally; I've always just accepted that he is the cutest child with the blackest soul in existence. If you don't believe me, you should see the pure evil in his grin after he pretends he wants to give you a hug but it ends up being a ploy to sink his toddler teeth deep into your neck. And somehow I still miss that kid all the time.

    Also, Krisanda, I would love to have Kaylee as my fifth grader. She's one of the few children I've ever clicked with. Diana, your kids probably make up the rest of that small group. They really are my ego boosters.

  9. Eli! I think you are right that your problem with children dates back to that photo. I wonder how Micalyne's husband Andy feels about sleeping with Silky everytnight with fuzzy right by Micalyne's nose. She is strange! I definitely don't think its your fault these kids don't like you. The neices and Jace LOVE you!

  10. Eli -- take the kid a bag of candy every time you see him. That's the only sure-fire way to his heart. Just make sure it's better candy than any of the other volunteers are giving to their kids. Also, let him drive your car around the parking lot a few times -- kids love to drive -- and if he wrecks it, don't let him see how mad you are. And, in addition to practicing with Kaylee, you can also take Claire and Sid for a day or two -- I know they're dogs, but they're kind of like kids and they have that unconditional love thing. It could really help boost your confidence! Just let me know when I should drop them off.