Luke confessed that he hasn't been playing with anyone at recess. I asked him why and he said all of his friends play kickball. I asked why he doesn't play with them. He said he used to but he doesn't anymore.
With Luke, there is almost always more to the story but he won't share it if you push him. He has to tell it in his own time.
Finally, he divulged that one of the boys, nicknamed Bubba at the boy's own request, called Luke the "Worst Kickball Player in the World" when Luke didn't make a play. So Luke quit playing on the spot and won't play anymore. He chooses to do his own thing at recess, alone, rather than face more embarrassment and berating. This makes me want to go to every recess with him and play with him, but I know I can't.
I talked to him about this kid and how he plays kickball. He's not perfect, of course, so we talked about how he may name call to take the attention off of himself. We talked about insecurities and doing what you want in spite of name calling and not letting someone bully you out of having fun. We talked about practicing kickball in the backyard to build his confidence.
There is another boy that plays kickball at recess that Luke has been in a friendly competition with since Kindergarten. He refers to him as a "friend who is my archenemy." This kid is smart and athletic and popular. Luke never showed much interest in him outside of their competition. Luke invited him to our house to play yesterday, and I wonder if he thinks moving from competition to friendship with this boy will ease his recess woes. Kind of like Smalls and Benny in the Sandlot.
I was terribly shy in school, and had someone not spoken with me I probably would have spent most of my days alone. I was not one to make the first move. I painfully remember how hard it was to make friends and how honest and mean kids can be to each other.
At the dog park the other day, I watched how the dogs interacted. Each time a new dog came in the fenced area to play, all of the other dogs would run up to it. They would do a little greeting and tail wagging, and then they'd all run off as a group to play. Whenever one dog saw or smelled something interesting, all of the other dogs would run over to check it out. There was no ganging up, no hurt feelings, no one left out of the play. Too bad it can't be this simple for kids.
Maybe I should suggest a field trip to the dog park to observe the social interactions of an animal who knows nothing more at that moment than wanting to play and have fun with everyone. I think there are good lessons to learn there, sans the butt sniffing.