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Friday, August 1, 2014

"I Bully You Because I love you"

“I BULLY YOU BECAUSE I LOVE YOU” – this is what I overheard my older son saying to my younger son one day about a year ago.  Basically, Christian, my oldest, was explaining to my then 9 year old, that he was giving his younger brother a hard time because the Little Guy was so nice and so sweet that he would be easy pickins’ for bullies.  Unless his older brother “prepped” him first. I’m not talking about anything physical, my kids don’t get into fist fights (yet), but there’s plenty of “jawin’” as my grandmother would call it.

Some psychologists talk about “Sibling Bullying”.  I’m pretty well trained, as a former Law Guardian, and a current Family Law Attorney and Family Mediator, and I officially deem it Sibling Rivalry, the same age-old bickering that has long been a rite of passage for all siblings.

I found my older son’s “strategy” interesting.  Of course, I’m not sure if Christian thought his brother would be attending Cooley High some day (very old after-school special reference for those 40 and over).  In fact, they attend a very peaceful Catholic School, where everyone gets along and is not even a little bit like my public school experience.  To date, our only experience with “bullying” was with a large girl in pre-K who was constantly knocking Christian down.  And who said to the pre-K teacher, “but how else am I supposed to show him that I like him?”  Yeah, we’re sheltered at our parochial school.

I have always thought of Christian as the “Alpha,” the born leader, the one who is so driven to lead and to win that it’s almost a character flaw.  Michael has always been the sweet one, with the chubby cheeks and the cherub-like disposition.

Christian was always a natural in the coxy (coxswain)  seat at rowing. (SEE BELOW FOR DEFINITION OF ''COXSWAIN"). He was coxy for much older high school boys and motivated them to many a win, some of the championships, starting at the age of 10.  And just when he was converting from coxy to rower, he kind of jumped ship and went off to pursue football and basketball.

Michael has been sculling and coxying for the Newburgh Rowing Club since he was 8.  He can now scull in a single, double or quad and sweep in a large crew shell, as well as be a coxswain.  He was one of the original summer campers in 2012, and he returned to Newburgh Rowing summer camp in 2013 and again this year, when he was put into the “most experienced” group of summer campers.  That kid rowed more in 4 weeks of summer camp than some kids row all season.

But I was still in protective – OK, I’ll say it OVERprotective mode – coming down at lunchtime every day as I did when he was 8 years old, to sunscreen him and check on him.
If Big Coach and I are there at the same time, I go out in the motorboat with him, it’s kind of our thing.  He took me out one day and I watched Michael sculling in a middle school quad.  And he took me out this week and I watched Michael as a coxswain of an 8+.

While he was coxy, he lost his voice from yelling so much.  I heard one of the youngsters in the boat say, “Hey coxy, speak up I can’t hear you,” -- just your generic good natured teasing.  I of course, wanted to swim out and hug Michael and tell him it was Okay, teasing is a part of life, and Mommy would …

“Hey, why don’t you zip it, 4-seat.  Actually, why don’t you just learn to feather your oar so you can stop catching crabs so much,” said Michael, “then I won’t have to yell and I wouldn’t have to lose my voice.  Now sit ready and get ready for a hard 10!”

I looked at Big Coach, my mouth hanging open.  “Oh wait, you didn’t know Michael is an even tougher coxy than your other son?” he said.  No, I thought Michael was a sweet little cherub who would fall to pieces and cry if criticized.  At that, Big Coach started laughing so hard he had to put his megaphone down.

“Oh my gosh – he is the toughest coxy in Summer Camp,” said Coach Kennedy. “When we had the battle of the genders, the girls’ boat was winning for 90% of the race, and Michael started yelling at the boys, ‘Get your oars moving, what’s the matter with you, we are not going to let a bunch of girls beat us!’”

“Wait,” I said, “My Michael said that?  Michael LoBiondo?”

“Oh yes,” said Big Coach.  “I mean, he gets so caught up in his speeches that he forgets to use the rudder sometimes -- but you know, he’s only 10.  This kid’s going to tear up the water.  He’s a natural coxswain and a natural rower, just give it some time.”

“So he doesn’t get bullied?” I ventured.
“Are you kidding me?” said Big Coach, “are you that out of touch with your kids?”

Well, you could call it out of touch.  You could also call it pleasantly surprised.  So maybe, just maybe, Christian’s strategy worked.  Perhaps he toughened up his little brother a little bit.
But in the end, it is that all important coxy seat, showing you what your kid is made of.  It has been said about Football:  Football doesn’t build character, it reveals character.  That is how I feel about the 9th seat (where the coxswain sits).  It doesn’t build character but instead reveals it.

I guess you could say the same thing about Sibling Rivalry.

Have a great day, everyone, wish us luck as the Newburgh Rowing Club provides a kayak escort for the swimmers at the Great Newburgh to Beacon Swim to benefit River Pool today, Splash In is at Unico Park at 12:35 pm.  And, as always, remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo
(Photo of the LoBiondo Boys in Maine, 2007).  For more of the Mrs. Lo Blog, go to
COXSWAIN:  From Urban Dictionary:
"characteristics of the coxswain:
-stands around 5 ft 2 in
-weighs no more than 110 lbs.
-directs and steers the boat for crew
-sits normally in the stern but in certain 4 person crews in the bow
-has a voice that can be heard for miles
-is seen toting around water bottles, shoes, socks, and the ever popular cox box "
-has a mysterious tan line in the middle of his or her forehead from the strap attached to the microphone on the cox box
-upon winning a race, the coxswain is thrown into the (often very dirty) water
-he or she is in charge of directing practices, calling races, and making certain that the $30,000 boat does not hit any other objects such as a bridge, floating log, another boat, or a dock

Common calls of the coxswain:
-"LET IT RUN" (used to stop the boat)
-"WEIGH 'NUFF" (used to stop the boat)
-"PORT/STARBOARD PRESSURE" (to direct the boat)
-"POWER TEN in TWO, ONE, TWO" (used in races to make the boat go faster, often at the dismay of the crew)
and the ever popular:
Man...that coxswain sure is tiny but she has a very loud mouth, her crew wouldn't be able to survive without her."