Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Maybe It's Me

That's the treehouse Baroy built for N (and Em), which he had mostly completed, but totally finished last night after we got back from New York. I would never have expected N to be willing to climb up there--it's HIGH--but he did, and he loved it. That's him reading to Baroy. If that isn't the sweetest thing ever, I don't know what is.

There's been this niggling feeling at the back of my brain for a while now...a feeling that maybe the only real 'problem' that N has is me.

No, this is not me looking for sympathy and cries of, "Oh, no! You're a wonderful mother." That's not what I mean. I know I'm a wonderful mother--as wonderful as I, an inherently flawed human being, am capable of being. Which half the time means I truly suck at this. But no more than the next person.

What I mean is that I wonder if I just kept my mouth completely shut--didn't talk to his teachers at the beginning of the school year, didn't ask for assessments, didn't constantly 'explain' his quirks to other people the minute they appear (or even before they do), didn't even spend a ridiculous amount of bandwidth talking about this issue and that issue right here on this blog--how many people would notice anything being truly amiss. If I didn't tell people there was something wrong, give them something to look for...would they even notice?

I started thinking about this a lot more near the end of the school year, after having a conversation with the mother of a boy who N had really become friendly with--so friendly that he was actually playing at recess, rather than sitting on the bench all by himself every single day. I said something to her about much I appreciated what Joey was doing for N, and she said, "And vice versa, of course." And I just automatically poo-poo'ed her, saying something along the lines of, "Well, yes, but with N's issues, it's been hard for him to..." and trailed off as I noticed her looking at me like I was speaking another language. Because, of course, I was talking about her son as if he were some kind of occupational therapist who had identified N's social deficits and was instituting a carefully considered plan to integrate him into classroom activities...when all he really is is a kid who likes to play Indiana Jones with N after lunch. Period. He doesn't know N has issues. As far as he's concerned, N doesn't HAVE any issues. (Well, actually, that's not entirely true. Their teacher told me he asked once or twice about why N always needs her to tell him what he's doing is OK, and why N won't read out loud and things like that. But that only muddies my point, so let's pretend that's not the case, OK?)

There have been a couple of other incidents as well. Friends who have treated him differently after I talked to them about my concerns, when otherwise they might have never considered him as 'different' or needing more than they're capable of giving. That sort of thing. But it all really became worrisome to me during this recent visit to New York.

We had a wonderful time, I need to say right here, because both my mother and sister read this, and I don't want either of them thinking we didn't. Or that I was unhappy about way things turned out during our week there. Everything was perfect. So perfect that it made me think.

See, the overriding comment about N last week was this: "He's so much better than I thought he'd be." And, of course, the only reason anyone would think he'd be "not better" is because of what I say and what I imply and how much I talk about this and that and the other thing. But maybe that's not true. Maybe I need to let everyone figure out who N is and what's going on with him on their own, in their own way. Maybe I need to shut up and not speak until spoken to.

Maybe I need to let N learn how to just be N, without me interpreting who he is for the world around him.

Yeah. Like that's ever going to happen.

A complete aside: As I type this, Baroy took N to the golf course for his first lesson of the summer session. We weren't sure if he would get the same coach he had last session, an older African-American man named Al who is just wonderful for N, and who takes absolutely NO CRAP from any of the 7- to 14-year-olds in this class. We were hoping for him, because N learned so much from him last session and because he takes N very seriously as a golfer.

Anyway, I just got a series of three text messages from Baroy.

The first: "N got Al again. Al asked me if N had grown."

The second: "Actually, what he said was, 'He don't look so short anymore.'"

The third: "Gotta love Al."

I totally love Al. Al rocks. And, better yet, Al just made me smile. I needed that smile.


Anonymous said...

I have done this too. Defended or explained my kids prior to having any reason for doing so. It's a protective device that can backfire, expecially when my kids notice me doing it. I've been like this about myself too- apologizing in advance, if only in my own mind, for any perceived inadequecies or differences- so I guess I set my own precedent. The other thing I've done is downplayed my kids' accomplishments, a sort of deflecting-envy habit that is equally insidious, one that I also do to myself. Thanks for the wake-up call.

Green said...

I think that's a great reason for introducing new people into N's life every so often - so he can view himself how others view him.

I can not tell you how mindblowing it is for me to know people who didn't know me as a kid who was violently and vocally hated by everyone. To be friends with people who trust me, who simply think I'm a regular person.

Also, keep in mind EVERY kid has quirks, and at some point, I have the feeling that's simply where N will be when he's older. A ladies man who is sensitive to insecure people.

Really. I can't think of any kid I've met - either through babysitting or a friend's child - where their parent has NOT at some point rushed to explain some quirk about their perfectly normal kid. Whether it's that their kid will only wave a thank you rather than saying the words, or that they're afraid of thumbs, don't like pencils with erasers, whatever.

Yes, N has issues. But so does everyone. Also, even if everyone else doesn't have the crippling stagefright that N has shown, every other kid has gone through a shy stage, and can understand N.

Welcome home.

Rich | Championable said...


Don't make me fly out there and open up a giant can of "GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK."


Anonymous said...

I don't know you or your situation with your son.

BUT my husband says this to me and it's always one of those.. mm, your right! statements: "Argue for your limitations and they will be yours." If you are constantly making reasons and excuses and exceptions for him, them he won't learn to work around them... he won't need to.