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When Your Child Doesn't Fit In

     Raising my “asynchronous” child was nothing I was trained to handle in all my years as a long-term babysitter, nanny and mother’s helper to dozens of other people’s children. I’d had the counter-climbing boys, who went for top-level chocolates their mother had hidden when they didn’t think I noticed; the boy who had asthma attacks; a boy who insisted his mother “let him” climb the edge of the wooden deck that was 12’ above ground; girls who wouldn’t sleep without cuddling up with their snugglies and a thumb in their mouths; whiners; complainers. I had helped other sets of parents raise their infants, their preschoolers, their primary school children for almost 15 years before I became a parent, but none had presented anything like my own eldest child.

    When Your Child Doesn't Fit In - MyFriendDebbie.com From the moment we first lay eyes on each other my son and I shared a deep understanding of each other—he was aware and oh-so-conscious of his surroundings from Day One. Others noticed it—he didn’t have any of that sleepiness of a newborn. He was wide-eyed, looking around him at everything, ready to learn right away. He already had questions in his mind before his mouth was able to produce them. Once he began to talk he never stopped, to this day. His whys, wheres and wherefores can wear this tired mom thin, but in fact he is very much like me.

     Whom he is not very much like are his peers—the kids of the neighborhood. I recall a couple of years back, when our son was probably about 5, that a girl in our cul de sac seemed taken aback at his vocabulary and command of the goings on around him. “Man, you’re smart!” she said, with extra emphasis on surprise. When the opportunity for kindergarten came around it seemed painfully unfair to submit his mind to a dulled environment of early phonemes when he had read aloud to me a year before, “I am transferring funds right now” off the back of a city bus. Double r; silent d; –ight. He was not a phonetic reader—he simply absorbed words, and needed little coaching to “get it.”

     While we had already considered homeshooling, this became the clincher for us. How would he fit with other 5-year-olds? So, we joined a homeschooling community of other children identified by their parents as academically gifted, and we found those peers we weren’t sure we could. In fact, we were among some so profoundly gifted, that we were the ones with jaws dropping.

     Gifted. It’s a fully-charged word that can set some people off. I have heard diatribes & tirades when I’ve dropped it in apparently wrong company. It’s viewed, sometimes and by some people, as braggadocios. Let me set the record straight. I am not bragging. Life with a child who is “different” isn’t necessarily something joyfully embraced. Instead, a struggle for identity and understanding are common among children who just aren’t exactly in step with the “norm.”

     For example, because our son’s mind moves so fast he has great difficulty sitting still, tremendous struggles falling asleep, and needs his educational approaches to always challenge him, or he literally rolls around in bored agony. As his educator, can you imagine having to constantly call him to the table, urge him to close his eyes at night, or tell him to Please. Stop. Rocking. That. Chair! meal after meal? In a public school setting—a classroom of upwards of 30 other students—this would be maddening, no?

     We were recently looking for some outside educational assistance, and found an exciting twice-a-week opportunity about an hour from home, where our two eldest children could have a consistent classroom experience with teachers whom they don’t also call Mom or Dad. We would drop them off at 8 AM and pick them back up at 3 PM. My husband and I examined the curriculum. Right away the reading for 3rd grader material stood out as far below our boy’s level. I could see him speedreading through the entire curriculum over a weekend . . . and then what for the remainder of the year? This was a small private school setting; there was no gifted program. We asked if reading, history & science could be offered to him at the highest grade they taught—5th. Even that concerned us, as a bored child can wreak havoc in the small space that would have been his classroom. We were encouraged to hear that it was a strong possibility; then discouraged to find out that the board refused to accommodate him. Cancel that idea of outside help.

     Trying again, I reached out to a local homeschooling co-op. We’d been on the waiting list for this popular weekly environment for going on 3 years. I pushed the issue a little, wondering why we were being held off. It turned out that my son’s behavior, known by many of the moms of neurotypical children whom we’ve known for years, was not seen as conducive to this ever-changing setting where different moms rotated leadership in the classroom, and where wiggliness and misbehavior would be difficult to control. Would be distracting. Wouldn’t work.

     I don’t blame them for rejecting him, but it’s still a sore spot I feel, like a long-healing bruise that causes a quirky pang every time you bump against it and wince. Am I bragging to say my child is gifted? No, because with his mental abilities comes emotional immaturity; with his quick brain comes physical awkwardness. No, because he has been rejected by two private educational spaces for not being “normal” enough.

     But, as a homeschooling parent, can I bring him what he needs academically? Can I move fast enough? Can I challenge him enough? Can I take him to the right spaces and places and people and environments to fill his brain with what he needs to be the man God wants him to be?

     I have no idea. I keep bringing what I can to the table. Maybe it’s good enough. Maybe it isn’t. Here’s the regular rub, mommas (and I’ve said this before): not one of us can do this parenting thing alone. Not even with our husbands, or parents, or professional educators alongside are we able to guarantee anything about our children’s futures. You will take your own child to the institution that seems best for her, to the courses you think meet his needs . . . and yet, you will leave some gap. The school will leave some gap. Your child will likely look back and be able to tell you in grave detail all about that gap! But do you know who the gap filler is?

     I thank God I do. My challenge with this child, who is contentious and ornery and sharp as a tack, is to learn to do what I know to do, put in my very best effort, and leave the rest to our precious Creator, who knows my son inside and out—from the counted hairs on his head, to the blessed feet he moves about every day. I say, let my Creator inspire me. Let my Creator inspire my son! Yes. I will fail somewhere. Somehow! But, Jesus Christ will not fail my children. So, what is the greater job than giving my 9-year-old a 7th grade literature exam? What is more important than letting him learn which friends will accept him as different and which will turn away or even sneer? Releasing all of that through prayer into the mighty hands of my child’s heavenly Father, and teaching my child how to know his Lord. I am to teach character. Right thinking. Discernment. I am to pray that the Holy Spirit takes up residence, filling those gaps, dear sisters!

     With that thought I take a deep, cleansing, prayerful breath, and I exhale the word “peace.” I will take my children one day at a time, and trust their futures to their Father.



Copyright © 2008-2015 Lisandrea Wentland

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