I have the dynamic of a son in the middle of 4 sisters. Very often they all play well together, but more and more, recently, they've been disparaging each others' interests, which makes me sad.
My son wants to play duelling light sabers (they're foam), or spy laser tag (light up thingies), and his sisters' play is different. Especially he's at the juncture of his regular playmates (older sisters) are in 6th and 8th grade, and are in algebra and geometry, respectively. They have a lot less free time than they used to for play, which they are generally ok with, but he is really struggling.
I have the difficulty that I have little interest in the thing he wants to do (although I love to get going with the foam light sabers) and he wants to talk about whichever Lego enhancements he made to some space ship or something, usually laser cannons, etc.
SOOO, any thoughts about this? His brain goes 100 miles per hour--it's the telling about it that he's slow on. His academics "look OK" in school; they don't look as stellar as I know his brain is (trying to be unbiased here). Hoping that there will be opportunities to find out the direction of his excellence so he will feel engaged, excited, and interested as he gets older.
How do I respect his interest even when it is not interesting to me? How do I help his sisters not disparage his interests and help my kids come up with fair ways of alternating who chooses the game they play? It all seems related.
He needs buddies. I know, it can be hard to find them but he needs some company that is going to appreciate his more traditional "male" interests while still allowing him to be a bright and perhaps sensitive boy. I suspect some of your DD's attitude about DS comes from school. Elementary schools can be really anti-male without meaning to be. They are predominately run by women. Little girls are rewarded for sitting still, being quiet, having nice penmanship and neat work while they watch the boys penalized for needing to move, needing to talk, doing their work too fast and maybe not as pretty. More and more "boy play" is banned at recess and considered too aggressive. Many schools ban soccer, basketball, tag... any activity that allows a child to really run full out for 10 or 15 minutes straight. I get that these are activities that require supervision but they are also activities than release a lot of energy. It's not uncommon for elementary school and into middle school girls to view boys as uncontrollable problems.
Your older girls are probably changing as well and this can be really difficult for younger siblings. My DS had some real heart-breaking meltdowns over the distance he felt when DD (who'd he'd always been very close too) started to become more teenager than little girl. He really started picking at her just so she'd give him a little attention. They did survive and are probably closer now than ever but it was a rough transition period.
It took our own DS 11 a good while to really find "buddies." He's never fit in with boys at school too well but has found true friends through interest-based activities. It may take some work but I'd focus on getting him some male playmates. If he's getting some of what he needs through others, he won't be so desperate for that sort of interaction between himself and his sisters.
I totally agree with whatsnextmom.
I also think that it can be helpful, when the family dynamic is tending to favor the interests of some members, to try to find some common ground with the less-favored child and put a little extra interest and resources into those areas. With my ds (who is in the midst of three sisters), I've found martial arts (aikido), archery and digital media (video editing, digital art, computer programming, video game music) to be areas I could connect with and support my ds over the years. I'm not interested in boy-play, air rifles or video gaming, but there are things around the edge of those interests that I am able to authentically nurture and take an interest in.
It's also helpful to have frank repeated discussions about respecting each others' interests. "It's fine not to like ____, but don't be rude if other people like it. People are different and I think it's great that we all like different things." Or "If you don't want to play, just say that. Say 'it's not my kind of thing' or 'I'm not really interested in that.' But it is not okay to make people feel badly for what they are interested in. You have liked all sorts of things over the years that I totally didn't get. But I try never to belittle your interests -- and if I ever do, I want you to call me on it."
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
I agree with the PPs in that he needs some buddies to spend some time with. You might look for some activity groups that center on his interests. For example, we have a local museum that hosts a Legos Robotics Club. Perhaps there's something similar in your area. Even though you don't homeschool, you might think about subscribing to some local yahoo homeschooling groups, as moms who DO homeschool are especially accustomed to searching out kids who share their children's interests since they're not making those friendships in a school setting. They may be able to give you some ideas on activities in your area that you're unaware of. He might also benefit from some time with an uncle if there's one handy - I haven't known many not to be interested in legos and light sabers. ;)
I don't know if you have a husband in the picture, but this might be a great time for Dad involvement. My husband taught my oldest (11) to program and do simple game design; plays computer strategy games (like Sword of the Stars) against him; they make Dungeons and Dragons characters together, that sort of thing. It's great because I can only take so much gamer talk. And it leaves me to share my common interests with DS, like gardening, biology and outdoors pursuits.
We're actually having some problems similar to the OP, but with out youngest. My oldest son and my daughter are both preteens (11 and 10), only 19 months apart, and with my daughter having reached puberty ahead of her older brother it's like having two around the same age. My youngest is 7 and really just being a regular boy for his age, into Legos and pretending to be a Ninja. One thing that's helped recently is having him go weekly to an after school club with kids his own age and letting each of the kids develop their own separate interests (also important to my daughter as the only girl). It's good to encourage fair play but not have the pressure of pretending very different interests from one's own.
Busy keeping up with three children and an awful lot of chickens!
DD is an only child, so I don't have the same kind of family dynamic you do, but I still deal with this. Some of it is because I am hugely introverted, and DD is pretty much the opposite. And even if DD is an only child, I can't devote all of my time to her interests. Day to day, I find that giving her my full attention on one or two things for 10 minutes at a time is more rewarding for both of us than giving her half an ear for an hour.
She has SO many interests, some which are up my alley, and some which are not. I had her make a big list of what she really wanted to do and learn, figure out her priorities, and I do what I can to facilitate. For example, she REALLY wanted to learn to bake bread and pies. I am not the one to teach her! My MIL, on the other hand, is happy to teach her how to make a pie crust from scratch, how to make a loaf of bread that actually rises, etc. I am also in no position to teach her Mandarin, and I don't want to learn it, but I can check out some language DVDs from the library. Then I can eat the baked goods and listen to her sing a Chinese song. I think the process of working with her to set up her plans shows my respect for her interests, even if I am not involved in a bunch of the activities. Since she is so intense, it's great for her to talk to people who have the same passions.
For your son, I immediately thought about Lego Clubs too.
The Lego clubs around here are expensive and exclusive (unfortunately). I know it would be GREAT for him, but you kind of have to build the teams from the ground up, i.e., find friends who want to do it. We do have a couple of friends he can play with, and that's great, I like the description: "while still allowing him to be a bright and perhaps sensitive boy". I don't really know how his play *with* the friends goes; But the descriptor "a kind and sensitive boy who likes to blow things up" is pretty accurate. He likes going to these friends' houses, so I don't know if he likes to play *with* them or if he likes to play with their toys.
I spent some time with him this morning cleaning out his room and reminding him that if his room is clean he can have friends over more often... and he has more toys than he thinks he does. His dad is *great* at interacting with him on his level--we've just had a round of busyness which makes us all tired and unable to do more than go to bed early and try to start over again the next day (Been to 3 births this month...).
Probably the most significant thing is just to be aware of his needs a bit more and not have him just feel like he's "being schlepped" around. He started Cub Scouts and really loves it. I need to get the scarf and paraphernalia at the Scout store so he feels like he's "in." And I need to get new strings for his guitar...
Thanks! I offered to do "dueling wizards" with him after I showered this morning, but he ended up doing play dough with his sisters instead and he was OK with that.