Early in his school years a teacher told my son if he didn’t sit down on his chair, which he never did, she would take it away. He said, “Okay!” handed in his chair and continued to happily stand for the remainder of the year.
In seventh grade he failed to tell me about sign ups for sports. It wasn’t until nearly Christmas when I clued in. “I didn’t sign up. I don’t want to play sports,” was his answer.
When neighbourhood kids were outside running around, my boy was filming them. When they went inside for dinner, he took his spot at the computer and edited the video, complete with title sequence and closing credits.
His days were spent writing scripts for plays he could never rally enough kids to participate in. His nights were spent with his nose buried deep in books. In eighth grade he begged for piano lessons.
All along, I couldn’t help but think – who is this kid? While I loved everything creative he was doing, I also worried. Kids need an outlet and when the outlet is creativity and not sports, they don’t naturally fit in at school.
A Gift: Words of Wisdom
When he was still quite young, I’m so thankful a teacher told me, school wouldn’t necessarily be the place he shone. Why? Because, my kid was an outside the box thinker. She understood a regular sit, read, answer questions curriculum didn’t resonate with him, though we agreed sometimes we all have to do things we don’t love, in order to learn.
She told me to get him through. She said not to worry too much about grades. She assured me he’ll shine later – once he’s out of school. That he needs to be out in the world where there’s more to explore and not confined to a desk. Where he can dive into passions, create beautiful things and might even find a few more people who think like him.
That teacher saved me with her insightful words. She clarified what I couldn’t. She assured me he would go places, he would find his niche. Her lack of worry and yet intense care for him, allowed me to do the same. I found I could parent him better when I wasn’t worrying about areas that were never his thing and I could encourage the gifts I did see so evidently.
I wrapped those words up as a gift and kept giving them to myself whenever I needed them. Whenever I worried about him. Whenever I felt like he just didn’t fit in.
Our friends in the arts assured me he’d be okay as long as he had an outlet. He found his outlet in writing. Every night we’d find him curled up somewhere frantically typing out a new story, or adding to his novel, or casually saying, “Hey Mom, want to read my new poem?”
When our kid doesn’t fit the mould, when they don’t fit into categories of ‘normal’ or do what all of their peers are doing, it can be difficult as a parent.
- We may wonder if they’re going to be okay.
- We may question if we’ve done it all wrong.
- We may fear for their future.
17 years into parenting, I’ve learned that he will be okay. I learned early there’s nothing wrong with him. I learned to stop trying to make him answer questions the way I thought they should be answered. I learned that I didn’t need to explain to other parents why he wasn’t in sports. It can be hard to parent a kid who’d rather discuss the latest character in a novel than the latest comic book hero.
At 17, he doesn’t understand his generation. He feels he’s been born in the wrong era and yet he knows God made him for such a time as this. (Esther 4:4)
- To have no social media accounts in a world of snapchat.
- To write books in a sea of the video game obsessed.
- To question his generation’s obsession with posting every selfie and every meme known to mankind.
- To wear jeans with rips because they have literally worn threadbare, not because it’s the latest trend.
It shouldn’t have surprised me that he’d choose to graduate early – to get out of the place he deems all drama and narcissism. And it shouldn’t surprise me he didn’t attend his graduation ceremony where he should have been donning cap and gown and receiving his diploma.
“I don’t understand festivities,” was his answer. “So I finished the classes I was supposed to finish – why does that need a celebration?”
I have no photo of him walking across the stage in his school colours and I’m totally fine with it. Because to have a kid like him, one who doesn’t follow the crowd, who maintains strong convictions of who he is and what he believes, who doesn’t care if everyone is doing it or not – well, that’s something special.
It’s such a privilege to raise each of our kids – no matter what they’re like. There are days we don’t get it. And times we wish they would have said something different in public; maybe even times we’ve been embarrassed – but looking back at what I’ve learned and continue to learn from him – I wouldn’t change these years for anything.