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12 YO boy, I think an introvert but also worryingly narrow interests - any experience?

26 replies

DolorestheNewt · 10/07/2015 19:27

Sorry for long message title, but it seems to be helpful to describe the post in the title!
I have a 12YO boy who will start Y8 in September. Anyone else got one who hates being on holiday and just wants to be back home? He's an only child, so we took him somewhere with kids clubs last year, and he didn't want to go, saying he wanted to hang out with us. So this year we didn't try to repeat that, and came to a hotel with a pool and a nearby beach, but he has been crying, saying he knows he is ruining our holiday but he hates being away from home.

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DolorestheNewt · 10/07/2015 19:31

Oh, FFS. Stupid laptop has posted prematurely. I was going to go on to say: we are going to try next time taking another child with us,and also perhaps just sticking to the UK, as he has said he doesn't like the strangeness of being abroad (maybe it's not so unusual to want things to be familiar, even at 12? Opinions? It's not like we haven't taken him abroad before, though we didn't really start till he was eight, and it's only once a year).
So we have ideas about how future holidays might improve things, but I just wondered if anyone else had this experience, and found that it's something that they grow out of.
I know I said about narrow interests in the title, but I think I'm running out of steam, and I fear I am going to go into a long list which might not be helpful!

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DolorestheNewt · 10/07/2015 20:09

But he does have very narrow interests and it makes it hard to enjoy holidays as we can't come up with things that entertain him... So he huffs around behind us at galleries or takes no interest in aquariums, and kind of makes it a bit of a misery for us too. If I'm honest.
I encourage clubs at school, but he hates sports because he's not as good as the others. Yes, I've explained that he'd get better if he stuck to it, but he just makes me feel like I'm forcing him into a situation where he feels constantly humiliated. I've tried to encourage drama, choir, Lego club, science club, writing for school mag, minecraft club, scouts, swimming, cricket, rugby, table tennis, hockey... He just wants to come home and be on his Xbox.

Ok, pile in and tell me to take away the Xbox. I think I'm writing my own answer.

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Whereisegg · 10/07/2015 20:54

What about a coding club if he's into computers?

Re holidays, does he have any input in planning?
He could research a few destinations that you and dh have pre-approved and take his pick? Or if you and dh choose destination, give him a couple of months to pick x amount of day trips maybe?

DolorestheNewt · 10/07/2015 21:09

Ooh, coding. That's a good idea. I'll check the school list. They seem to have three clubs for every letter of the alphabet, so that could mean cricket, Christian, and ... coding, if I'm lucky.
Re planning, great idea. Never occurred to me - d'uh! Thanks so much, whereisegg, I appreciate it!

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cdtaylornats · 11/07/2015 09:38

It is very hard for children who don't have the same interests as their parents. I got interested in computers at school a long time ago, I wrote my first program in 1970 and it was so hard explaining what it was to my parents. I hated holidays and just wanted to get back to school and my books. My sister was more like them. You have to remember everyone is different. The coding club is a good idea, if he really gets into it I recommend a Raspberry Pi as a Christmas present.

DolorestheNewt · 11/07/2015 10:04

Thank you, cd! I do think it might help if we have another child along as well. My poor husband is being driven mad because DC just mooches around being sulky if DH won't go in the pool with him. I do think he's being spoilt, but one of hte problems is trying to draw a line between assessing his spoilt-ness and my guilt at the fact that he hates being an only (far too late to do anything about that!).

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Belleview · 11/07/2015 10:07

Not at all uncommon, OP, what you are describing. He's outgrown family holidays. You'll have to think what he can do next year, Dyou have a grandparent that can come stay at your house while you go away?

SayThisOnlyOnce · 11/07/2015 10:12

Are there other children on holiday? Last year I engineered my DS to make friends with a boy just like you describe. They were too shy to speak to each other until I got them both chatting. But thick as thieves for the rest of the holidays. And never out of the pool! It just took an inflatable crocodile to pave the way.

BTW as you are on holiday - spoil him as much as you need to, so you all enjoy yourselves.

NotEnoughTime · 11/07/2015 10:42

It just took an inflatable crocodile to pave the way.


DolorestheNewt · 11/07/2015 16:17

Sadly, grandparents all dead now (and have been for some time). We never seem to see the same kids two days running, or certainly not a boy of (roughly) his age - and none that seems to be paddling the same single child canoe. Still, we have only a few more days to go now.
I'm still a little puzzled by the weepiness at not being at home, particularly in a child not normally given to weepiness at all. If he were being particularly stroppy or bored, I could understand it. But he seems distressed and disturbed at being away. Most strange. But next time, I think we'll try to take another child and see if that helps (and stick to Pembrokeshire or Cornwall if necessary!)

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DolorestheNewt · 11/07/2015 16:18

All comments gratefully received, though - nice to reach out into planet cyberparenting!

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cdtaylornats · 11/07/2015 22:52

Thinking back I hated sport too but I eventually came to an arrangement with the head of PE for the big inter-schools rugby and athletic fixtures, I became his gopher, because I was good at organisation and having me doing that sort of work was ideal as I had no chance of ever being in a team. Perhaps your DS could get into the organisational side of sports, then he would feel useful and not left out.

BackforGood · 12/07/2015 00:48

So he huffs around behind us at galleries or takes no interest in aquariums

well, to be fair, that's not what most 12 yr old would want to spend their holidays doing.
IMVhumbleO, I think if you want to have a family holiday, it's going to be a lot more successful if you set it up to suit the dc. The holiday I would book if it were just dh and I going, would be very different from the holidays we go on with the dc, because you learn, as parents, that a happy child makes for a happy holiday. So, in your example above, either dh or myself do tend to be in and out the pool a whole lot more, because the dc like it, rather than being surprised at them being bored, if no-one will go in the pool with them.

mathanxiety · 12/07/2015 01:00

I would be very inclined to send him off to a summer camp experience next year. Maybe a coding camp, or chess camp, or some such thing? I would even consider sending him abroad, perhaps to the US where there wouldn't be a language difference. Or sea scouts -- something focused and purposeful that doesn't involve just relaxing or entertaining yourselves and him trying to manufacture a social connection in that context.

I think it's a big problem that he sees you and his dad as his companions, nags at his dad to get into the pool with him. I also think the weepiness is a problem, indicates he is not willing to go outside his comfort zone at all. I think the two are related -- he is not willing to strike out on his own and conquer new social turf for himself, prefers what is familiar to the point of feeling strong anxiety.

At home during the school year, is he in scouting or any other purposeful youth organisation?

Naoko · 12/07/2015 01:03

Is he generally ok, normally? Only I was the same (right down to crying about knowing how I was ruining my parents' holiday) at 13 and looking back it was the start of crippling depression.

DolorestheNewt · 12/07/2015 16:42

BackforGood I totally agree, but he won't let us move out of the pool at all without coming and sitting with a face like a martyr until we get back in, and we can't be in the pool ALL the time. But I do take your point, he isn't likely to enjoy galleries etc - it would just be nice if he could tolerate them for one morning inbetween getting in the pool with him.
mathanxiety I've sent him off ski-ing and to the Brecon Beacons on an activity holiday, and both times he hated it. He doesn't want to do anything after school either, and I've been reluctant to force him thus far because it would mean he doesn't get home till 7.00, which gives him very little time to get his homework done. I genuinely appreciate the suggestion, but it does feel a bit brutal to make him do something that I know he was miserable doing and I'm not convinced it wouldn't make the problem worse (though coddling is equally problematic, or certainly it feels like I'm coddling him by not making him). The problem with activity stuff is that he seems to be so overly conscious of being "worse than" everyone else at "everything", so I think he just feels that all these things are another opportunity for him to prove that he's rubbish at everything and feel shit about himself. Logically, of course, he should be able to improve if he does these things, and then he wouldn't feel shit, but humans being what they are... I'll look at what's available, though, and have it as an idea for next year.
naoko No, I think he's very glass half empty and everyone's better than me. I'm hoping it's not depression but I'm aware that it could turn into that.

I know it sounds like I'm knocking back every suggestion. That's not what I mean to be doing. It's just that I think we tend to post on Mumsnet when we've already thought about some stuff and have some reason why we are a bit reluctant to do it, so responses tend to be a bit "yes, but...".

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DolorestheNewt · 12/07/2015 16:43

I also think the weepiness is a problem, indicates he is not willing to go outside his comfort zone at all. I think the two are related -- he is not willing to strike out on his own and conquer new social turf for himself, prefers what is familiar to the point of feeling strong anxiety.
I think you're spot on, btw. Thanks.

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SayThisOnlyOnce · 12/07/2015 22:31

Have you tried taking it in turns to choose what to do each day? So he knows he's not spoiling your holiday because it's his turn to choose therefore you don't mind what you do iyswim. We've hissed 'I know you're bored but we spent yesterday at the water slide park so stop moaning about looking round the cathedral' on numerous holidays...

Also struck me that he doesn't have any grandparents - I'm so sorry firstly of course for your losses but also because that means you're doing all the upbringing yourselves with no one to cheer you on. My parents and inlaws are v good at being totally biased about how wonderful the DC are. Don't know the situation but could you big him up in a 'your Grandad would have said that's fantastic he loved computers / don't worry about that test nanny always said spelling is for losers' type of way?

mathanxiety · 13/07/2015 04:46

The 'not as good as everyone else' business and the weepiness could also be unhealthy attention-seeking behaviour where he gets maximum attention for negative self-talk, inertia and helplessness.

mathanxiety · 13/07/2015 04:47

'he won't let us move out of the pool at all without coming and sitting with a face like a martyr until we get back in'

This is just brattiness.

mathanxiety · 13/07/2015 04:57

Posted too soon -- the 'he won't let us' part may just be a way of expressing what is happening, but it may also reflect how you feel about who is running the show. If it's the case that you feel you have no choices here then you need to start to reclaim control. Start by using the phrase 'I'm sorry you feel that way DS' when you see him starting to sulk, and then don't address his display of sullenness at all. Then take out your magazine at the pool, or continue to walk around the museum. Don't attempt to jolly him up and don't get back into the pool, and keep on telling him you're sorry he feels that way when he weeps about ruining your holiday. I think that is probably manipulative.

Please get over your guilt or regrets that he is an only child as soon and as completely as you can. Nobody is owed a sibling and he and a brother or sister might spend their lives fighting like cats and dogs anyway.

DolorestheNewt · 13/07/2015 07:58

mathanxiety that is both practical and funny. Thank you! The thought had occurred (that he's manipulative), but I'm disappearing up my own fundament with overthinking. Hence the inestimable value of MN.

saythisonlyonce thanks - I will confess to a little envy on the very rare occasions I remember that some families have wider support, emotionally as well as physically. It's just occurred to me that not being used to a wider family network might be part of his narrow comfort zone as well.

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proudmummy2004 · 23/07/2015 12:24

I was an only child and sometimes hated family holidays. My parents to be fair took me to destinations where we did sightseeing. They didn't really do beach holidays when I got older. I remember going to Hong Kong when I was about 13 and being completely bored stiff. I think I sat in my hotel room a few times whilst my parents ate out. I think for single child boys it is harder. Being a young boy and making friends is not same as is for girls, boys just tend to grunt at each other but as one of the other posters said, it only took an inflatable crocodile to break ice. I bet if he found someone to talk xbox with you might find he will be different :) It is hard though being on holiday, wanting to enjoy yourself but having to cope with a child that does not want to be there. Has he confided in you if anything else is wrong, as something else might be at root of it?

I only have one child and long holidays are really a no go I think, as not many accommodate for single parents. I tend to go away for long weekends with my daughter rather than long holidays (not that I could afford them lol). My daughter loves swimming, the beach, thrill rides - I on the other hand don't like any of those things haha so we are completely different. She does love sightseeing and going to new places so long weekends somewhere are ofter a better option, so maybe a couple of long weekends instead of one long holiday could be an option for you?

Think it is a good idea to think about taking a friend along - I am thinking will do same for my daughter at some point. I know my parents paid for one of my friends to come away with us once and I had a far better time ha ha xxx

vurious · 25/07/2015 16:46

DD1 was also very worryingly narrow with her interests. She used to read and that was about it. Tried to get her to start a musical instrument when she was seven but hated it, went through every sport possible and tried to encourage her to just do something. She's got a job now which funds her expensive shopping habit and she also likes pottery and photography and has started a pottery class locally. Have you tried buying a few crafty type stuff. We bought her loads of canvases and a set of watercolours one Christmas and she painted them all within a week. I think when your son is old enough, encourage him to get a job. DD started off working at a farm so she didn't have to encounter many people if your son is shy.

I can't say I have any original ideas for the going away part and many of the posters here have been incredibly helpful already by the looks of things.

Noteventhebestdrummer · 27/07/2015 01:56

Although it's not what you might want on a relaxing holiday, have you tried timetabling? So that he knows what to expect? That might help his anxiety.
This morning we'll swim till 11, read our books till 12, walk to the pizza place and lunch till 2, take a tour bus and stop at the museum till 4...

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