If there's anything that I can be sympathetic about with regard to childhood, it's being excluded. I know that pain very well. To some extent, I know it in adulthood as well, but at least as an adult I know how to roll with it and understand where I derive my self-worth and value from. So you can imagine how much it hurts me to see my kid going through it.
Simon was more or less cast aside from the neighborhood kids years ago. It wasn't all of them, mostly one or two, but you know how kids work in packs. Going into his last year of middle school, I don't think that he's really found his tribe, and we know he's had to deal with specific bullies. Again, familiar territory to me. But the world today extends that sort of thing to the online world, where any thread of decency or decorum does not exist, not even for former US presidents.
Tonight his buddies were communicating via Discord, yet another platform. We have been unwilling to let him signup for the service, because he doesn't really understand online safety, or apply the right critical thinking to get what's real and what isn't. This is made worse by his intense desire to belong. We're not doing this to be dicks, we just don't think that he's ready. Last year he plugged his Roblox login to some random form on the service, which you should never have to do. Shortly thereafter we received a warning from someone logging in Thailand or something.
But the unkind tendencies of the real world are not better online. Tonight, he was being excluded from some kids, one of whom he knows in real life, because they were not connecting via the game or Zoom or whatever he was using. They were using Discourse. This eventually led to tears, with a cracking, deeper voice than I'm used to. At just that moment, the screen saver on my TV showed a photo of him when he was 5, and happy. The contrast was... upsetting.
It's a strange distress, to know that your child will be an adult in five years, and that your window for getting your part right is getting smaller and smaller. You don't get a do-over.