So, I wrote this post. Then I reflected for a few hours, and decided the best way for ME to feel better, and for ME to move on is really just to put it all out there. This is, after all, my little piece of the interwebz. And I’m ALWAYS pushing people to write what’s REALLY on their minds. I’m going to take my own advice.
Hi. My name is Meghann, and I have a child with what “experts” have called a developmental delay. What this means is basically: my oldest son, O, didn’t start talking until he was three and a half and no one knows why. He’s a little bit socially behind, and is considered “special education” at his school. We sit down for meetings once a year with his teacher, his principle, and his speech therapist to discuss what our goals are for the year in all aspects of school (but mostly in the speech and social categories).
We have been told he has sensory issues, meaning textures/sounds/sights and even people can overwhelm or scare him…. This includes everything from a slight change in his daily routine to a major life change (hello little brother). Food scares him, he won’t wear certain clothes, he doesn’t recognize members of his own family if he doesn’t see them on an almost daily (or weekly) basis, or unless he has a special connection with them, and even the sight of a new stuffed animal will throw him into an emotional tailspin.
He is VERY sensitive, WICKED smart, and somewhat of a perfectionist. If you want to put a label on it, well, good luck. It’s called a “developmental delay” because no one is 100% sure what’s going on in that wonderful little mind of his except him. And he doesn’t have the desire to express it, and I don’t know if he ever will.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend like having a child like him is easy. It’s not. At times, I want to curl up in a ball and cry. Other times I feel like lashing out at the universe. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love him with every single fiber of my being. It just means that it’s hard. Being a parent AT ALL is hard. Shit, just LIVING is hard. You pick your battles with a kid like him; speaking over potty training, going to school with other kids over what he eats for dinner, not being afraid of his new little brother over not chasing the cat. There are things that I don’t know if he will ever be able to do; he may never eat a single raw carrot in his whole life, he may never be able to speak in front of a crowd, he may never be able to wear anything other than cotton. You know what? I’m okay with that because the things he CAN do at his age blow my fucking mind.
He will share without being told.
He tries to say hi to each and every classmate EVERY SINGLE DAY.
He loves so intensely that it hurts him when he feels rejected.
He enjoys helping other people.
He craves responsibility.
He learns VERY quickly.
He forgives just as quickly.
I may be biased, but this dude is so fucking cool. Ask anyone who TRULY knows him, and they will tell you what a character he is and how much they love him. Which is why I get so fiercely protective of him…
I have found, since having my boys, that the progress I THOUGHT our society was making toward gender neutrality is an illusion. I find myself subconsciously guilty, and I like to think of myself as pretty forward thinking. I buy “boy” stuff all the time; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, HotWheels, Legos, etc. I don’t think twice about it because that’s what O is in to, luckily for him, his Momma is, too. But if he asked me to buy him a pink toothbrush, or a doll, or even a dress? I would do it. And I would never hear the end of it.
Because, apparently, it’s not okay for my son to choose to break the mold.
And, apparently, I’m a shitty Mom for letting him make those decisions.
And, as has been stated loud and clear on SEVERAL occasions, he stands to be ridiculed by his own family if he chooses to be something different than what they expect him to be.
Fuuuuuuuuuuuck that. I almost went out and bought him pink flip flops just to spite them. Because matching Mom makes O super happy, and THAT is all I care about.
I remember when I was pregnant with him, and we told people what we were going to name him. Most everyone loved it, we heard everything from “oh my god that’s SO cute,” and “man, what a noble name, he could be president with that name someday.” Unfortunately, not everyone was as receptive. I heard “really? That’s a stupid name,” and “he is SO going to get made fun of. Didn’t you think about that?” And, “well, I would make fun of him.”
I brushed it off.
I remember when he was teeny and we would all talk about what we thought he would be like. School sports all year round, hunting, fishing, shooting guns for sport, wearing Romeos and camo, and driving a big pick ’em up truck, rolling in the dirt, having a dog, etc… That was the expectation. The mold. The tradition (which I find fucking hysterical considering D is NOTHING like that). There’s absolutely nothing wrong with those things, by the way…
I brushed it off.
I remember when he was about two, and he wanted to go play outside, but not get dirty. He got dirty, and cried and cried and cried. He got laughed at, which made him cry harder. Eventually, he was okay, but let’s not pretend that didn’t bother him.
I brushed it off.
I remember when he finally started talking, and he would try and have conversations with various people. Instead of being patient and trying to converse with him, he would get ignored. He would get frustrated, and eventually, the connection was lost for him. He now doesn’t even know their names.
I brushed it off.
I remember last spring when we decided it was time to try out sports, just to see how he would do. We asked him which sport he wanted to try… He chose soccer. We told everyone about it, he was so excited. Most people were excited for him, telling him that he was going to do so well and he would have so much fun. Others were not supportive at all… “Soccer is for girls.” “Really? Are you sure he doesn’t want to play ball instead?” “Well that’s stupid.”
I brushed it off.
Last weekend was it for me. He doesn’t pay attention, or if he does, he doesn’t completely understand what they’re saying… Which is a good thing for now. I was flat out told that O would get made fun of if he chooses to play a sport that is different than what’s expected of him.
Can someone explain something to me really quick?
How is it okay for the following things to happen:
1) to make fun of a six year old. AT ALL.
2) to expect a six year old to fit into any sort of mold. AT ALL.
3) even if it wasn’t a serious statement, to say that. AT ALL.
Here’s the kicker: it’s family. You know, the people who are SUPPOSED to love and support you no matter what. And believe me, I understand better than most that doesn’t always happen. But I’d like to think that my kids will have a better go at it than I did.
I don’t know what bothers me more, the fact that it was said or that it’s the biggest double standard of all time. I mean, it’s okay for girls to wear camo and hunt, or be into guns and Jeeps, or get dirty and play baseball, without ridicule, but it’s NOT okay for boys to play soccer? Or wear pink or purple? Or be sensitive?
Every decision that we have made has had his best interest at heart. With his “issues,” sometimes those decisions aren’t ours to make… They’re his.
He’s not your “typical” boy. He doesn’t like to get muddy, he is gentle, he is scared of bugs and most animals, he would MUCH rather be in a small group than a large one, he likes to tickle instead of wrestle because he hates feeling confined by people he doesn’t know, he wants to snuggle and connect with people, he actually thinks spitting is gross and doesn’t blow his nose into his hands because it feels weird (plus ew). He chases chickens because he’s scared of them, and that makes him feel bigger. He doesn’t eat meat (frozen chicken nuggets don’t count cuz they’re not meat), isn’t that into cars, and would rather play Octonauts than Cowboys and Indians.
He may or may not decide he wants to play sports. Right now? He’s enjoying ball.
He may decide he wants to sing, or dance, or act… He IS very creative after all. He may want to paint, or draw, or sculpt. He may want to do science, or be a mathlete, or do yearbook, or be on the newspaper. He may get into student government, or be on the chess team, or he may decide to play an instrument.
He may even decide to play football, baseball, hockey, soccer, swim, lacrosse, wrestle, run track, run cross country, golf, or he may decide he wants to play volleyball and not even play for his school.
He may graduate with honors, he may not.
He may go to college, he may not.
But you know what? He’s still the same kid no matter what he DOES. What you do during your school years doesn’t define you. He may end up playing football… That doesn’t mean he’s not going to be the exact same kid he’s always been. He may end up playing soccer… That doesn’t make him any less of a boy. All his boy parts are still there, and he will be the same kid no matter WHAT he chooses to do.
So just STOP.
Let him be him.
You really want to have an impact on his life? You want to teach him something useful?
It’s not how to catch a fucking football, or baseball, or how to put someone in a head lock.
The best thing you can help teach him is that it’s okay to just be him. That he’s pretty fucking amazing just being himself.
THAT YOU WILL LOVE HIM NO MATTER WHAT.
You want him to remember your name? You want him to WANT to have a relationship with you? You want to have a relationship with him?
Then set aside your ego and your own self image issues and love this amazing dude for who he is. Take the time to understand him, and connect with him, and just love him.
Don’t mold him. He is who he is, you’re not going to be able to change that.
Or get the fuck out, because I can’t take it anymore. I am his biggest fan. His champion. And I am done brushing this off.