January 18, 2010

6 year old living with a burden…

By andrewiverson

Military Costume

For the past couple years, Kyle would sneak off to his bedroom, the bathroom or our bedroom and put on a costume over his clothes.  These costumes that he puts on have foam implanted in the chest and arms to make it look like he has muscles and is larger than he really is.  Here’s the catch, Kyle would do this in private and hope that no one walked in on him while he was doing it or saw him doing it.  If we walked in accidentally,  Kyle would come unglued and start yelling for us to get out.  He would visibly be embarrassed and ashamed whenever we would do this.  It has gotten to the point where it’s just the same ol’ song and we have to get to the bottom of why he’s doing this…

Today, Kyle disappeared for about 10 minutes and I was asking Tyler where Kyle was at.   Tyler led me to our bedroom where I noticed Kyle popping his head up over our bed.  As I walked in to ask him why he’s in our bedroom he begins to yell and scream for me to get out.  As I walk around the bed I notice he had put on his costume and was huddled up trying to hide the fact of what he has done.

This time I didn’t turn around and walk out but instead walked over in the midst of yelling and screaming and picked him up and carried him to the kitchen.  I sat him down on a chair and Suriana and I pulled up a couple of chairs and well… This is what I believe was a breakthrough in our communication and relationship with our son.  I would say more so between Kyle and I than Suriana.

Here’s the story…

I kept asking Kyle why he would scream and cry when we caught him trying on his costume or after he had put it on.  His response is…

I will only talk to mom but I won’t tell you.

After a few more tries to get Kyle to speak to me about this, he finally said..

It’s a secret.  It’s my secret forever.

At this point, I’ll admit I had several things going through my head is to why he was doing this.  Good and bad thoughts.  I wasn’t sure which angle to take this…   I finally asked him if I could guess what his secret is would he tell me.  Kyle said “Yes”.   My instincts were telling me that he was putting these costumes on because he was insecure about his size and pretty much himself in general.  So, I decided that’s the direction I’ll take…

So I asked Kyle…

Kyle, are you wearing the costumes and embarrassed because you’re trying to make yourself look bigger, more muscles or taller?

Suddenly, Kyle put his head down and started bawling.  Not just your typical cry but a very deep broken cry.   So, I walked over to him and picked him up and held him while he cried and we both walked to my bedroom so we could talk in private.   We laid down on the bed and I began to ask more questions….

Why do you feel this way?  Did something happen to make you feel like you have to put on costumes to be someone else?

Kyle replied…

Kids at school make fun of me.  They call me ‘tiny baby’.  There’s a boy that always calls me ‘tiny baby’ in front of the kids at school and they all laugh at me.

It’s heartbreaking when a 6 year old is already having to deal with bullies and self-confidence.  They should be out living life, experiencing life but yet at 6 he’s burdened with thinking he’s small, insignificant and weak.  It’s not fair but it’s life and hopefully I’m able to push him through this.

Kyle is a very sensitive and emotional child.  He doesn’t have a wild imagination or a quick sense of humor.  He’s very black and white, literal and realistic.  Takes everything at face value.  These qualities are brilliant but if not helped along could really hurt him in his younger years.  Kids naturally can be mean and with his personality he could always be the blunt of jokes or comments and he won’t laugh and take it light heartedly but he’ll take it deep to the heart and hold on.

I said to Kyle…

Kyle, there will always be certain kids as you grow up that will make fun of other people or say hurtful things.  These kids don’t know how to make friends and they think the best way to make everyone like them is to make fun of others for a quick laugh and it makes them feel good even though it hurts others.

So, if I said to you right now that Tyler (kyle’s brother) has a carrot nose would you think that’s funny?

Kyle started laughing and said “Yes!”..

Were you just laughing at Tyler or the words that I just said?

Kyle said…

I was laughing at the words “Carrot Nose” because it was funny…

I said…

So you weren’t actually laughing at Tyler but the words I said?  Right?  You realize that when people laugh at things that people say that are mean, they aren’t actually laughing at you but what the person is saying.  If I said that Tyler is a small goblin, I bet you would laugh….

Kyle started laughing again and nodded his head that it was funny…

Kyle looked at me and a big smile grew on his face and said that he understands and feels much better.  I tried to explain to him that when I was 6 years old I’m sure there were plenty of times that I wish I had someone to talk too.  I didn’t though.  I’m not sure I talked to Papa (kyle’s grandpa, my dad) when I was little when things went wrong.  Looking back I wish I had because I think it would have helped me avoid some things in my life if I had.

I asked Kyle if he felt better now that we have talked and that he knows he can talk to me…   He had a big smile and said yes with a convincing hug.

It felt good to know that we broke this distress / burden off of him.  He may still get made fun of or ridiculed at school but Kyle now knows he has the freedom to talk to me when it does.  There’s a freedom in what happened today for Kyle.  A freedom of knowing he can communicate with his dad.  I can’t imagine if this had never happened and he continued on holding his distress and the burden within and let it corrode his soul and confidence.  To know there are kids out there going through this and they never break it but carry it even into their 20’s, 30’s and even further.

I just thank God that he gave me wisdom today to handle this.  I had no clue what I was doing but I’ll do anything to make sure my boys are capable of living free to communicate and express their feelings.  Trust me, I know what holding feelings and not communicating can do to you…  In hindsight, so many things could have been different but as the saying goes…  You live and learn.