Sorry I haven't blogged for a while; I’ve had a few parenting hurdles to jump over this week. Actually that’s not an accurate metaphor. Parenting my son is nothing like jumping over hurdles. It’s more like climbing Mt. Everest.
Yes, that’s a better analogy. Imagine being at the base of some huge mountain that looks to be insurmountable. As you climb it minutes turn into hours and day turns into night. You're exhausted and your limbs feel like they’re about to fall off. Finally you find a good place to rest. You get your bearings and look down. You’ve come a long way and you can’t help but feel a little proud of yourself. Then you look out and immediately the little bit of air remaining in your lungs leaves you in the form of a gasp because what is before you is the most incredible view in the world. Van Gogh, Chagall, Renoir; none of those hacks ever created anything that compares to the spectacular beauty in front of you and you know right then and there that all the effort it took to get to that place was more than justified. And then you look up and you say to yourself:
Yes, that’s right, your climb has just begun.
Of course when I was pregnant I was only prepared to hike up a big hill. It wasn’t just that I was naïve about motherhood (although it truly is impossible to understand the joys and challenges of parenting before you actually go through it) it’s that I didn’t anticipate having a child who would qualify as being “twice exceptional.”
Twice exceptional is a very PC term for children who are gifted with learning disabilities. What learning disability does he have you ask? Well it depends on who you talk to. According to the British definition of dyslexia (which is different from the Netherlands’ definition which is different from California’s definition which is different from New York’s definition) dyslexia is a neurological condition that not only makes reading and writing challenging but also results in certain behavioral traits and affects an individual’s fine and gross motor abilities. I’m not a psychiatrist and I’m certainly not a neurologist so far be it for me to say if the Brits got this one right but I will say that 90% of the specific characteristics that they say are common in dyslexic kids fit my son to a T. One “expert” who tested my son basically agreed that he had a spatial visual problem. She also pointed out that he had a hard time working both sides of his body at the same time during certain activities. For instance it is very difficult for my son to tear a piece of paper. Tearing involves pulling the paper back with one hand and forward with another. My son can pull forward with both hands at once and backward with both hands but pulling back and forward simultaneously? That’s a huge (and often tantrum provoking) challenge.
And when it comes to personal space…well let’s just say that he seems to need about as much as a Tokyo subway rider. He is always invading people’s space which is uncomfortable for most individuals (particularly kids). But it’s really bad when he’s upset with the kids. The only time my son will physically hit someone is when he’s trying to defend himself but when a child gets in another child’s face and angrily confronts him it’s perceived as threatening by both kids and teachers alike. Of course all kids yell at each other once in a while but because of my son’s…I think I’ll go with “quirks”…his arguments usually get him into more than his share of trouble and they alienate him from his peers.
But his mind…God I just love the way this child thinks. It’s like he thinks in pictures. After one mildly traumatic play date with a boy named Jason who was in a particularly foul temper my son said to me, “Jason has a lot of aggression and he throws it at his friends. That used to be scary because his aggression was as hard and strong as the ground but now…now it’s like a steel blade.”
This from a six year old!
Or on a lighter note there’s his imaginary friend; a lemur named Jelly. “She’s really crazy mom,” he said when describing her to me. “That’s why I call her Jelly.”
I thought about that for a second. “I don’t think I see the connection between her name and her insanity.”
“Well think of Jelly’s consistency,” he said. “It’s unstable.”
And yet writing a sentence is painfully difficult for him. Furthermore he doesn’t fit in at school and he is always a problem for his teachers. While he is making academic progress due to his work at home I have yet to find a classroom that can handle him. I don’t want to hold him back because he really is too bright for that. Right now I have him in a program where he only goes to class a few times a week and homeschools the rest of the time. I could homeschool him fulltime but I firmly believe that he needs to learn how to socialize with his peers. After all, a high IQ does not necessarily equate to success in life. More often than not the key to success is a person’s ability to deal with other people and when I say other people I’m not just talking about an individual’s mother.
Of course lots of folks have advice. I’ve been given the name of a school that would be perfect for him (unfortunately it’s in Denver, Colorado) I’ve been given the name of a woman who specializes in working with kids like mine (unfortunately she’s in Los Angeles) and I’ve been given a name of an educational facility that might really be able to help him (unfortunately it has a tuition of $23,000 a year…so much for groceries).
Part of me knows that I will find a way to make it all work. I’ve purchased my tickets to LA and will spend a big chunk of change talking to this highly recommended specialist. I will continue to brainstorm with his teachers and research schools that might be better for him.
Most importantly I will continue to love him. That’s the easy part because when I’m not busy mountain climbing I’m standing still and looking at what it is that’s before me.
And what’s before me is the most beautiful and amazing little boy I have ever had the privilege of knowing.
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