If you have never watched A League of the Own you need to get off the Internet and go watch it now. If you have then you will remember when the coach (played by Tom Hanks) yells at one of his players and the player immediately starts to cry. Hanks is flummoxed by what he sees and appeals to the umpire with the no famous line, “there’s no crying in baseball!”
I have to admit that I sort of assumed that there was no crying in middle school, at least not when I went there. In my memory crying was a very bad thing and would get you branded a crybaby or worse. I am pretty sure I needed to cry a bunch in middle school and I can actually remember crying in the bathroom and on the playground at least once each, but it wasn’t a common occurrence.
I bring this up because I am part of a board game club at the local middle school these days and I promise at least 2 kids cry every week. Normally it is because someone called them a name or was mean to them in some way. When this happens I find myself of two minds. The first thing I want to do is tell the person who was mean that that sort of behavior is unacceptable, but the second thing I want to do is try to help the crying kid work through whatever it is that is making them so susceptible to the words of others. I try to be understanding and listen, but the 80s kid in me wants to say, “suck it up, buttercup!”
Instead I try to have a conversation (in a group of 16 kids who are all just one bit of unstructured time away from a mutiny) about examining your feelings and trying to discover why those words hurt. I also try to get kids to stop and realize just how damaging their words are. It has created some pretty cool places for conversation and I am glad that God has me there to be a voice in their life, but honestly I know that sometimes I look at them like Hanks looking at his crying player while I think, “how can there be this much crying in middle school?”