Hi Papa Bear!
I can gladly say that my life's still going well. College is moving along and I'm pretty involved on campus where I meet interesting people all over.
But, my concern has nothing to do with college or school life or even romantic relationship troubles. My mate and I have a particular circle of friends. We all are about the same age (19-20 or so) except for one person who is 15. I'm going to call him Ryan instead of his real name for the sake of privacy. Normally, not much seems wrong despite a bit of an age gap. Ryan is safe with us and the age difference doesn't hinder all of use having a good time.
But, the age difference between Ryan and everyone else is quite apparent from a maturity and mindset standpoint. This isn't surprising since teenagers have a lot of growing to do in many different ways.
What troubles me though is Ryan's immaturity. And I don't mean that he's annoying. He's actually quite tame. Sure, he has his moments but it's not much different than anyone else being annoying in some way. Ryan lives a relatively sheltered life. He's been homeschooled for as long as I can remember and he's still being home-schooled by his parents for high school. I don't really approve of home-schooling kids for their high school years for growth and social development reasons, but that's another topic for another day. As a result of his sheltered life, Ryan doesn't have many (if any) friends his age that live near him. He basically only has us (my mate, me and the other people in our circle). I'd also like to mention our circle meets online. This isn't a bad thing, just thought it would be nice to note.
I'm also not sure if his parents are good role models. So, he instead looks up to my mate as sort of a role model. That's what worries me though. Ryan is so immature in an innocent and impressionable way. Most days I forget how old he actually is. Sometimes I think he's younger than his actual age because of how "young" he acts. I don't believe my mate is a very good adult figure for him. Don't get me wrong, I love my mate to death. He has plenty of good qualities. It's the negative qualities that I don't want being spread to Ryan. My mate can be cold, cynical and pessimistic. I'm sort of a negative-Nelly too, but my mate is much more than I am. He also does not have the same amount of empathy that most people have, so he has a hard time understanding other's emotional sides and quirks. Not too long ago, one of our friend's friends had committed suicide, leaving our friend sensitive to suicide jokes. In our circle, suicide jokes come and go and everyone laughs at them because no one is being serious about it. My mate made a suicide joke while our other fiend was around. It triggered him and he told my mate to stop. However, my mate kept going on with it. The outcome wasn't good. I brought up that the joke was insensitive, but my mate insisted that our friend needed to "get over it" and compared him to the internet super feminists who get triggered over the tiniest of things. My mate just doesn't get that some people need time to mourn. That's just how he is though. My mate is an adult and if that's his opinion, that's his opinion. (Although I think that's a stupid and insensitive one.) Ryan went along with this mentality however, and this is when I noticed just how much of an influence my mate is on him. I mean, I've noticed other times like these but I just brushed them off and left it along and quickly forgot about it for the time. It was this instance when I started to become worried. I don't want Ryan to take on the negative qualities my mate has.
Ryan has yet to go to college, choose a career and meet other people. I don't want those opportunities for him squandered by a bad role model who (indirectly) taught him to be an insensitive and pessimistic douche (excuse my language). I understand that Ryan has his own life and is allowed to have any attitude he wishes. But is a bleak and unhappy outlook without being able to understand the emotional side of others really a good way to live? I was in that boat in my adolescence. I was not a happy person then; every other day I had the urge to kill myself. I don't want that kind of life for Ryan.
Though, I'm not entirely sure how to act in this situation. I'm not sure where the line between my business and his parents' business should cross on this since it's ultimately his parents' responsibility to teach him these things. Though, it doesn't really seem like they're doing a good job in my mind. Should I even get involved at all or should I leave Ryan to his own devices when he inevitably goes to college or gets a job and he needs to grow up? I also could be blowing this way out of proportion and he could mature by himself. What do you think?
Thank you for listening,
* * *
Thanks for your letter, and I am sorry for my slow reply. I’m glad things are going well for you, at least for the most part.
On to “Ryan.” To be clear, you have never actually met Ryan in person and only have a “relationship” with him as a friend in your online group. It is nice that you care about his well-being. However, you are not responsible for raising him. That is up to his parents and family. You are not really in a position to raise the cub, so don’t feel guilty about not doing more if you can’t.
Now, about your boyfriend/mate: anyone who makes fun of suicide victims has something seriously wrong going on inside his head, frankly. There are certain things in life that are never funny, and that is one of them. And all those who laugh at his suicide jokes are also immature, callous dolts who need to grow up. Make no mistake, if a friend or family member of mine killed themselves and someone made a joke about it to my face, he would shortly lose his face.
Pardons, but that is the bear in me coming out. Pisses me off royally. If I were you, I would seriously question myself as to why I would want to be with someone like that. Nuff said on that topic.
Next thing: while I know that above I said it was his parents’ responsibility to raise Ryan—and it is—as a friend you should feel free to express yourself to the young pup and warn him about your mate’s bad attitude and to take his pessimism with a grain of salt. You should also encourage him to find and interact with friends in the real world. Although Ryan is home-schooled, there are ways for him to participate in organized activities away from home and school, including at church, at local public recreation facilities (parks, public pools, gyms), sport clubs, gaming clubs, and getting involved in volunteer work. Do a little research on these options in Ryan’s area and then make suggestions to him.
After you’ve done that, you’ve pretty much accomplished what you can for Ryan. Always make yourself available as a friend, of course, and a willing ear that will listen. After that, it is up to Ryan and his family.
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