Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The First Cut is the Deepest

Self awareness is a bit of a paradox for us "special folk".  It cuts both ways.  For those of us raising "high functioning" special kids, the knowledge that our child will someday, sooner or later become self aware enough to understand that they are different.  Sounds harmless enough, but for those of us facing it, it looms like a dark storm on the horizon.  We know it's approaching, but have no idea how violent or damaging this particular storm will be.  For some of us in it, it's a far more frightening experience than we ever imagined.

We've been fortunate.  Amanda and I agreed early on that it would be best for Nathan if we let him grow, develop, and build as many coping skills as possible before facing this particular challenge.  We've gone to great lengths to make his life experience as "normal" as possible.  Like the storm on the horizon, we knew it was unavoidable.  The flow of time and nature itself would bring it to us in due time.  We felt no need to run out and greet it.  That lasted thirteen years.

We felt the first major gust of wind when he was in fourth grade.  He told his teacher that he "didn't want to be different".  She handled it brilliantly by replying "in my class everyone's the same Nathan.  Now do your work".  She made a complete non-issue of it.  It hit me like a Mack truck, but I got over it.

I fear that the darkest part of the storm may be upon us.  Earlier last school year, Nathan was given an essay assignment.  The topic is "what I would change about myself".  His answer shook me to my core.  "I'd stop being so mental."  Someone told Nathan he was "mental"!!  We're not sure when it happened, but it stuck.  He can't remember who said it to him.  Trust me dear readers.  If I knew the perpetrator, I'd give that kid and his parents an example of "mental" they wouldn't soon forget!  Amanda and I did our best to explain to him that he is not mental.  He is different than most, but that different isn't bad.  It can actually be quite good.  Honestly, I don't think he bought it.   The assignment was completed, and I retired to my room.  With the door shut and no one watching, I devolved into a dripping puddle of snot with eyes. 

He said it again just the other night.  It was completely "out of the blue".  Looked at me and said "I wish I could stop being so mental sometimes."  Buckle up dear ones.  It gets worse.  I asked him what "mental" meant.  "Mental is when nobody talks to you or sits with you at lunch."  That one stopped me cold for a moment.  I fell back onto explaining Autism and Tourette's to him.  I reiterated that "dad also has Tourette's", so he and I were both different, but neither of us were alone.  I ended with the reminder that because he doesn't believe that "dad is mental", he can't be mental either.  This seemed to provide some solace, at least for him.  The whole encounter left me stingingly numb, as though slapped. 

This is the point in every entry where I try to draw some uplifting conclusion.  Unfortunately, I don't have one.  Such thoughts will have to wait until the storm passes and I can see its aftermath more clearly.


  1. this really irks me. i hate to say this because you and everyone understand my love for children. especially the special ones. some kids are just as ignorant as their parents. why do parents feel no need to explain to their children the differences between all children? it's like parents want their kids to feel superior to others because that's how you win...at life, or something? i work at learning tech in the therapy part, of course. it's a school that is specially designed for children with special abilities. i don't like saying disabilities because it's not a negative thing, these kids embrace their abilities and learn from it and are better students and friends for it. they have a few parents who end up pulling their children out of the school because they "want their children around NORMAL kids". are you KIDDING me? it's the most perfect environment for any child. no one is judged and everyone is shown how smart and creative they truly are. this is how other schools should be. it should never be limited. it almost makes me want to go speak at assemblies at different schools to help them and their parents and the teachers how to interact with people in general.

  2. You rock my dear Mrs. Duty!! I hear what you're saying. Things are improving. Nathan has it MUCH easier than I ever did. It doesn't make it right, but I do see significant improvements.

    I'm honored that you read, doubly that you comment. Thanks for playing the role in our life and community that only you can fill.

  3. Labels from others can hurt, and stick ... no matter who you are. Bless Nathan's heart ... and yours ... and as an outside observer it just looks to me that you and Amanda are doing all the right things. If he doesn't know it now, Nathan will know how blessed he was and what wonderful parents God entrusted him with.

  4. Hi Bigdaddyb!
    My name is Kim (I have actually met you before.. My boyfriend, Daniel, works with you) Daniel sent me the link to your blog and I have been reading it every day since. I have almost read all of 2011 and am moving into the older posts. And I just wanted to say that I LOVE reading them. I am currently working on my masters at Tech in Elementary Special Education: Mild/Moderate (that's the program title), and I am also currently teaching high school science and I have several students with Tourette's, which honestly is a daily struggle (they are also in 9th grade which is a struggle in itself haha). I am so thankful that you have written this blog! It really has given me a lot to think about in the way that I teach my classes, how I approach my master's program, and what I learn within that program. If you do not mind, I would love to share your blog with my class. I think it would really benefit the other teacher candidates in my program. Again, I LOVE the blog and thank you for opening your heart, life, family, fears, and joys.