Sunday, May 29, 2016

Captain America in the 5th Grade

Yesterday at Zoe's class party, all the kids were outside playing games.  Zoe was among 4 kids playing "jump the line"  3 of those kids were boys.
Very athletic boys.

I was standing there, just in awe of her confidence, watching as she gave each jump her everything, running as hard and as fast as she could, jumping as high and as far as her legs would take her... in her dress shoes.

They played several rounds, her taking initiatve and using teamwork along with another kid to move the rope further away after each jump.

I'm just standing there like a goofball, all proud and excited about this amazing kid of mine, cheering all the kids on after they landed and rolled on the ground, making the long jumps.

And then, another classmate, a boy I had never met, wearing a long sleeve Captain America shirt, his hair slightly unkept, clearly not a part of the "athletic" group of kids, walks up to me and says "Hi."

"Hey!  Are you gonna jump?  You can join in.."

He's not shy with me, but looking over at the other boys (and Zoe), shakes his head matter-of-factly, and kinda laughs an insecure laugh "Me? A kid wearing a Captain America shirt?  Nah...."

I knew what he was saying, I knew what he meant.  These words were hidden under that one little sentence, under that nonchalant wave of his hand  "I'm not a cool kid... I'm not part of that crowd"

"What?!?!  Captain America is like, awesome!!!  Of course you can do these jumps.  He's like super strong... "

And this kid perked up.  "Ya!!!!  He is awesome!  Have you seen Winter Soldier..."  He keeps talking.
And he gets in line behind Zoe.

As he takes his first turn, (I'm now in charge of helping to move the rope back), I smile and give him a sideways glance, "But Captain America is NOT as cool as the Flash."

He takes another jump.  "Hawkeye could take the Flash any day."

"Not a CHANCE, no way."

And we continue our banter about which Avenger is better, and which DC Comic character could take on an Avenger...

I'm a nerd.  I know more than I should.

 "Iron Man isn't as awesome as Captain America.  Stark has to wear a suit to have powers. Captain America is genetically modified, he's strong without a suit."

We keep talking.

He's in line again, behind Zoe, for the second round, and someone else has taken over the rope moving.
I'm back to observing.

He's fired up, talking to Zoe, (who literally wrote a paper at school about the Flash being better than Quicksilver).  He asked her a question, and she didn't respond.  He asked again.

And my Zoe.  My girl who is so sweet, an incredible athlete, and whom I've observed being so compassionate toward her friends, shook her head and rolled her eyes, and she didn't even acknowledge that kid.

She took her jump.
And looked at me, waiting to hear me praise her.
I was NOT gleaming with pride.
I was standing there, mouth open, shocked and disappointed.

I mouthed "Zoe?"

She threw her hands up, and shook her head  "What?!"
She knew why I was staring her down.

She took her jump again.
We made eye contact.
My eyes were saying "Get-over-here-right-now"

Her shoulders dropped, and she walked over.
Before I could say a word, she defended her actions, and she whispered ".... He's weird, Mommy..."

I whisper-shouted my reply "But YOU'RE weird!"

"You love that kind of stuff... Consider your heart, Zoe.  Are you being kind?"

There she was.  Faced with a dilemma.
Be a part of the rest of the group; the jock boys that she was holding her own with, and who didn't speak a word to that sweet boy... or...

(I wonder what was in her heart.  Fear of her mama being disappointed?  Fear of a lecture?
Or did I somehow get through to her and allow her to see the err of her ways?)

She took her place back in line, the boy behind her, and she looked over her shoulder and smiled "I'd choose the Flash..."  
She jumped the line, and ran back, he jumped, and missed, and took his turn moving the rope.

And from the back, one of the boys that hadn't said a word to this boy piped in and said "Batman is better than any of them...."

I resumed my position of pride and joy in my Zoe girl, noting that, regardless of her reasons, Zoe chose to be kind.  She chose to honor her mama, and she did it with a positive attitude.

When the kids were done, the boy walked over to me, and with the sweetest and most emphatic tone,  said "Ms. Anderson, thank you!!! That was really fun!!"

"Awww.  You're WELCOME. You did so good, too!  Aren't you glad you joined in?"

"Ya.  That was fine... but I was saying thank you for talking to me...  It was really, really fun!!"

Time stood still.
I had to somehow swallow the lump in my throat and get words out of my mouth.

"You're a really cool kid!  I had a blast talking to you, too!"

This kid, in spite of his insecurities, walked up to a complete stranger, just to say hello.

Because of that, my life, and Zoe's life, are forever impacted.

How many times has this kid been rejected by his peers?  Other adults?
Yet he remains true to himself, true to his passions,  and, he is willing!

Willing to run full speed ahead, and jump this line with everything he has in him, knowing the other kids are faster and stronger, knowing they won't interact, or attempt to embrace him.    

As a grown woman of 35 years, I still find myself standing on the sidelines,  in my Captain America shirt, believing that I don't have what it takes to jump; fearful of rejection, unwilling to risk being hurt.  Too many times, I've been ignored, and have had eyes rolled by my "weirdness".

But what if, my jumping in, my willingness to face my fears, in spite of my insecurity, will have an impact on lives?

That little 10 year old boy has no clue that his interaction with me was so inspirational .
Will he ever know how valuable, how important he is?
And that makes me wonder; will I ever know my worth?

I may never get to see the impact of my interactions with others, but isn't it possible that they're still so important?

This kid walked away grateful that I talked to him...  ?
No, Captain America.
I'M grateful that YOU talked to me.