The church we attend does not have a youth group. This has never once bothered Stephen. Our older son is still active in the youth activities at our former church and we thought it would be “healthy” for Stephen to attend some of the youth functions with his brother. He has gone to Wednesday night student worship several times and seemed to tolerate it well. Over the summer the leadership is trying something new and more relaxed which turned into a complete disaster for Stephen.
The event was called Grill ‘n Chill. The kids were going to have burgers and hang out (I’m sure there was a worship time included in there.) After that the plan was to meet at the bowling alley at 8:00 for bowling. We have free bowling passes and shoes, so it wasn’t going to cost anything and it sounded like a great social opportunity, famous last words…Stephen wasn’t sure he wanted to go because he had been a bit grumpy earlier in the day, but I convinced him (interpret as STRONGLY encouraged him) to go and he left with his brother.
At the appointed time the boys headed to the bowling alley. They got there and found out that the bowling wasn’t to start until 9:00, so they had to wait for everyone to get there, unscheduled, unanticipated time to do nothing. At 9:00 they went in and found out that it was going to be $5 a person to bowl. This was not according to plan! So, it was decided that everyone would go to the Ice Cream shop. Stephen called to make sure the change in plans was okay with us and we consented—our boy was being socially involved and we were thrilled.
When everyone arrived at the ice cream shop one of the adults in the group handed out dollar off coupons for everyone to use. Brother used his coupon and paid only 8 cents for his treat. When Stephen stepped up to the register he was told they didn’t accept the coupons and had to pay full price—not only was it unexpected, but it was unfair, double whammy! I have no idea if anyone else was denied use of the coupon, but that was beside the point.
Stephen finished his dessert and was immediately ready to go. He started poking his brother and telling him he was ready to leave. Brother, who is very sociable and enjoys hanging out with friends, told him they would leave in a few minutes. The conflict continued and escalated until Stephen was yelling at his brother and anyone who tried to intercede to calm him down. Although I wasn’t there, I have been involved in these exchanges often enough that I can just imagine how all of it occurred.
When the boys got home Stephen wanted to talk to me. He told me about what had happened and that he felt bad about it. We broke down the events of the evening and I think I gained more insight into my son’s emotions than I had in a long time.
He told me he didn’t want to go to Grill ‘n Chill anymore because he isn’t any good at “Chilling.” When recounting these incidents Stephen usually portrays himself as speaking in a calm, firm tone which I know isn’t accurate based on the times I have witnessed it myself. I asked him about yelling at someone and he became visibly angry when he told me that as he was talking to Andrew other people were telling him to calm down. He gritted his teeth and said, “I can’t stand anyone getting into my business.”
It was a good discussion and Stephen decided on his own that he wanted to apologize to his brother before he went to bed that night. I suppose that is progress because he felt remorse and recognized what he needed to do.
There was also a lesson to be learned for us. We need to recognize our son’s strengths AND weaknesses and encourage him to participate in very organized activities with a HIGH expectation of success.
Live. Learn. Love.