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?