Tennessee Or Bust
Last June, my youngest son and I spent a week in Lebanon, TN at the Junior High National Finals Rodeo. He competed in four events. We made the 1800-mile trip from Montana, and it was a scary undertaking for me to drive alone.
I had been divorced for about a year and a half, and this was the biggest trip I’d attempted by myself. Garris rode with me, which helped. But he was only thirteen, and self-absorbed, as are most kids his age.
We pulled into the James E Ward Agricultural Center on Thursday, the 16th, so that his 17-year old mare had plenty of time to get used to the different climate. We were one of the first people from our state, so we got parked in a good spot and set up our camp site. We saved the spot beside us for his dad, who was flying in the following Sunday.
I am naturally quiet; I always have been. I’m a shy person, until I get to know someone. It’s not easy for me to approach strangers, especially in a group setting.
As trailers continued to pull in over the next couple of days, Montana’s assigned spots filled up. It became apparent that there were cliques within the parents, much like high school. On our left, trailers were arranged in a horseshoe, with a large open area for people to sit, eat, and kids to goof around.
On our right, three trailers also clustered together, and one actually tried to back his trailer perpendicular to mine, blocking both my camp site and my ex’s. I told them that I was going to park my pickup at my trailer, and that when Garris’ dad showed up he needed to have access to his spot as well.
Very early in the weekend, it became apparent that I was the loner. The outcast. The ‘weird’ one that didn’t click. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to socialize. But no one invited me over to the large gathering. Plans had been made prior to leaving Montana to split up the meal preparation and menus. I was not included in that, so I assumed it was a closed group.
I’m not comfortable walking into a group of people. I know who most of the parents are, but I haven’t met all of them. My son asked me why I didn’t just go over there and eat. When I explained that I was invited and didn’t know everyone, he got a funny look on his face. He had never taken the time to introduce me to all the parents.
I battle depression. And anxiety at times. Some of my stressful moments are in groups of people, especially strangers. I explained this to my son and tried to make him understand how difficult it is for me to be in that situation.
I’m not antisocial. I crave to be with friends and go out and enjoy company. But I prefer to limit my interactions to one on one. I absolutely hate being the center of attention and will avoid situations if I have to be in front of a lot of people I don’t know.
One of the moms did come to my trailer and invite me over to eat – an hour after dinner had been prepared and everyone was already done eating. I politely declined, but I wanted to say: if I was honestly invited into the group, then I would have been included in the planning of meals, the shopping, etc. This group had made their plans well ahead of leaving home.
And that’s fine. There was nothing intentional or malicious done to exclude me. None of the other moms live near me, so we don’t see each other except at rodeos. But a list of parents’ phone numbers and emails had been given to each family just after the state rodeo. A group email or text would have allowed everyone the option of participating, if that was the intention of the group meals.
I know there are other parents who feel the same way. My youngest son is very social. He craves people, and their attention. He’s gregarious. He’s popular. And I’m happy for him. Maybe a little envious that it’s so easy for him to be comfortable around anyone.
But I’m simply not. He’s finally understanding that it’s something I can’t control. I have no choice when a panic attack hits or when I’m going to feel anxious about a large gathering of people. It’s simply in my makeup, the same way his personality is in his.
But he can control how he treats me. That week was overwhelming at times for me, because my son wasn’t the kindest person toward me. He was thirteen, which means at times he was rude for no reason; his tone and attitude were very snarky; and he was disrespectful. He spent every spare moment away from me. I couldn’t get him to talk to me for five minutes or walk through the trade show with me. I couldn’t even get him to drive into Nashville with me and do some touristy things. If could have gotten hooked up and moved out of my spot, I would have left Tennessee. That’s the extent to which he hurt me.
I wish that I could be different. I wish it was easy for me to join in and sit down with strangers for a quick conversation. But I can’t. Instead of feeling uncomfortable and miserable about the things I can’t change about myself, I’ve decided to simply accept them.
We humans are quick to judge before knowing all the facts. I’m thought of as uppity and weird, possibly even bitchy, among some of the other rodeo parents. But I love my family and friends and would do anything for them. I’m nurturing and have a dry sense of humor. I’m content with who I am. I can’t pretend to be outgoing. I can introduce myself to one person, but I’m not going to plop down in the middle of a group of parents I don’t know. (Especially when my ex has wedged himself into the middle of the group.)
My son has a good chance of making it to Nationals in five events this year. I’ve made reservations at a hotel for that week, but I still haven’t decided if I’m going. I don’t want to drive that far by myself. And plane tickets, plus a rental car, are out of my budget.
That decision will likely be reached by how my son treats me over the next few weeks. He has matured this past year, but he still takes his mother for granted. I’m not going to spend another week in Tennessee, being ignored by my son and feeling like I’m on the fringe of the social circle. I’d rather stay home and watch his runs on the streaming video service.