My heart was broken this week.
It happened as a result of hearing second-hand information — third-hand, really. Still, an indirect quotation in this case was enough to crush my spirit.
I learned that one of our children has trudged through his young life in a state of melancholy. And it’s all because of something an adult said — in the presence of other children — years earlier.
The young coach, as our son wrote in a senior English essay, paced about the locker room as the seventh-grade boys did push-ups ‘as a punishment.’ Unfortunately for my son, he inherited his father’s athletic ability — usually having to win with smarts instead of brawn. Neither push-ups nor pull-ups become us. And we’re not much better at running laps.
‘You look like a fat dumbass trying to do push-ups,’ the coach announced, as he walked past our 12-year-old.
Twelve years old
Our son, for all intents and purposes, has been the oldest child in the family. His sister is eight years his senior and was gone from us way before she should have been. Unlike his father, my son has no older sibling to look up to … to ask what one might expect in his very first year of football.
My older brother told me all the secrets — from pulling a secret chop block, to knowing that helmets and pads are the great equalizers. With such head starts, I was fortunate that I could concentrate on how I would compete and win against the kid who would ultimately receive a college scholarship for his athletic prowess. I attempted to share my secrets with our son, but such information always sounds better … truer coming from a big brother.
Though I was usually picked last, I had a few successes. Our son wasn’t so fortunate. Or so he thinks.
At age 12, he had already struck out several batters. He’d earned his National Yeoman’s Medal for his ability to hit a bullseye with an arrow. He knew how to ride English. And he still wore his Arrow of Light award on his Boy Scout uniform.
But push-ups, which he’d never even heard of until that fateful day, weren’t within the scope of his immediate abilities. And he’s paid a huge emotional price for it.
‘Why?’ he rhetorically asks throughout his essay. Why do people make fun of others? Why would an adult be so mean-spirited? Why does society condemn something, yet continue to accept it?
A boy’s heart
Like any child, there are those moments when I’d just as soon strangle my son than hear him say another word. Yet through all of the difficult times, I’ve never doubted his true disposition.
‘You’re a retard! Hi retard!’ a young girl yelled to a neighborhood boy whose mental development was slow.
‘Hey! What’s wrong with you?’ my son, then 8, shouted at the girl. ‘He can’t help it! Don’t say that to him!’
The little girl held her doll and looked at my son as if she didn’t have to listen to him.
‘How would you like it if someone said that about you? Or your brother?’ he asked her. ‘That boy is someone’s brother!’
The little girl went on about her play, pretending not to hear the 8-year-old’s words of wisdom. But she stopped the name calling.
It was only a couple of years later that our son volunteered to give up his bedroom to his nephew, a boy whose mother was deeply troubled. Since then, he has shared with the boy most of his worldly possessions, taught the youngster to ride a bicycle and presents himself as the older ‘brother.’ After all, he doesn’t want the boy to experience the same emotional pain that he has endured. Or ask ‘Why?’.
That makes me extremely proud — and deeply sad.
When I heard that this coach made such damaging remarks, I was immediately compelled to learn his identity and pay him a visit. But the truth is, he probably wouldn’t remember the incident. It was more than six years ago and he’s likely made many similar comments since — so affecting the psyches of other young men like our son.
For entirely unrelated reasons, we transferred our son from that school beginning with the eighth grade. He has since received numerous honors for his musical ability; become quite a math wiz; and has established himself as a savvy racquetball player (he’s beaten me more than I care to recall). Additionally, some reputable colleges and universities out there want him to wear their colors in a few short months.
Whatever he decides to do, our son will proceed with nagging pain and a doubt, or two — thanks to one man who thought making fun of him was somehow going to produce something positive.
If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+. — Special thanks to Megan E. Hawkins at The Underground Writer for editing this piece.
Apple Cider Doughnuts were foreign to me until I moved to the northeastern area of the U.S. and married my wife. She introduced me to her family’s tradition of picking apples at an orchard, then partaking of the fried cider doughnuts served on the premises. It was like going to the carnival without having to deal with the riffraff.
I’ve experimented with a few recipes through the years and eventually settled on the version published by the King Arthur Flour folks, with a few modifications to suit our taste. These baked beauties are pure breakfast comfort food, no matter where you’re from.
Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts
2 TB – Butter, softened
2 TB – Vegetable oil
1/4 cup – Sugar
1/2 tsp – Salt
1 tsp – Cinnamon
1/8 tsp – Ground nutmeg
2 TB – Reduced Apple Cider**
1 – Large egg
1 tsp – Baking powder
1/8 tsp – Baking soda
1 cup – All-purpose flour
1/2 cup – Milk
1/2 cup – Sugar
1/2 TB – Ground Cinnamon
**The King Arthur Flour recipe calls for boiled cider or apple juice concentrate. Instead, I reduce 2 cups of apple cider over a hard simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until it reduces to about 2 TB. Very flavorful.
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Beat together the butter, oil, sugar, salt and spices. Add the reduced cider and egg. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add portions to of the flour mixture into the batter, along with milk, mixing well after each portion is added.
Grease a standard doughnut pan (I use a Wilton 6-count). Add batter to molds, smoothing tops.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile spread sugar and cinnamon on a sheet of parchment paper. Turn doughnuts onto parchment and carefully coat with sugar mixture.
Serve immediately. Makes 6 doughnuts.