Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Parenting is Terrifying

My 9-year old (A) is an exceptional child.  I know, we all think all our children are exceptional, but he's exceptional in a completely different way.  From the time he was a baby I knew he was a unique child, but as he's growing up we can really see it.  He's a thoroughly honest child, which can really be off-putting.  Especially if you don't know him.  He will notice every expression on your face and internalize it, as if he's the reason behind your expression.  He will notice if you're wearing the same shirt you wore the day before.  He can tell you which type of shoes each child in his class wore to school today.  He notices every single physical detail of the room he is in.  Which is handy when we can't find things--hubby's wallet, a flashlight, my camera.  He is funny.  He is absolutely kind.  He is a talented artist.  He worships his Dad.  He has complete and total belief in Santa Claus.  He was devastated when the hubby hinted that Leprechauns might not be real.  He has a photographic memory.  He loves to wrestle.  He adores football, both watching and playing.  He collects football cards.  He loves his family.  He loves to play outside and climb trees.  He has a passion for old and vintage things like bikes and cars and even clothing.  He seems that he was born at least 50 years later than he belongs.

The reason I wanted to say all that is because my heart breaks for him every day.  He is amazing, wonderful, loving, adorable.  And yet he struggles in so many ways.  Last year during the school year he was tested for just about every disorder they can test for there, from learning disabilities to ADHD and Autism Spectrum.  He came out pretty normal on all the testing, which was difficult to accept since he struggles terribly at school.  He tends to be socially awkward, getting almost starstruck by his friends at school.  He is slow to make close friendships with schoolmates, and has never been invited to a birthday party.  Even when we have had several at our house and he has had kids over.  I am at the school pretty regularly and have observed the way kids interact around him and with him, and I see no sign that kids dislike him--in fact they are very friendly with him.  However, he just doesn't seem to bond with them.  He's a bit shy when it comes to interacting with the kids, as if he thinks he's not worthy.  It's so sad to see.  He thinks he doesn't have friends.  School is a challenge every year because each year his new teacher takes the first third of the year trying to figure him out, the second third of the year trying to find a way to help him succeed, and the end of the year convinced he'll be okay, even though we know we'll face the same thing the next year.  But every teacher falls in love with him.  Every adult that gets to know him falls in love with him.  When they get to know him.  And that's a special thing because he only lets certain people really get to know him.  We call them his "people."  But we have to spend quite a bit of time each year with his teachers, trying to help them understand him.  He has had some remarkable teachers.  One of them (who ended up being one of our favorites) actually said to us, kindly, that in 17 years of teaching she had never come across a child like A.  Yikes.  It's a testament to how great his school is that so far he still enjoys school, and has never been upset about having to be there.  He has big time school pride.

I don't know why I am writing all this.  I think I'm reaching out to people.  I know that there are a few people that are stopping by here to read the random things I'm posting (and thank you for your time, people!  Keep coming!).  I know many of you are parents and your heart hurts for your kids sometimes.  I'm thinking maybe it's just the scariness of the beginning of a new school year, a new cycle with A.  Our 8-year old is a classic overachiever, entering the third grade at full speed, in the gifted program with a posse of friends and love letters coming home in his backpack.  J has no issues at school other than whether he wants to spike up his bangs or not, and what to bring for sharing time.  I'm sure I'm not the only parent who is awestruck by how different my kids are from one another.

So the couple of you that are kind enough to stick with me through this long, rambling post:  what do you do when your kid is struggling with something like friendships?  Parenting is terrifying.  I am so blessed to have such amazing kids.  I hope I am doing right by them.


  1. Awwww Teri......I think A and J are both AWESOME kiddos! You are an AMAZING Mom! It is hard and even my boys are different from one another. I find myself getting nervous for my oldest with everything(sports, school, etc...) and not really as nervous at all for my youngest? Probably because my oldest gets more nervous about new situations than my youngest. I think that is just a "birth order" thing. By the time the youngest does anything, his brother has already done it.

    I guess to answer you question, I would probably try to invite friends over for him to have more one on one time with them to "bond"?

    It is hard being a "mommy" because we can see our kiddos hurt/sad and we can't always just fix it......(((HUGS))) Too bad our boys don't go to the same school....mine would hang out with yours anytime!!! :)

  2. My son struggled with this all through elementary. He never had any close friends and our neighborhood kids went out of their way to alienate him. In 6th grade he moved to a math and science magnet program and instantly bonded with the entire group of kids in the program. It was there he blossomed and grew in his friendships. He's in high school now and will always be quirky, but he has found his niche and there are friends in it with him that love him for who he is. Being gifted can be a curse that eventually turns into a blessing.