My youngest son is twelve years old. He’s small for his age, with a high-pitched voice and tiny hands. He looks out of place among his peers.
He’s different in other ways, too. His small stature means he can’t compete physically with other boys his age, so he sits on the sideline for team sports, chosen last at pick-up games.
He has a quirky personality. He gets lost in his thoughts sometimes, unable to articulate them to others, coming across as goofy and aloof. His short attention span often gets him in trouble.
He doesn’t care about clothes like a lot of kids his age. He has a handful of favorite t-shirts and shorts, and wears them when he wants to, regardless of how they look.
He has trouble organizing his thoughts. Information doesn’t line up in his brain in a linear manner like it does for most people. Instead, his mind is a kaleidoscope of ideas, whirling around in a manner that makes sense only to him.
He doesn’t handle stress well. When he’s anxious, he’ll pull the right side of his shirt collar into his mouth and start chewing. When I see him doing that I’m grateful that he’s moved on from his other nervous habit: hurting himself.
. . .
This is how the world sees him.
. . .
This is how I see him.
He’s small, just like his brothers. He’ll probably be a late bloomer just like they were, but he’ll catch up to the crowd eventually.
I’m glad he likes running cross-country. It’s a team sport where you compete against yourself. Your own improvement is what really matters, at least at this level. He’s growing stronger, running faster, developing self-discipline.
He comes up with the most impressive thoughts. Really out-of-the-box things – like designs for machines, concepts for movies and lyrics for songs. He has taught himself sound production and movie-making on his own. Someday he will create something really amazing, or invent something new, because he thinks so big.
He’s attached to things that mean something to him. The t-shirt he bought when we saw The Lion King in the theater is his favorite, and he loves the shirts from the races he’s run. He wants them close to him as often as possible.
When his mind starts racing, I wish I could get inside it with him, because I know he’s coming up with some pretty amazing stuff in there. He’s getting better at expressing himself verbally, but the words still fly out faster than I can grasp them. Written expression is still miles away, but he’ll get there. I know he will. Because I won’t give up until he does.
He’s still afraid of failure. Who wouldn’t be if they walked in his shoes? He can’t read on grade level, can’t make a decent oral argument, has handwriting no one can read (not even himself). He stinks at sports and doesn’t have many friends. But he’s handling anxiety better now than he used to. I tremble when I think of the days he used to bite his arm until it was purple, or hit his head on the floor out of frustration. I will always watch him closely, because I fear he’ll be the one who cuts himself.
For the rest of the world, my boy wears a lot of labels. Labels like ADD, dyslexia, dysgraphia. Runt, girly, immature, weird.
But to me he only wears one.
And I long for the day when others see him the way I do.
Is there someone in your life who is often misunderstood?
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This space between perspectives is a piece of my story as well. May all our children cultivate friends who see them through a lens as knowing as our own.
Indeed. Thanks for stopping by, scribblechic!
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What a wonderful story and tribute to your son. It was beautifully written and I felt really teary reading of your poor boy’s struggles. School can be such a difficult place but with a Mum like you I’m sure he will reach his amazing potential and achieve something incredible.
My brother-in-law can’t communicate and has severe intellectual/behavioural disabilities but to my husband he is just his brother, and to my girls who adore him, he is their Uncle Chaddie.
The families of children with these difficulties are blessed people as they often see the world in a different way, and care less about what others think and are not judgemental.
In a selfish way I have benefitted from my husband growing up with a brother who was often ill and needed love and understanding as I have a wonderful husband who never gets tired or frustrated with my health issues. I have chronic pain and I am often misunderstood. I am no way comparing myself to your son, but I am often labelled and it is such a relief when someone (like my husband) truly understand you and sees you as you are. Just like you do for your son – what a lucky boy he is.
I look forward to reading more about your family…
Thank you, Elissa. My son is lucky. His challenges aren’t that severe, compared to so many others. But anything that makes a child “different” in school creates hurdles for him. He’s an intelligent boy, and once he reaches a place in life where he isn’t measured by answers filled into a circle on a standardized test, he’ll be fine! And we’ll all be better for having helped him.
Good luck with the journey and hope that others around you offer more support and understanding (sounds like the school especially). I’ve recently found your blog and am following it earnestly now. You have been doing great work. Well done 🙂
My son had some issues growing up – ADD, a lazy eye that required corrective lenses, and he was always much bigger than the other boys – and your post really touched me. I always knew that the young man he has become (he’s now 20) was in there someplace, just waiting to emerge. It took a lot of work and even more patience, but he’s now in college and taking care of business. Your son is lucky to have you to understand and adore him.
Your son is one lucky guy to have a mother like you. You know he has a few minor flaws, but you look past them and see who he truly is. When looking, a mother’s eyes can see so much more than what others care to notice. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post and for loving your child like every mother should.
x melissa little
Thank you, Melissa. After reading your post, I feel luckier than I ever have. I had a wonderful mother, who showered me with love and instilled in me a great set of values. And although I swore I wouldn’t ‘turn into her’ I did. (And that’s a very good thing!) So I’ve never really known any other parenting style. Reading your story today, and trying to imagine the family dynamic you described was hard for me. It was hard because it is so foreign.
Thank you for visiting my little corner of the blogosphere. I hope to see you again. 🙂
It sounds like your mother was a wonderful person. I’m glad that you could pass down the love to your own children. My mother wasn’t a mirror image of perfection, but I did learn from her. I learned to be everything that she wasn’t. I learned from her mistakes. And because of that, I hope that my children will remember me just as you remember your mother. :o)
And that is how we transcend. Much love to you, Melissa.
He’s the best little guy out there. We miss him!
He is pretty special, Shawn. We miss you, too.
Hugs to your son and to you! Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving your comment! I wish my husband was able to articulate himself to his folks back then!
My husband was diagnosed when my son was. He spent his whole life struggling and wondering. K-12 was rough for him, but by college he found strategies that worked for him. He has 3 degrees, including a master’s degree from Syracuse. Not too shabby for a boy who couldn’t read.
What a beautiful love letter to your son! ❤
Thank you. I’m looking forward to the day when all of this is behind him, and he shows the rest of the world the greatness he holds. Thanks for stopping by, Larks. Your post-Newtown piece on gun control really made me think.
As we say in my house- “Don’t dis-my-abilities!” We don’t have to be the same to be spectacular! I wish everyone “got it” so our kids could live their lives without added anxiety and judgement.
Thanks for sharing-
Mom of a 6 year old with refractory seizures and Landau Kleffner Syndrome- but to me the only label that matters is daughter.
I love what you say in your house! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your wisdom and enthusiasm with me!
He is lucky to have a parent who gets him and loves him just the way he is! It’s a wonderful blessing to a child!
You know, LandC, it is. I’ve said a dozen times here in these comments that I’m the lucky one, but I know kids with parents who don’t ‘get’ them, and they have a much harder time reaching their potential. Thanks for the perspective.
God created your son like he is because He has a plan that could not be accomplished if Brian were any different. And He trusted you to nurture that plan. What an awesome and incredible thought that is! You will surely hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I can’t wait to hear in the years ahead how this magnificent plan works out.
Kay, I tell him often “You are EXACTLY what God intended you to be.” He knows that makes him perfect. And I know it, too.
Your words are the exact words I needed to hear today. Because it’s easy to forget that my job as the steward of this child of God is to raise him to fulfill his Father’s plan.
What a wonderful post and tribute. You are both lucky to have each other.
I am lucky to have him. I want so badly for us to start seeing others for what they can be, instead of what they aren’t. Someday he’ll use his gifts to change the world. But for now we travel the rocky road.
with the love and support you show – it’s a lot less rocky than you may think! Big Hugs to that special boy!!!
Really lovely piece. He is one lucky kid to have you on his side 🙂
Thank you, Christina. But I’m pretty sure I am the lucky one. 🙂
I got a lump in my throat while reading this. Your son is a lucky boy and your writing has inspired me to keep trying on those difficult days.
Oh, Jamie, I know all about difficult days. So if you ever need someone to call on when you’re having one of them, you know where to find me. Catch me here, or on Facebook or Twitter. We all need to know we’re not alone. Be strong, my friend.
You’re so right! He’s going to be incredible-he already is. It is impossibly hard to be at an age where you can’t fit in. But he sounds like a fantastic kid, and you sound like a fantastic mom for seeing all the things that truly matter.
My #1 job at this stage of his life is to make sure he doesn’t feel “defective.” Because in 20 years, he’s going to go to be just like the kids who pick on him now. He’ll go to work, cut his grass, watch football. But he’ll have a compassionate heart to go along with it. Thank, TriGirl, for the kind words.
I love this post so much. Thank you for sharing this little bit of Brian through your eyes.
Remember his name, Deb. You’ll hear it someday, or see it on the rolling credits. He’s going to rock the world when his time comes!
What a sweet post! And Brian sounds like an amazing kid. I can’t wait to see him grow into what he’s supposed to be — which will be something good with a mama who loves him as much as you do.
He WILL be something good, Soupmama! Because he believes in himself. He truly believes he will do great things. I just can’t wait to see what it turns out to be!
I tried to “Like” this post and your button doesn’t like me. Your son will look back on this post in the future and think you are the greatest human being on the planet. 🙂
I’m sorry my button didn’t Like you. I Like you plenty!!
I hope someday he can look back on all of this with perspective. Right now he thinks I’m the greatest mama in the world, but with puberty approaching that may change. 😉
And the Amish Erotics post… I’m humbled to be in such company!
What a touching post. Your son is lucky to have you as his mom.
Thank you for the kind words. But I’m the Lucky One. Really, I am.
This is a lovely post. Thank you for sharing it.
Thank you for reading it. I hope you tuck it away in your heart and the next time you meet a ‘Brian’ share some love. ❤
What a BEAUTIFUL Boy he is I see him the way you do he is special because of who he is NOT any Disability he may have. He is your gift and you are his BLESSING! May God Bless Sweet Brian Always and forever and may he bless your family!!
Susan, my family is blessed beyond measure. Every Sunday I ask God to let me live to be worthy of the blessings He has bestowed on me. I feel like I got the prize in advance. ❤
He sounds like a brilliant, shining thing…. with a lovely and supportive mom 🙂 Beautiful post!
Brilliant and shining describe him perfectly! Thanks for the kind words, Tori.
BTW, I LOVED your piece about learning to be wrong.
Thank God for Moms like you! Brian (and his brothers) are lucky boys.
No, I’m the lucky one. Hence the name. 😉
I see him. I see him real well. Good on you mama. xoxo
Thanks, El. I know you get it. More than most people. And someday the world will see our boys the way we do.
your son sounds like a fine young man and with a great mom like you supporting him he will get through life and amaze eveyone.Best wishes to you both.
He will amaze everyone! Thanks for the kind words, Nana!
Your Brian sounds like an absolutely delightful guy!
The world will never see our kids the way we do, but if we advocate and teach loudly and proudly, they just might come close to it.
You are doing a great job of that here.
Advocate, teach. That is indeed what I do. As he gets older, and I see things lining up for him I get so excited, knowing great things lie ahead.
And wow. Just paid a visit to your site. Please keep in touch.
What a fabulous post! You are an awesome mom!
Thank you, Ginny Marie! It’s easy to be an awesome mom when you have awesome kids!
Lisha ~ As I started reading your post, the part before, “this is how the world sees him”, I thought that this kid is going to do some pretty amazing things when he grows up! Hmmm… I think that I remember reading that Walt Disney was once told that he wasn’t creative enough?!?!??! Go figure? There’s always some insecure individual that will put someone down, whether they are a kid, themself or a grown-up, that really should know better. So much of his positive self-esteem will come from the person that wrote, “This is how I see him”. He’s one lucky young man, to have you in his corner.
Thank you, Carol. Folks like you and I see through the superficial things to see the layers beneath and see what is to come, not just what’s before us now.
Walt Disney was also severely dyslexic. As was Steve Jobs, John Lennon, Albert Einstein, Leonardo daVinci, and many more. Their greatness wasn’t realized until they had grown into their abilities.
Thanks for visiting and commenting. And I loved your piece on Listening!
At your words “…he’ll pull the right side of his shirt collar into his mouth and start chewing” I felt myself take a big breath and I’m not sure I’ve let it go yet because you described my son, down to the side of the shirt. I watch him scurry into the school, backpack on his back, as all the other kids casually stroll in, and the tears are there. Are people mean to him? Does he have friends? He says no, and yes, but I don’t know. My heart hurts for him. He’s happiest at home, wearing his sherpa blanket like a robe, building all sorts of incredibly complicated things on the computer, watching surgical videos, and creating. He’s an incredible kid, and once he — we — get through school, the world will be his, and people will listen to what he has to say.
Your son, Brian, my son — all of our kids are the ones who are going to change things. They don’t think like everyone else, and as parents, we understand that — we applaud that. It just takes time, and a lot of effort, to get there.
I know all too well the aching heart of wondering if my boy is OK. We have to put them in God’s hands sometimes. But you are absolutely right, they will grow up. They will grow into their brains, which I believe are way ahead of their years. They will change the world because they will think bigger and broader than the others. And our pride will outshine the sun. ❤
I imagine the middle years will be rough for Brian. But he will grow into an amazing adult. He will find himself feeling less alone in this big weird world. Because he has a place and there are a lot of big, weird adults with whom he can hang out. He will find them.
Still, this is a hard road for a mother.
I have TechSupport at home, and he Is cut from the same kind of cloth as your Brian. (((Hugs))) and adoration for a beautiful piece of writing.
Yes, the middle years will be the hardest part for him. But as I’ve seen twice now, they’re fleeting.
And you’re absolutely right, once he’s an adult, he’ll find people like himself and grow his own posse. I found you, didn’t I? 😉
We did. We found each other. *weep* It’s incredible, isn’t it?
Brian is awesome! Thank you for posting this … it makes me feel good. my son is 12 – he is BIG for his age but very immature … very smart and not very good at sitting still, keeping his hands to himself or keeping quiet … he has been given lots of (negative) labels but to me he is Sam … we have been told that his attitude will prevent him from going places but i KNOW that there are great things going to come from him. I got some good advice from a friend a few yrs back and i think of it every day: You are an awesome mom! YOU are the best advocate for your son! He is your son because only YOU can guide him to excellence! Thank you for re-enforcing it! xoxoxoxoxxoxod
Thank you, Deneen. No one knows what another is capable of until the time comes for them to do it. Sam will reach his potential because he has YOU behind him. Just as my boy will.
Beautifully written. I can’t wait to meet him and your family! Hey maybe it will be this year! But, shhh, don’t tell anyone it’s a secret. I will let you know when, because as I promised I will be taking some Family Portraits (that is if you still want them).
I would LOVE that!
And remember that others see you through loving eyes, too. And they see you as perfect, just as you were meant to be. ❤
Team Alexander has always seen Brian the way you do; sorry to play favorites but he is our favorite Fink.
Big smile for Team Alexander! Mr. Wonderful and I often talk about the good fortune we had to know you and your family. That group of friends is — to this day — the only group who just takes him as he is. I am so sorry we don’t see you often any more. Let’s fix that!
I read this and cried because it reminded me of my 10 year old daughter. If only the world could see all of the talent, love and wisdom that she has to offer, that all children have to offer, each in their own special way. Thank you for your elegant words and for sharing your story.
What a great mom! Way to let the world know who he really is! I sure can relate to seeing my child through different eyes than the rest of the world.
Thank you. I’m his biggest fan!
Your words echo my thoughts about my own 11 year old son very closely. I tell his therapist that he is wonderful and amazing, but the other kids treat him as if he is a weirdo. Time truly will heal this social chasm, but for now, it is heartbreaking to watch them struggle with their sense of self. Thank you for sharing!
Andrea, you are exactly right. In time, their differences will become uniqueness. But in the K-12 world, it makes for some rough days. I have two grown boys, and I see how their worlds have opened up, offering them places where they are free to be themselves. You and I must continue to be their advocates, and their biggest fan until they get to that place themselves! Happiness to you, my friend!
P.S. Andrea, feel free to go drop a link to your book over on my FB page!
Beautiful and touching! Thank you for sharing. He sounds like an awesome kid.
He is an awesome kid! Thank you for stopping by.
This is truly beautiful, Lisha. I wish Brian could be at my children’s Waldorf School where all those talents would be welcomed and celebrated. They have an incredible circus arts program. Besides unicycle, they have globe, diablo, juggling with scarves, balls and clubs and much more that your son may love. Also, have you heard of Paul Dennison’s Brain Gym?
I happen to have a copy of Brain Gym! We use the exercises for what we call “fine tuning” when he gets too distracted to focus. And that school… sounds fantastic! His aspiration is to attend NOCCA (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts). It’s a fabulous arts conservatory, with wonderful graduates like Harry Connick Jr., the Marsalis brothers, actor Wendell Pierce, and so many more. He’ll be old enough to audition about this time next year. 🙂