Make Them Laugh, Gomer
It's because over time Gomer has asked me not to write about him. He will do something hysterical or tell me a funny story and immediately he stops, gets an intense expression, and asks me, "Will this be on the blog, Mom?"
When he was younger, Gomer would tell us some outlandish and amazing stories. He had fantastic jokes that he would make up and a belly laugh like none I've ever heard.
Over the last year, this has all changed. Gomer still tells great stories, but he's far more reserved now. This summer I asked him to write in his journal every day so that he could keep his skills sharp for when school started back up. Last summer this wasn't a problem at all. Gomer would write about his day or his dreams or his Legos or just about anything. This summer he complained that he had nothing to write about. I understood completely. There are days I have nothing to write about or nothing "moves" me enough to form an opinion on. I explained to him that we have to write every day or else we'll never find anything to write about. He asked me what I like to write about. I told him I love to tell funny stories, but unfortunately I don't have enough for every day.
He was horrified that I liked to tell funny stories. "What if people laugh at you?" he asked.
"That's the point, Gomer. I want them to laugh. I love to make people laugh," I replied.
"No. What if they laugh at you," he said emphasizing the "at."
He went on to tell me how kids at school started teasing him because he told "weird" stories and he was sure they were all laughing at him and not with him. He decided to stop telling funny stories, because he didn't like kids laughing at him.
This broke my heart.
One year ago my son was a bubbly kid who cracked us up on a daily basis. He told knock knock jokes until we were blue in the face and made up hilarious stories. Now he's worried about what everyone will think of him. He's afraid to let loose and be himself. He's wound up so tightly and he's so self-aware of everything he does. He doesn't even belly laugh much anymore, because that's embarrassing to him.
I think seven years old is just too young to already start doubting yourself. I was hoping we could put this off at least until the middle school years. I can't believe that in second grade he's already concerned about appearances. It upsets me so much that at seven years old there is already this sort of crap to deal with and worry about. He shouldn't even feel the pressure of fitting in or being like everyone else. It also upset me to know that he's reining in his creative side, because it's not acceptable to his friends.
I let him see some of the comments on my blog from people who said they laughed until they cried or spit coffee out of their noses ("See, Gomer, they're not embarrassed to say that at all. I think that's the highest compliment I can get!") or they read my blog when they're having a bad day and it makes it a little brighter or they read my blog while they're undergoing chemotherapy treatment and it lifts their spirits. I tried to help Gomer understand the power of humor and the amazing gift that it is.
"You can't keep it to yourself," I told him. "It has to be shared."
Tonight Gomer brought me his homework assignment to check. He was supposed to write a Halloween story. I saw glimpses of the old Gomer in this story. He wrote about a guy who stumbles upon a real haunted house and has a run in with a vampire. I read it out loud and he stopped me several times to say, "No, Mom, you need more inflection at this part. He's saying 'PHEW! That was close!'" or "I thought it would be funnier if he got so scared he jumped out the window."
Like any writer, he took my gentle corrections a bit hard. He'd messed up his there, their and they're and I was trying to help him see the difference. It resulted in tears, but I explained to him that all writing goes through several drafts and as hard as it is, we have to take some critiques.
When we finished up for the night, I reminded him that not everyone might think his story is funny (it happens), but I was just so glad to see him taking a chance with his writing and really letting his own style shine through again. I really hope this continues.