Friday, May 19, 2017
Healing with teens
**Disclaimer/warning: This is one of those personal blog posts that may make some people uncomfortable with the subject matter, or with knowing too much about me.......
This is something I have discussed several times in different blog posts, but for the sake of the rest of the blog post, I need to discuss it a bit more: I was picked on and bullied a lot in school, mostly junior high through 10th grade. I attended a Christian school, and almost every boy in junior high and high school had their times of making my life miserable. My lack of interest and ability in sports made it worse, and I am convinced that a lot of what went on helped form, or at least helped to make worse, the same-sex attractions I began experiencing at that age. I also became afraid of teenage boys. When I was at a camp or somewhere where there were other Christian boys who treated me nice and talked to me, I'd freeze up and not know how to act..... it was like a shy boy being around girls for the first time, only in my case boys were different from me and I was scared to death to be around them.
This fear stayed with me for years. I was scared to work around or be around other guys that were adults, but teenage boys were the worst. I had a delivery job for a couple of years, and I had to deliver to schools occasionally..... and as ridiculous as it sounds, that was a big deal for me to walk into schools that had junior high and high school boys. Everything would come rushing back, and I had the fear of being made fun of and bullied as an adult by teenage boys.
As the years went by, it lessened some and wasn't something I thought about a lot. I had a lot of teens around church who seemed to be OK with me, and I would only feel uncomfortable and leery of boys I didn't know or felt inferior to...... but it was always there beneath the surface.
And then this past week-end happened. I went to spend Saturday night through Sunday afternoon at a church camp in PA that I went to a lot as a kid, and hadn't been to for 24 years or so. My sister and her family were singing there and I decided to surprise them.... which I was successful in doing.
After being hugged by my nephews, I headed for the bathroom. Derek, the 17 year old son of my cousin was exiting the bathroom. He smiled and said "Hi, Mark." I replied "hi.... Derek, right?" He said yes, and that it was good to see me. I had only met this kid once, 5 years ago. He, his older brother, and his dad (my cousin) had come to my parents' to trim a tree for them..... the tree that later fell on the house in a storm. It made me feel good that he remembered me.
As I ate supper, my sister pointed out and introduced me to 4 of Derek's siblings I had never met..... his parents had adopted 4 kids, all siblings, 9 years ago and I met them for the first time as I ate supper in the camp's dining hall., Kyle, Kaylee, and 2 younger girls whose names escape me.
After supper as I walked past the screened windows where kids were washing dishes to pay for their stay, 13 year old Kyle said hi through the screen, then turned to the other kids and said "that's my cousin Mark, who I just met." I smiled and said I'd see him later.
Before the evening service. I walked up to use the bathroom and found it overrun by pre-teen and teenage boys. There are two showers, enclosed with two wooden doors with a about a foot opening beneath, and a lot of room to change clothes inside. "hey Uncle Mark, Derek wants to hear one of your jokes", my oldest nephew said. Derek was changing in the one shower, and the other was occupied by my youngest nephew. I laughed and said I'd try to think of one. I leaned against the sink and chatted with these guys and finally came up with a couple. My "new" cousin Kyle was doubled over laughing, and instantly became my biggest joke fan, but I got several laughs. I exited the bathroom and headed for my room, only to be chased down by Kyle and an older boy I didn't know. "He has something to tell you." That something was a joke, though a corny one. I groaned and laughed, and went to my room.
Throughout the evening and the next day, these kids would come up wanting a joke, some would stop and chat with me, one hit me lightly on the shoulder in passing and said hi. After I ate my last meal of camp, lunch, on a whim I went behind the counter, grabbed a dry dish towel, and started drying dishes as they were pulled out of the rinse bin. The kids were surprised, but immediately started joking with me, asking for jokes, and telling me jokes. It was a lot more fun than back when I used to do it as a teen.
I said my good-byes after the afternoon service, and headed for home. As I drove, the thought hit me......those kids actually seemed to like me, and I felt completely comfortable with them. I had no fears of them making fun of me or bullying me....... and sure, I have matured a lot and am a lot older now, but that was a fear I never thought I'd lose...... and I am not sure when and where it left, but it seemed to have given up its last vestige of power over me on the grounds of a camp ground where it used to flourish.