In the second grade, everybody was signing up for t-ball and they all eventually moved on to Little League or whatever (I think there's a league between t-ball and Little League). I'm talking about baseball here.
But literally everybody in my grade except me and two other kids signed up for t-ball and, later, Little League. I had no interest.
This brings me to another point. Do you suppose that there were other kids who weren't interested in playing baseball? Yeah, probably. But I suspect that they had supportive parents who pushed them into it.
Now, I'm not an athlete. Even with the greatest support structure in the world, I never would have made it to the Major Leagues. But two issues arise:
1. It may have been good for socialisation. You go out, play with the other kids, talk to them, hang out, whatever.
2. If I didn't look like I'd turn out to be an athlete, my parents could have directed me to other activities.
But effectively, I had one absent parent and one totally disinterested parent.
My mother was an immigrant. She doesn't know all of the cultural stuff. She doesn't know how things are done in the US.
But my father was an American. He probably played baseball as a child. He may have been in Little League or at least some form of organised baseball. He never said, "Hey, son, you want to join t-ball?"
You know the Normal Rockwell image of fathers and sons playing catch out in the backyard? That man never threw a ball in my direction even once.
Nearly all of my memories of my father are him sleeping. He wasn't depressed, as far as I know. He would just go work for several days at a time, then come home and sleep, then go back to work. Oh, and drinking. That's another common memory. Him coming home drunk and being a nuisance.
So he had time to go to the bar on a regular basis but raising your son? Who needs that?
My brother-in-law has a young son very much like me. He's not athletic, he's allergic to everything, he has terrible social skills, and he's pretty much an asshole. But my brother-in-law still encourages him, he seems very much involved in his life, he seems genuinely interested in seeing this kid do well in life, and he enrolled him in t-ball. This kid was really really bad at t-ball. But from my limited understanding of athletics, it isn't just about winning and losing.
Anyway, also in the second grade, perhaps a pivotal year in one's development, my teacher (an old nun from an order which barely still existed) asked the class to sign up to be altar boys. Everybody signed up except me and one other boy (one of the same boys who didn't sign up for t-ball).
Later, this teacher holds up the list. "Has everyone signed?" I said, "No, I haven't". She says, "Do you want to?" I said, "Oh. No. I thought you meant that everybody has to sign up." The way she worded it, I thought that it was compulsory to sign up to be an altar boy.
Also, as this list was going around, I saw all the boys sign it. So when it gets to me, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I didn't want to be an altar boy. I'm not even sure if I knew what an altar boy was. But I just didn't want to do anything. I wanted to stay invisible as much as possible.
But everybody's signing it. So I don't know. Am I weird for not wanting to an altar boy? What's the appeal? Why is everybody else doing it?
These are perhaps questions I've asked throughout my life. Why is everyone else doing something completely different to what I'm doing? How do they all somehow know what to do?
There were three of us who didn't join t-ball. One was the biggest nerd in the school. By far. Looking back, I suspect that he had autism. He had a strong fixation on trains. He reveled in being "weird" (his favourite word). On "dress up day" he wore a suit, while everyone else just wore a button down shirt and "slacks". In high school, he was big into the school band and once wore all of the medals that he won in competitions like he was some kind of war hero.
The only physical fight I ever had was with this guy. I told this story before. Somebody threw an American football at him on the playground, it knocked off his glasses, and they blamed it on me. Obviously, it wasn't me because I never threw a football in my life. But somehow he believed it and started punching me in the arm. As a crowd formed around encouraging us to fight, I finally got tired of getting punched in the arm, so I grabbed his arm, twisted it, and punched him in the gut. That was the end of the fight.
He had few friends. In fact, the only friend of his who I'm aware of was also one of only two friends that I had as a kid. When this guy became friends with me, he stopped being friends with the biggest nerd in the school. He traded up to perhaps the second biggest nerd in school.
When I was about 20, I saw this guy in the local health clinic. The nurse was telling him to stop coming because there's nothing wrong with him. He had (and has) some kind of mental disorder, possibly not just autism. He was also a poor student.
Today, he's a self-employed sound engineer or something for some local radio station. Married to some woman who I suspect was also really unpopular and "weird" in her school.
Oh, he also had long hair in high school. So did I. So did the other kid who didn't join t-ball. There weren't many boys with long hair.
So we move to this third kid, the one who didn't join t-ball or become an altar boy. He was a poor student, just like this other kid. They were both in the lowest reading group. This kid was more popular. He hung out with the bad boys (who were all in the lowest reading group). Indeed, the lowest reading group were all friends with each other except for this biggest nerd in the school.
Come high school, this guy got big into drugs. He became the biggest stoner in the school. No mean feat. He had friends and he talked about all the sex that he was having so good for him.
But then after we all graduated, you lose track of people. This was before Facebook. At some point, he got shot and lost the use of one of his arms. Then he decided to get off of drugs so his drug addict girlfriend left him. Then he killed himself. He was living with his parents at the time. I don't know if he ever moved out. He was about 32 when he died. His obituary talked about his fondness for bonzai plants. That was his life's achievement. Plant care.
Everybody's different. I was a good student. Then when I became less of a good student, in about the 7th grade and continuing for the rest of my academic career, I was still smart. So I was able to get through not just high school (which this kid who killed himself couldn't do) but university (which neither of these kids managed to do).
I lacked the tools to do well (e.g. writing down when assignments are given, learning how to study, et cetera) but passed all of that shit through sheer brainpower. Yeah, I didn't do any homework (because I forgot about it because I never wrote them down) and yeah I never studied (for the same reasons) but I still do well on the tests. If it's an essay test, forget it. I'm acing that shit even though I didn't read the book. Just write down some clever bullshit.
But socialising was a problem for all three of us. Yeah, that one kid was getting laid in high school but he was self-medicating.
I don't think that that guy's parents were particularly interested in raising him. How could they be? The guy was a drug addict by the time he was 14. So was his brother. It wasn't a secret.
That other guy...I remember seeing his mother just once. She dropped him off at school. This was grade school. And she was doing some weird thing with him blowing raspberries on his cheek or something like that right in front of a group of us and he was laughing about it.
Somebody said, "Now I know why he's so weird." It's true. There was something off about her.
I think that his father was quite a bit older. Maybe had him at 50. The mother might have been slightly older as well. So that old man isn't throwing a ball around.
I'm just saying that it's important to raise children and there are real consequences when you don't. If you're not committed to doing everything you can to raise a healthy and well-adjusted child, don't have children.
« Back to index