In Which She Revisits Her Worst Adolescent Nightmare…
…and Lives To Tell About It.
It will likely come as no surprise to any of you that I was the girl in middle school who didn’t like gym or sports or active games of any kind. I was the one who reluctantly participated in gym class and only because it was a requirement. I was the girl who at the church youth group sat on the sidelines reading a book while the others played whatever silly game they were playing. If they forced me to play, I dreaded every minute of it. I felt silly, incompetent, and insecure when I was anywhere but on the sidelines.
The good news is, I survived without any lasting scars or need for therapy. But what was the point, really? WHY is this a rite of passage all modern American children must endure?
I thought those years were long gone, but twenty-five years later, I have found myself forced to confront my pimply adolescent self once again. Our church recently started a Sunday night Kids Club and Youth Group. My husband is heading up the program, and I volunteered to help out. I’ve spent most of my life working with preschool and elementary aged kids, so on a whim I volunteered to help with the junior high. I already know most of them fairly well, and thought it would be better if I was not working with my own kids.
Which was all fine and good until I realized that half of the evening would be spent… you guessed it! Playing those dreaded games.
Thankfully, I’m not in charge of games, but I am there to be a female presence and to make late comers feel welcome and bring them into the group. But generally, I just sit on the sidelines and cheer. Or knit.
It never occurred to me to join in until my husband said to me one night on the way home, “You know, you really ought to put on some sweatpants and sneakers and jump in and play. It might make some of the other girls feel more comfortable.”
You’ve GOT to be kidding me. I lived that nightmare once. I have no desire to live it again.
But I was thinking on it, and it made sense. If I’m going to volunteer with the youth, I should probably participate in the activities. Is that what youth workers do? (I’m truly asking; it’s been a LONG time since I was in a youth group, people.)
The next week I didn’t have time to change before we left for church, and to be honest I really didn’t feel like going to church in sweats and sneakers, even if I do spend the night with the youth. So in my regular clothes and ballet flats, I went.
As usual, I sat on the sidelines and cheered. They were playing dodge ball, and I couldn’t even follow the rules half the time. But then my husband appeared, and he got into the game, making the teams uneven. Before I could second guess myself, I kicked off my flats and joined in too.
Long story short, I survived. I can’t say I was much of an asset to my team, but it was more fun than I thought it would be. It was certainly more fun than it was when I was in junior high school, probably because I wasn’t concerned about looking uncool in front of the other kids. I mean, let’s face it, there is NOTHING cool about a 38-year-old woman in skinny jeans and bare feet playing dodge ball so there was no need to even consider that factor.
See, I even have proof. My husband took this photo with his Blackberry because he said no one would believe him.
My crowning glory was at the end of the night, when I finally managed to throw the ball and get my husband out of the game. Ahhh the sweet smell of victory.
I just might be convinced to play again next week.