Let's say I have a five year-old daughterabout to start kindergarten in the fall. She's whipsmart, hilarious, kind, and generally awesome. Let's add, though, that she's overly babyish, timid, prone to crying over the smallest stuff, and lagging behind her peers in basic coordination/athletic things. She doesn't run well. Even with training wheels, she's a nervous wreck on her bike, constantly braking because she's "going too fast" (even as the reality is, she could walk
faster.) She's prone to dramatically declarations of fear about pretty much everything. If you toss her even the softest Nerf ball, she'll cover her face and possibly shriek. Despite all of her finer points, her crying, her mewling, her uncoordination, and her babytalk are causing her peers to tease her. And as her parents, we want to help.
We want to help her get the sort of confidence and basic physicality that will help her tackle new challenges without tears and panic and play better with kids her own age. What are some things we could do with her to get to kind of--if you'll pardon me making up a word--de-infantilize?
Okay, now remember all of those ideas you just had for me, but here's one more thing:
I don't have a daughter. I have a son. And all of the above describes him.
posted by DirtyOldTown to Human Relations (83 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Why do this gender flip on you? Well, people get weird when I bring up these concerns because he's a boy. They assume what I must be talking about are matters of sexuality or gender. Conservative friends and family are quick to gay panic, urging me with maximum possible side eye to help him be "more masculine." Progressive friends chide me because they think I'm somehow trying to stomp on a special queer snowflake.
Some of this is probably fallout from our attempts to raise him as free from standard polarized kid gender baloney as we can manage. People assign too much import to "signs": he watches My Little Pony, he likes those Ty "Boo" stuffed animals, he plays a lot with girls, he likes to make cupcakes. Well, he likes ninjas, Doctor Who, race cars, and blues music, too. He contains multitudes, you know?
Labels are for canned food. I'm not troubled by the idea that my kid might not be a reg'lar ol' hetero-normative kid. We already love him like crazy. Who he chooses to be as he gets older isn't going to change that. But my gut says he's a standard hetero cis male little guy and people's fear of/advocacy for these issues are creating a lot of noise that is distracting from the real culprits: the issues he has as an only child, as well as the same kind of future nerd'/non-athletic issues and generic old sensitive/crier kid problems that his mom and I both had to varying levels.
(In any case, we're trying to make sure he's where he's supposed to be at developmentally and our approach for that would be the same no matter who he chose to be.)
And here's where I see him developmentally... He's way ahead in some things and way behind in others. He hasn't started kindergarten yet, but a specialist told us he reads and writes at a second grade level and has a vocabulary that is astounding. He speaks fluent Hungarian. He tells hilarious jokes, many of his own making. He radiates kindness and warmth in a way that most folks find irresistible. He's also stuck in a rut on a lot of things where physicality and confidence are concerned. He hates and responds extremely poorly to being challenged with anything that could be new or hard, whether it's a game, a sport, a task, or even a new food.
He has sort of found a comfortable little corner of cute little kidness and he's dug his heels in. This was fine for a while, but now he's falling behind other kids. I take him to the playground and kids his age blow him off because he can't do anything. He can't catch or throw or climb. He baby talks. He cries.
Maybe it's because he spends so much time with my mother-in-law, who tends to baby him and gush about what a sweet, adorable little angel he is. Maybe it's because I'm overweight and overly sedentary and I haven't been the mentor he needs for some of this stuff. Maybe it's because he's just a sensitive kid. Maybe it's because he's just never going to be the athletic type.
But I'd like to make sure that he's got enough self-assurance and basic physical ability that he could choose to do whatever he wants. I don't want him hemmed in to a tiny little corner of kid society when he starts school in the fall because he never learned to catch, or because he can be rendered into a bawling mess if you ask him to eat a different kind of potato.
So my question then (and I appreciate your patience for hanging in this long) is: what kinds of activities can we be doing, both to catch our kid up to basic levels of physicality for his age, and to address the baby-ish, nervous, terrified-of-anything-challenging sort of behavior that has him lagging behind in the first place? Extra points for thoughts on how I can do this without succumbing to a bunch of bogus and limiting ideas about gender/sexuality.