Larry Bernstein loves his son and sees all of the positives. But what is there to do when other people focus on the negatives?
Other kids sometimes think my son is weird. Sometimes, I think so too. I’m not sure which situation makes me feel worse.
I know I shouldn’t care when he does odd things. I should be fine and know he is simply being him. The guilt is another weight on my shoulders.
He doesn’t act weird on purpose. It is not his fault that he suffers from ADHD and anxiety and other things that have never been and probably never will be diagnosed. All of these affect his social skills and his sense of what is or is not appropriate.
I know all this in my head and my heart. I know I am supposed to be my child’s best advocate. I brought him into this world, and he is my responsibility. I know all of this very well, and I think about it on a daily basis.
Whether I want to or not, I am forced to confront his issues and my approach to them. Things will be quiet for a while. No phone calls from school. No awkward social situations. I’ll swear that progress is being made. He is growing up, maturing, and becoming more self-aware.
But then the next incident will occur. The inbox will have an unwanted addition or the red light will be blinking alerting me a phone message awaits. I’ll forget about the so-called progress and swear that he will always be the odd one out. I’ll sigh, read or listen to the message, and feel sad.
He is 9 years old and my eldest. Through loving him I discovered a part of myself that I never knew existed. With his every smile and accomplishment, a joy fills me. He is beautiful, responsible, sensitive, brilliant and inquisitive. He is light years ahead of his peers in math, knows more about the presidents than 90% of Americans, and his reading level is easily three grades above average.
His intelligence gives him an opportunity to do nearly anything. I am sure he has the skills to be everything he wants to be. And yet I worry about his future greatly.
I want to protect him. I want to guide him. I want to show him right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, cool and not cool.
But he has a mind of his own. He hears my instructions, but they make minimal impact. He is independent, too independent.
I was speaking to him after a particularly rough school day. It was another day that included an email home detailing his inappropriate behavior — unzipping a layer of his pants, criticizing his teacher’s outfit, crawling under his desk. We received too many of those during the past school year, which made 3rd grade officially “the year from hell.”
“What happened today?”
“I was silly.”
“I don’t know.”
“Did you want the kids to laugh?”
“Do you think they were laughing at you or with you?” I don’t know if he understood the difference.
“BR, the kids might laugh. They think it’s funny. But it’s inappropriate. They think something is wrong with you.”
“BR they’re going to think you are weird.”
“I don’t care.”
“You don’t care that the other kids are going to think you are weird?”
“No, what difference does it make?”
“Well, I care. I don’t want kids to think you are weird.”
And there you have it: he claims he does not care. Part of me appreciates his independence. Another part of me recognizes that school is a setting where there are certain expectations and if they are not filled, the child will face negative consequences. It is my job as his parent and advocate to let him know that his behavior is inappropriate and other kids are laughing at him. Yet, I don’t want to rattle his sense of self-worth and therefore enhance his anxiety.
Like all parents, I want to protect, love, and appreciate my child for who he is. I want to prepare him for the day he walks out the door. When that day comes, I pray that he will walk out confident in himself, respect from and for those around him, and with the knowledge that his father loves him as he is.
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photo: SagaLun / flickr