Big Guy and the way-too-tall basketball hoop
Once at the asphalt, though, Big Guy froze under the shadow of the hulking hoop. He'd forgotten that the one at the playground was so tall that it would take three Big Guys stacked on top of each other to reach the rim. He hadn't remembered that his basketball was regulation size rather than the first-grader friendly ones at school.
Face to face with the massive beasts, it all came rushing back to him. As a result, Big Guy did what he often does when he's overwhelmed: He refused to budge. He plopped down at a picnic table, and no amount of talking could coax him off it.
A peer couldn't convince him. "Come on and help me!" Best Friend panted. "B's good. I can't do it alone."
I couldn't convince him. "You made lots of baskets at the gym the other night."
"That was with a smaller ball," Big Guy said.
"You can shoot overhand. We don't mind," Best Friend offered.
That one might have made it worse. It was bad enough that he couldn't do something his friends could do with ease. Now he was being offered an ego-battering concession.
So he sat while B and Best Friend played. I sat beside him, gazing out across the desert, avoiding eye contact. It would never do for his friends to know he was getting a pep talk.
"Remember when you were learning to ride your bike? You fell off plenty of times, but you finally learned."
"I can't learn this."
"Remember when you first got your scooter? You said you'd never learn that, either, but you did."
"That was different."
The only difference was that he had learned to ride his bike and his scooter in relative privacy. Boots and I were the only ones around to see the crashes. In this situation, his inability would have been on public display. It's the same reason he balks when it comes time to write: He knows his penmanship is bad because he sees his friends' neatly pencil papers at school. But if he doesn't try, he has a reason for being bad.
I've certainly given him ample opportunity to see my incompetence on public display, though I did slip up by making contact six times with the bat Saturday while we were playing baseball. I think that was five more hits than I'd managed all through grade school.
I still stink at bowling. We haven't been in a while, though, so maybe Big Guy needs a refresher course in "it's OK to be bad, even when people are watching."
And maybe that won't even help. It took me until my 30s to be OK with public embarrassment. Why should I expect Big Guy to be able to handle it at age 6?
Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.